TIB #6: How effort-based goal-setting helps achieve lasting change

Written by Arno Jansen

We fail many goals we set because we are too focussed on the end result and not enough on the process required to achieve that goal. Setting a goal that focusses on an outcome, is difficult to achieve because we rarely have control over all the variables involved.

Weather, pandemic, health, are all variables that we can not fully control and therefore can easily derail our efforts to achieve a specific outcome. Outcome based goals implicitly create a pass/fail result on the finish line: You either achieve the goal, or you don’t. You win or you loose.

Additionally, our inner critic can be quick to frame any outcome negatively. If you achieved your goal, it was not challenging enough. If you did not achieve your goal, you are a failure.

Lets look at setting goals around input instead. Commit to putting in a specific effort in order to achieve the desired outcome.

Input vs Output

The goal of sustainable change, is to move away from the situation you are now in. It does not necessarily predict where you will end up. Therefore, setting an effort based goal will help you move away from where you are now. 

Personal goal: Be healthier

If you want to live a healthier life, setting a lower target weight is not very meaningful. The reason behind setting a lower target weight goal, is for you to start making healthy choices in your life. But once you achieve said weight target, you do not want to resume your old behaviour and gain weight again. 

So, an effort based goal is much more meaningful. What effort will you commit to in order to move away from your current situation.

“I will go on a 30 minute walk every day of the week”

“I will drink my coffee black”

“Oh and I will skip the chololate chip cookie”

These are all efforts you can commit to. They are under your control and will lead to a healthier life. Note that “being healthy” is a neverending target. Sure, there will eventually be a time where you stop losing weight and maybe even gain some as you bulk up. But you are still being healthy.

Business goal: Increase newsletter subscribers

Say, you want to increase the number of people signing up for your newsletter. An output based goal would be: “Get 1000 new subscribers”. An input based goal would be “Publish a blog post twice week,”.

The effort based goal will not exactly predict an outcome at a given moment in the future, but it does aid your process and helps prioritise your actions.

Are all outcome based goals bad?

No. Not at all. But, use them wisely. We’ll look into outcome based goals in another post. 

For now, see if you can find an effort based goal to stick to and start small. So don’t commit to running a marathon three times a week if you try to move away from living unhealthy. Commit to putting on your walking shoes 3 times a week and walk around the block.

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