Setting Goals: Outcomes or Behaviors?

When we’re setting goals, most of us think only about the end result. I want to lose 10 pounds, I want to deadlift 300 pounds, or I want to get a raise of $1000 this year.

These are not necessarily bad goals. They are specific; you know when you’ve met them. They are also probably attainable based on your current situation; you have at least a chance of being able to achieve them. However, they are still, technically, out of your control. You can’t force your fat cells to shrink or your muscles to grow just by willing it to happen, even if you eat less and workout. You also can’t make your boss give you a raise even if you are an excellent employee. Therefore, by setting these kinds of goals, you are risking the possibility of failure due to circumstances out of your control.

This is why behavior goals are far more important, and more effective, than outcome-based goals. Let’s take a look at the goal to lose 10 pounds. You could make this goal, and you might achieve it. However, you could instead break this goal into a few different behavior goals that you can completely control and know you can achieve. By doing this, you also go through the process of understanding what behaviors are needed to actually achieve your goal.

Here are some behavior goals that you could set to lose 10 pounds:

  • Attend CrossFit classes 4 times each week.

  • Eat vegetables with every meal.

  • Avoid alcohol on the weekdays.

All of these behavior goals are a commitment to do a specific action that will lead you toward the outcome you want. They are all things you can do consistently, are small, manageable tasks that you control, and are things you can do either right now, today, or in the very near future. Overall, you can’t control outcomes. By making goals out of behaviors, things you can control, you can achieve your outcome goals (things like body composition, lifting goals, salary, etc.) without having to worry about them. Now, you control your success! Of course, things happen (kids get sick, you have to work overtime) and you might not make it to CrossFit four times a week every week, but the majority of the time, you can make sure that you meet your goals. This allows you to be successful and celebrate your successes often - and success leads to more success!

I have one last tip for meeting your goals. Tell someone about them! If only you know about your goals, it’s so much easier to just blow them off. So find someone to hold you accountable and you’ll have an easier time sticking with it. Not sure who to tell? Come in and tell us and your friends in the gym. There is no better place to talk about your health and fitness goals, because we love helping you achieve them! :)