Nowadays, many people have heard about SMART goals. An acronym telling us that our goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound. Although I completely agree with this, there is more that needs to be considered when setting a goal. This is not only to increase the likelihood of achieving it, but also to increase the enjoyment during the process of doing so.
Goals can be split into 2 categories: process goals and outcome goals. To define each in my own words, an outcome goal is the desired end result and process goals are targets you will need to meet during the process of achieving the outcome goal. In my opinion, both are critical for success.
When someone embarks on a journey to achieve better health and fitness, they will often set themselves an outcome goal. For example, ‘I want to lose 10lbs in 3 months’ or ‘I want to run 5k in under 25 minutes in 6 months’. However, they rarely set processes for their goals along the way which will help them get there.
Which is better?
I believe neither outcome or process goals are better than the other. Setting process goals is expected to increase one’s motivation for a task. (Zimmerman and Kitsantas, 1997). On the other hand, setting process goals, such as ‘set time aside for 3 runs per week’ without an overall outcome goal which you really want to achieve, may also leave you unmotivated. Therefore, setting both, effectively, is crucial.
Setting goals effectively:
Knowing how to do this, effectively, however, can be easier said than done. Referring back to the first paragraph, this is where SMART becomes very effective. This should be applied to all of your goals, both outcome and process, to increase the chance of success.
The issue with this for many people though is that they may not have the required amount of knowledge on a topic to fulfil the ‘realistic’ part of SMART. For instance, I know nothing about cars. Therefore, if someone approached me and said set a realistic goal for yourself for how long it would take for you to fix this cars engine, I wouldn’t know where to start. Therefore, I would have two options, either devote a lot of time to learning about car engines, or hire a professional to do this for me. I believe this is the same approach people should take to their own bodies. Don’t second guess when it comes to your training and nutrition, either devote the time to learn how to eat and train effectively or hire a professional to guide you the right way.
- Zimmerman, B. J., & Kitsantas, A. (1997). Developmental phases in self-regulation: Shifting from process goals to outcome goals. Journal of educational psychology, 89(1), 29.