Does setting goals appear boring to you? Does this word turn you off or puts an undue pressure upon you? We all know the importance of setting goals to achieve the outcomes we want in life. However, many of us have trouble sticking to them because we don’t distinguish the goals and design them consciously.
Why you need to have well defined outcomes and not just goals?
Irrespective of whether your set goals are small or big, when they are too general, and are hard to define, it’s easy to slide back on them and lose your motivation.Be it at an individual, organisational or professional level, to be successful in your endeavours is to know what you want and should have a good idea about how to get there and also have to pay close attention to how you are getting there.
In other words, your goal-setting process should be broader than just merely mentioning your aspirations or wishes. They should be clearly defined outcomes upon which you can focus to translate them into reality. Having loosely framed goals makes it difficult for you to put it into practice, and track your progress.
A goal properly set is halfway reached.” — Zig ZiglarTweet
Because the whole point of goal-setting is to achieve the desired outcome or result, the goals you set should give you clear direction and positive outcomes. Goal-setting is a conscious process and often denotes a destination. But setting your goals in the form of clearly defined outcomes helps in organising your everyday choices without conscious thought.
For instance, you might set an outcome of an improved and a healthy lifestyle which you may never reach as a goal, but as an outcome, you can make healthy choices everyday in the form of a healthy diet, physical activity or balancing your work and personal time towards achieving that outcome. This further can enhance your motivation to stretch yourself to go as far as your mind lets you.
Why are they important?
Outcomes are the positive changes that happen as a consequence of an activity or doing something. So, if you know your desired outcomes or intended consequences,
- You can make evidence-based decisions to address any problem, or an obstacle, in the process of attaining the goal.
- Well defined outcomes lets you focus on relevant tasks in order to achieve planned objectives to be more result-driven.
- You can focus on results to get more done and as you achieve one result, it acts as a motivation to achieve more or look for better ways to reach your goals.
- You can plan and organise your tasks/daily activities in a more logical order and gather resources you need so they are easily accessible when it comes to your personal goals.
- Well-defined outcomes lead to an optimistic perspective to focus on solutions over problems where you can adopt a productive mindset while working towards your gaols.
As a leader, you are measured on the results you deliver. So, it is important to have well defined outcomes while leading or managing people so that everyone’s individual goals are aligned with overall outcome or big picture goals. Having clearly defined outcomes is an important leadership quality to improve overall—
- Productivity. Encouraging outcome-focused mindset in workplaces boosts people’s performance and gives them freedom to find the best way to get to their final outcome. With end in mind, they make the best of their time and resources to make empowered decisions.
- Individual responsibility. Bringing outcome mindset to every thing you do improves individual accountability, and responsibility. Instead of strictly laying out the process to be followed, outcome based culture of workplaces provides individual flexibility and ensures that right people are engaged in right places.
- Focus. Being outcome-focused means valuing results over busyness. All too often, we tend to get entangled into excessive processes, or find ourselves in control of too many aspects that are trivial and not relevant. Also, when there is a stumbling block or an obstacle, it takes your mind off your goal where you like to be a victim of negative thoughts. But when you are outcome-focused, you tend to think of potential obstacles to come up with required action steps to overcome.
- Resource management. We all have limited resources like time, money or energy. An outcome-based approach ensures that such limited resources are not wasted and are spent on those areas that are likely to lead to your desired outcomes. Knowing your strengths and areas where you need to improve, you can optimise your resources by scheduling timelines and milestones.
- Communication. When you are outcome-focused, instead of micromanaging or communicating in terms of tasks or activities in your discussion, you can communicate in terms of vision, outputs, deliverables, deadlines and milestones which makes workplaces more result-driven.
- Makes you less process oriented. When you are too focused on the end goal, you may tend to neglect the right processes, methods, or ways in getting there. Processes provide structure, and help you measure your obstacles, or errors when it comes to what worked and what didn’t. With little or no process in place, you may avoid the best ways to get things done.
- There is no or less room for improvement. You may lose out on constructive feedback as to what worked and what did not. Too much focus on outcome leads to ethical issues in workplaces where one cannot enforce best practices that can be followed. You might lose sight of risks, hurdles or obstacles that may arise in reaching the end goal.
How to be outcome-focused?
Outcomes or goals play an important role in who you are going to be in the future. If you create your goals based on well-formed outcome (Also known as NLP well defined outcomes criteria,) there is more probability of achieving them. Here is a checklist that you can use to make your goals more motivating.
Is your outcome stated in a positive way?
One way is to set clear targets for your goal by defining it in positive. It has to be towards what you want rather than what you don’t want. For instance, I want to increase my business turnover in a year is outcome which is away from or stated in negative.
But the same outcome if stated in positive, it would somewhat likely to be —‘I want to see my business increasing between X, and Y in next one year.’ Knowing what your goal is, you can set yourself up for what projects to be planned or to put in place—Do you need employees, partners, and premises? How are you going to improve your product’s quality to build new customers, will your employees help you reach your goal? Are there enough resources to do the market survey and research? How is it going impact your existing customers or will reflect on your customers opinions?
State your goal in positive and in specific. Write down the broad area where you want to make a change or a most desired goal you want to achieve. What do I want or what would I rather have? Or What does the outcome look like, sound like or feel like once I achieve it? You can make use vision boards to show and understand the scope of some of your larger or long-term goals.
Is your outcome self-initiated and is it within your own control?
Generally, when your goals are not self-initiated, and when they are not self-maintained, you are more likely to depend on external locus of control. For instance, “I want others to understand what i want” is not directly within your control, but “I want to be more assertive in my communication” makes the outcome more within your control.
In order for the outcomes to remain congruent and motivating, they must be self initiated as opposed to what other people want or need from you. Like for instance, the desire to get fit should come from within and not that someone else wants you to do so. Committing to other peoples’ outcomes can often cause internal conflict and stress.
Ask yourself, Is the goal something that I can initiate myself and maintain? Am I doing this for myself or for someone else? Or, Is it within my control? to make sure your outcomes are self-initiated
Is your outcome compelling enough?
Your outcomes should be motivating enough to be consistent in reaching your end goal. Set your outcomes in a way that motivates you or others. One way to make your goals more compelling is to consider a bigger picture and backing it up with a purpose.
Since a goal is something that we set for the future, whether for a week, a month, or a year, or for ten years, considering it as something current, and happening now, you can figure out what you gain and miss out by not meeting the set standards. Reflect on how your goal fits within all aspects of your life. This will allow you to find out what you are willing to do for a goal.
Ask yourself, What will be the good things that will happen when I achieve my goal? Are my outcomes aligned with my values? What is the purpose? What is most likely to prevent me from achieving my outcome?
Is the outcome appropriately contextualised?
Clearly defined outcomes are situation-specific. If you don’t set boundaries, you then tend to generalise. Setting specific outcomes makes it easier to track your progress. Know the context to devise when, where, and whom you want to involve in achieving your outcomes.
Understanding what outcomes your organisation or workplace is trying to achieve keeps you aligned with the big picture goals. Ask yourself, Why am i doing a particular activity? What are the deliverables of my activities? Why is it important? Readjust your goal to make sure that it fits.
In case of a professional gaol working with a team, What is it that each one of my team is there to achieve? Think in terms of what changes you need and how your activities lead to that change.
Is your outcome achievable?
Outcomes can seem overwhelming if not broken down into small manageable chunks. For instance, outcomes like reaching a desired level in your career or starting your own business can be overwhelming. Such outcomes consume considerable amount of time, effort and decision-making. Instead of framing them in big chunks, taking small steps every day builds momentum and makes them more manageable.
Identify your big picture or large scale goals and break them into smaller targets. Work down to things to create a two-year or one-year or six-month plan. Have your goal broken into small chunks so that each is doable and measurable. Periodically review the goals and if required make changes according to your changing priorities in your tasks or activities. You should keep the sizes of your actionable steps manageable.
What resources do you have or will need?
Sometimes we are limited in achieving the results we desire because we don’t have the resources we need. They might be external resources like information, skills, people who can help and guide or time to devote to achieving your goal. Because these limitations can become excuses to not to make any progress towards the outcome at all.
Most often, the resources are available to us, all we have to do is put in place the things we need to move forward. For inner resourcefulness like confidence, motivation—Ask yourself, Which empowering states and beliefs can help me achieve my outcomes? What information and skill will I need? For external resources like help from others, finances, training—Did I work towards an outcome like this before? What are the risks or costs involved, and what is my fall back plan if I hit a roadblock?
What are the potential consequences of your outcomes?
Consider what approach would be the best to minimise the risks or consequences to come up with the right measures and needed steps to achieve the goal. To check the potential consequences, ask yourself, What will and won’t happen if you get this goal or outcome? Or What will or won’t happen if you won’t get this goal or outcome ? Are there any areas where having this outcome wouldn’t work? Who else might be affected and how do you think they will respond?
How will you know whether you’ve reached your outcome?
You should know when you are nearing your desired outcome. Specific, measurable and sensory outcomes create more of a sense of direction in our minds. Be as concrete as possible by considering exactly what you will see, hear or feel.
For instance, I want to be successful is not a well formed outcome. What does success mean for you? How can you measure this outcome? or if your outcome is to become more assertive, then what does assertiveness looks like and how will you know when you are assertive in your communication? Setting timelines, and smaller milestones helps you to review and understand the results you are getting and progress you are making.
Questions for self-reflection
How outcome-focused are you in your goal-setting?
Are your desired outcomes clearly defined and stated in positive?
How resourceful are you in reaching your desired outcomes?
Are your goals self-initiated or do you give into people-pleasing habit?
How efficient are your processes in attaining your goals- are they helpful in measuring the risk, performance and potential consequences?
What are some of your strategies to review or monitor your progress?
When you have well formed outcomes, you can narrow your focus and direct your attention to what it is that you really want. And can create more opportunities in getting there. By following the well formed outcome model, you can move from busyness to aligning with your outcomes even in your daily activities and tasks. Use the process of self-questioning to arrive at clear set of outcomes in order to make them more compelling and relevant.