At this time of year many of us are looking to set New Year’s resolutions or goals for 2023. A goal is defined as:
“What an individual is trying to achieve; it is the object or aim of an action.”
What is the best way to set goals so that when we get to the end of 2023, we are not looking back and wondering why we never achieved what we set out to?
Goals broken down into three connected types: outcome; performance, and process goals.
New Year’s resolutions are the most common type of goal we hear e.g. “I am going to run this race under this time,” or “I am going to lose x amount of weight.” These are outcome goals and the result of our actions.
Performance goals help us reach the outcome goals. From a running perspective these might be “Improve my hiking capability for longer ultras,” “Be a more efficient hill runner,” or “Be able to run technical trails quicker.”
Process goals are what we will do to meet our performance goals. They are actions that in turn lead to our outcome goals. Process goals are all the ingredients needed for our performance goals. For the above examples these could include “I will run technical trails on a weekly basis,” or “I will include at least one hill session and include a hilly long run monthly,” or “I will complete all my planned training sessions this week.”
The challenging part is that when we set goals and work towards them, our focus tends to be on the outcome and performance goals because we are thinking about the result, e.g., going under a time for a race. Having just an outcome goal is like heading off on a long drive without a route planner or map. Due to this, we regularly end up where we started, having never achieved anything!
Learning from the top athletes, we should focus on “Process not outcome” - those smaller steps to achieve a potentially ambitious outcome goal. This has been confirmed through scientific study with a 2022 review of over 27 scientific articles, looking at goal setting in sport. The review found:
“Process goals and performance goals produced significant improvements in performance, but process goals elicited significantly greater improvements than performance goals. Conversely, no significant performance improvements were found by setting mastery, outcome, or ego goals.”
If you have running goals for 2023 and not sure of how to set the right goals or build a plan, give me a shout and let’s work it out.
Excellence is a journey, not a destination!