How To Understand The Difference Between Goals And Outcomes

The root of all goals and resultant outcomes is a desired change. However, in my work with clients, I often sense their misconception as to what goals are and what outcomes are. They think that the two are identical and not separate entities.

The truth is that the journey to achievement starts with a goal and finishes with a desired outcome. It is important to have clarity about each of these, as one of them represents a beginning step and the other represents a final result.

Here are the two main differences between goals and desired outcomes:
• Goals are part of an umbrella spectrum, while outcomes are specific and precise.
• Goals are generally not measurable, while outcomes are observable and measurable.

Let’s explore these differences a little deeper and discover a powerful secret to differentiate the two and use them to help you succeed in life.

Overcoming Your Fear Of Change

There’s always an important reason behind your decision to choose a goal that will enhance your life. It’s that important reason that will keep you moving forward to overcome all obstacles as you progress toward your desired outcome.

As Elon Musk said, “When you are not progressing, you are regressing.” So, in order to progress, you need to have your “important reason” firmly planted in your mind. If you don’t, you’ll likely lose focus and regress.

For example, imagine that you have been working at the same company for 10 years, during the most recent of which you’ve been head of the financial department. You’ve had three promotions, landed a corner office and now manage a team of several reports. However, your job satisfaction is impaired by your strong dislike of working with the enormous number of spreadsheets and analyses required for seemingly endless board meetings.

You remember that although at one time you used to like doing these things, now you’re bored, disengaged and see no alignment between your values and those of the company.
You realize that what you really like is collaborating with people and inspiring them to live up to their potential. You find this part of the job extremely rewarding. You think, “If I could just do that every day, I would be a lot happier!” But you’ve been procrastinating about making any changes.

Procrastination is a symptom of fear. It’s time for you to face that fear and create a plan to accomplish what you want in life, rather than putting off changes you probably already know are necessary.

To shed a little more light on the matter, here are three questions to ask yourself:

1. What do I fear? Maybe it’s losing your job and not finding a better one.

2. Why do I want to overcome this fear? Maybe you want a happier professional life for yourself or to make a difference in other people’s lives.

3. How can I overcome this fear? You need a specific plan, a strong motivation to feel fulfilled in your career, and a focus on desired success rather than failure.

Now that you’ve examined the fear behind your procrastination, you have one of two ways to go:

The first is to stop procrastinating and come up with a roadmap that will eliminate future regrets — a plan that helps you set goals and encourage progress toward your desired outcome. The second is to continue feeling sorry for yourself and end up with an unfulfilled career and unbalanced work-lifestyle.

If you’ve chosen the second option, you can stop reading right now. But if you’ve chosen the first and are eager to make a change, keep on reading.

As the old saying goes, “A goal without a plan is only a wish.” Answering the following questions will help you map out your plan and avoid unproductive wishful thinking.

1. What, specifically, is my goal? Identify the specific goal you wish to achieve and the timeframe in which you’d like to accomplish it. When you think about your goal, think about the potential desired outcome.

2. What, specifically, is the desired outcome I want? Connect to the purpose of your desired outcome. Understanding this will give you the motivation to achieve it when you become distracted.

3. How will I know when I accomplish my desired outcome? What changes will I notice in myself? Think about the evidence that will demonstrate you’ve accomplished this outcome. Under what circumstances — where, when and with whom — do you want to achieve this result? As you envision your accomplished outcome, use at least three senses: What will you hear, see, and feel?

4. What will my milestones be along the way? Put a system in place to establish concrete and specific milestones on your way to your outcome.

5. What are the negatives of achieving this outcome? When you make changes in one area of your life, it impacts others, such as work, relationships, lifestyle and community. Be aware of possible collateral impacts and deal with them. Accept these negatives or redefine your goal.

6. What unanticipated positives will I lose by achieving this outcome? Just as you might experience some negative changes, you might also lose some positives. Be aware of this. Can you let go of these positives and accept how they will impact your goal? If not, redefine your goal.

7. What is my strategy for carrying out the required actions? How am I going to get there? Come up with small, daily, measurable steps (not the big milestones) that demonstrate your commitment to achieving your desired outcome. Prioritize and block time in your daily schedule for executing those small steps. Keep track of your daily, weekly and monthly progress. Use the demonstrated power of incremental progress. Share your goal with someone who will be proud of you when you achieve your desired outcome. By sharing your commitment with someone you respect, it will keep you motivated extrinsically and intrinsically. Most importantly, don’t forget to celebrate your incremental progress.

8. What should I do if/when I get distracted? Reread steps 1-7.

By understanding the difference between a goal and a desired outcome, you create a powerful bridge from where you are now to where you really want to be. This new understanding will be a valuable part of allowing you to feel fulfilled and connected to your dreams. Use your self-empowering skills and “be” the “cause” of your positive change!

This article was originally published in Forbes.

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