When we think about how we can improve ourselves, we often set new goals for ourselves. Anyone who has studied goal-setting knows to make them “SMART”: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Examples of SMART goals are like these:
- “I want to lose 20 lbs. in two months.”
- “I want to lower my fasting blood sugar levels below 100 in the next ten weeks.”
- “I want to improve my relationship with my spouse this year.”
All of these goals are great views of a new future; they are “Outcome” goals. Outcome goals describe how we want things to be at the end of the process. But there is a downside to outcome goals. Often, we have limited control over these types of goals because of unforeseen changes to our environment, hormones, or stress levels. We can’t always control…
- work getting especially busy
- sick kids
- tests at school
- business travel
Outcome goals are essential because they are based on results, and results can be what matter. However, outcome goals should be replaced with “Behavior” goals whenever possible. Behavior goals are necessary because they only include what we can control. Behavior goals represent your commitment to practice a particular set of actions or tasks every day, as consistently and regularly as possible.
Here is an example. After a difficult discussion with my wife when she tells me that I have slowly become a grouch that works too much and isn’t much fun to be around anymore, I decide on becoming a husband and dad over the next six months. This is an outcome goal. But I now breakdown my outcome goal into more manageable goals that I can control.
- I will have dinner with my family at least four nights a week
- I will take my wife on a date at least once a month
- I will write a thank you card to someone every week
- I will cheerfully say, “Good morning” to every family member every morning even when I don’t feel like it
Here are a few other examples of how we can turn outcome goals into behavior goals.
|Outcome Goals||Behavior Goals|
|Lose 20 lbs. in two months||Eat slowly & deliberately at every meal|
|Lower my fasting blood sugar levels below 100 in the next three months||Only enjoy dessert once a week and replace other “desserts” with fruit|
|Improve my relationship with my spouse this year||Enjoy date night once a week|
Notice how both outcome and behavior goals are trackable. However, behavior goals are usually more effective because they give you something to do (and track) each day.