Process Over Outcome, Every Time

by | Jun 28, 2024 | Mindset

This week on the podcast, we talked about a mid-season goal check in, refreshed ourselves on SMART goals, and talked about process and outcome goals—and which matters more. I wanted to do a deep dive into this, because SPRINTING THROUGH SETBACKS, my book with Olympian and Canadian track sprinter Micha Powell, comes out on July 1, and in it, we talk a lot about process goals. In fact, despite being a top-level performer and pro athlete, I would argue that Micha rarely has outcome goals at top-of-mind. Rather, she’s all in on performance goals. Most sprinters are. And I think endurance athletes should take a page from their book.

Why do sprinters focus on process goals?

It’s simple: When your race is under a minute long, outcome goals are great–but they’re pretty much only possible to achieve by focusing entirely on process goals. Yes, obviously sprinters have time goals in mind. They want to win races. But because these races are so freaking fast and short, there’s not really time in a race to process anything other than GO AS FAST AS YOU FREAKING CAN.

So, it comes down to process goals if they’re going to achieve the outcome they’re hoping for. I think it makes a ton of sense: In a race like Unbound, you have hours and hours to be thinking about your outcome goal and making moves that put you in the best position to get there. You’re strategizing in race. You have time.

In a sprint, there’s no time to think, you’re just reacting based on the work you’ve put in prior to that moment.

So, process goals.

For a racer like Micha, process goals looked like hitting consistent paces in training (and showing up on time, fully warmed up and prepared for said training). Doing her physical therapy as needed. Eating well—and skipping all things alcohol until after the season. Sleeping A Lot. Knowing when it was time to put the phone in Airplane mode and focus entirely on the task at hand, whether at practice or at a race. Visualizing the race. Doing strength consistently. Journaling after every practice and every meet about what went well and what still needs work. All the little things that add up to having the best day possible at the track.

Working with Micha on this book for the last year, I can say that she truly does execute on all of these things. And when everything aligns, she hits those outcome goals. (See: last week’s 300-meter race that was .1 second off of her PR despite the 90 degree heat.)

A lot of us—myself included—skimp on process goals, or we write them out, and promptly forget them. But I’d argue that rather than checking on outcome goals as measures of success, especially in terms of our athletic careers, we’re better off keeping an eye on how well we’re executing process goals. After all, as we said on the podcast, wins come SO infrequently as athletes—and often, the results from a race are largely outside of our control. We can’t control for who else shows up or if a race gets rained out. But we can control the process-focused goals that we’ve set to get us to the start line.

Don’t forget to check out Sprinting Through Setbacks (and the accompanying workbook/journal) if you want more tips on goal-setting like an Olympian!


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