Process Goals for Personal Development
This article is about process goals and how you can use them in your life to achieve seemingly massive tasks – be them health and fitness related or any other large goal you have set yourself.
I’ll share real life examples, metaphorical examples and a personal examples of process goals that will help give the article some context.
Process Goals – What are they?
I’m a huge podcast fan and one of my favourites is the Tim Ferriss podcast. In one episode he interviewed Scott Adams; the creator of the cartoon, Dilbert.
He spoke about using processes instead of goals for personal development. I personally liked the term ‘Process Goals’, hence the title of this blog post. Process goals are interesting – they are large goals that have a number of beneficial spin offs during the journey towards their completion.
Process goals are big, far away goals that require work and effort towards their achievement. A non-process goal may be waking up earlier tomorrow; that’s not a process, it’s changing your alarm clock settings.
A famous example of process goals can be found from NASA. They had the space project – the goals were to send a man into space and return him home, then to land a man on the moon and return him home.
Massive goals by any measure.
In the process of achieving these goals, there were over 1000 tech inventions (around 1300 at the time of writing). Obviously I’m not going to list them all, but in trying to send a man to the moon NASA invented technologies that have been used in smart phone cameras, cancer screening, they invented memory foam, UV protective sunglasses, developed baby food and water purification technology. I could go on, but you get the point.
I’ll give you an example of a process goal from a health and fitness perspective…
Say you want to lose 30lbs before your wedding/holiday. At this point, this is your goal.
In the journey towards achieving this goal, you’ll probably start shopping and eating better. Making plans around your food that make your health a priority. You’ll start a sensible supplementation routine.
You’ll start exercising more and probably exercising more effectively. Your health, fitness and overall activity will be increased.
Thanks to healthier food intake and higher energy expenditure, you’ll more likely sleep better, making you feel more alert, less fatigued and generally better.
There’s a good chance you’ll meet new friends in the gym, so socially you’ve benefitted too.
So, you wanted to lose 30lbs. You’ve done that, but you’ve also built up better shopping, cooking and eating habits. You’re fitter and stronger. You sleep better, you’re healthier and have more friends.
It’s for this reason I like a lot of my personal training clients to have a fitness goal or event to train for. It helps the journey and there are all kinds of benefits that occur along the way as you work towards the goal.
When Rachel and I completed the John O’Groats to Lands End bike ride (1000 miles in 6 days), we had a process goal….
- To complete the ride, we had to train. We cycled wherever we could, so we saved money on commuting.
- We spent a lot of time together, which was great for us as a couple (if you can’t stand your significant other, don’t do a 1000 mile cycle ride together!)
- We explored the countryside around us on our rides – we got to know places we wouldn’t usually go.
- Our cardiovascular fitness improved thanks to thousands of miles of training rides!
- We found a hobby we still do now (5 years on).
- We achieved a major task that most people wouldn’t!
The goal was to cycle from john o’Groats to Lands End and in working towards that goal, we experienced all kinds of other benefits along the way.
Process Goals and Psychology
Process goals are a way of reframing your psychology around a task. Rather than think of a large goal as big and intimidating you can think of it as a chance to learn and develop. If a goal is big enough there’ll always be some collateral benefit.
Breaking a goal down into smaller chunks, working towards individual milestones and celebrating small wins all help you stay on track with your goals. Achieving mini-goals on your way to a bigger task is an excellent way to keep your motivation levels high.
I have a pretty monumental fitness goal for next year that I’ll be sharing with you soon and as with all process goals, there’ll be all kinds of extra benefits I’ll see on the back of it!
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