Last month I mentioned that I think goal-setting can be very confusing. And it’s pretty easy to set yourself up to lose if you are not familiar with the process.

I mentioned there are three different categories of goals: Outcome Goals, performance goals and process goals. And that if you focus on the outcome instead of the performance, or especially the process, you are more likely to experience anxiety and less likely to succeed.

Categories of Goals

Outcome goals are things that compare yourself to others like winning a competition. They are things that you are not in complete control of.

Performance goals are in line with the outcome you want, but are measures of personal success like gaining muscle, or losing fat. They are within your control.

Process goals are the things you’ll do to reach your performance goals. Things like cutting out all white flour and added sugar, or running 15 miles a week. They are also completely within your control.

It’s important to note that if you consider reaching a process or performance goal a “win,” you will literally experience the dopamine rush of joy and pleasure, making striving toward your outcome goal more fun, even if you don’t win the competition.

Why people fail at reaching goals

Most of you are probably not working for a podium shot, so let’s talk about the performance and process goals for a bit.

In fact, let me get real with you. I believe any time people fail to achieve their performance goals, it is because they either don’t want it enough or don’t think they can achieve it (barring any debilitating, serious injury or disease, of course)

Listen to the stories of success, and the underlying theme is that something clicked, and the goal became one of the most important — if not THE most important — thing for them to do. In fact, many of them would tell you it was “easy” once they made the decision.

When you want it enough, you’ll make it happen.

I am a big fan of setting BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). And I think for many of us, those goals get us up in the morning; we are motivated by the meme: “Set a Goal so high that you can’t achieve it, until you become the person who can.”

But many of us set those goals and then sleep in, because after all, they are un-achievable goals. This is why it’s so important for you to get real with yourself about what works for your life. What works for your best friend, or for Rich Froning or for Massy Arias may not work for you.

What next?

So, now you might be saying: “OK Andrea, so what should I say is my goal?!”

Well, that’s our topic next time. But I’ll give you a hint. They have to be SMAART: Specific. Measurable. Achievable yet Aggressive. Relevant. And Time-bound. For this reason, saying “I want to be healthier,” is not, as you can see, a good performance goal. If you want to be healthier, tell me specifically what that means.

Andrea Bowden has been a certified fitness professional for more than 35 years and is the head coach of the Umpqua Community College Obstacle Course Racing Team. She can be reached at

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