LU #36: Which type of goal is most effective?

Published over 3 years ago • 7 min read

Looks like you might have missed last week's Listen Up Newsletter so I wanted to send it to you again in case it got lost in your inbox.

Have a great weekend!


Looks like you might have missed last week's Listen Up Newsletter so I wanted to send it to you again in case it got lost in your inbox.

Have a great weekend!


Hey friend and welcome to the first edition of the newsletter of 2021!

I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and were able to spend some time slowing down, reflecting, and recharging.

If you’re anything like me, in addition to looking back and reflecting, you might have spent some time looking forward to the year ahead, making plans, and setting goals.

One of the themes that emerged for me as I was thinking about the coming year and what I wanted to achieve was a focus on setting process-oriented goals.

In the past, almost all of my goals have been focused on outcomes, with goals along the lines of:

  • Earn ___ dollars
  • Lose _____ weight
  • Sign up _____ new clients
  • Enrol _____ students
  • Get _______ new email subscribers

Sometimes I met those goals, but if I’m honest, when I did, it was almost entirely due to chance and external factors beyond my control.

While outcome-oriented goals can certainly be exciting to envision, the problem is that if we stop there, we haven’t actually given ourselves a clear roadmap to achieving them.

Especially with our biggest, most ambitious goals, we often underestimate what will actually go into achieving them and how long it will take to get there.

What’s more, at least for myself, when you hit the halfway point of the year and aren’t any closer to achieving them, there’s little incentive to keep pushing toward them. At this point, our bias to resolve cognitive dissonance often leads us to simply give up on those goals and relegate them to next year.

So for 2021, after years of setting outcome-oriented goals that I failed to meet, I’ve decided to take the year off from aiming for outcomes entirely.

Instead, this year I'm investing 100% of my focus and energy into process-oriented goals, free of expectation about the results.

Process-Oriented Goals

Unlike outcome-oriented goals, process-oriented goals focus on the day to day actions that lead to the outcomes you want.

If you’ve chosen the right process-oriented goals, you can be confident that as long as you stick to them, sooner or later they’ll produce the outcome you’re aiming for.

The best thing about process-oriented goals is that they’re entirely under your control. And even when progress is slow, motivation is easier to maintain because you’re detached from the outcome.

If, for example, you have a process oriented goal of going for a run every day in order to improve your fitness, just because you've fallen off the wagon and haven't run for two weeks, doesn't mean you've fallen behind.

The goal is simply to run daily. And whether or not you ever get to the point of running a marathon, an outcome-oriented goal many people might use for a similar situation, sticking to the process will deliver positive results in improving your health.

How I Set My 2021 Process-Oriented Goal

While I have a number of outcomes I’m currently working towards, when it comes to setting goals around them, I’ve intentionally kept them vague in nature and are unbound by a specific timeframe.

I have little personal attachment to the outcomes themselves I won’t be judging my success at the end of the year based on any of them. They’re simply the necessary first step to define the processes that I believe will help me move in the direction I want.

To be specific, the main outcomes I’m looking to make progress on this year are:

  • Grow this newsletter
  • Grow my podcast
  • Double revenue and triple profitability for Counterweight Creative
  • Feel healthy & energetic

From these general outcomes, I’ve developed these process-oriented goals:

I’ve then simplified those goals down even further as a daily reminder:

  • Write
  • Walk
  • Breathe

With both the daily goals and the broader process-oriented goals, I’m confident that if I maintain the process, good things will happen.

Those good things might take the form of achieving the outcomes I'm working towards, or–and I think this is a likely scenario–they might lead to things that I couldn’t have even imagined.

Unlike outcomes, processes have a way of compounding over time until they build up an unstoppable momentum.

While I’m excited to see what publishing 250 blog posts this year will lead to, I’m much more excited to see what publishing 2500 posts over the next decade will lead to.

If you’re an annual goal-setter, I’d love to hear the goals you’re aiming for this year. Are they outcome or process-oriented? What's it going to take for you to achieve them?

Hit reply to this email and let me know what you’re working toward!

Latest From Me

Lots of new stuff from me over the past few weeks, here are a few of the highlights.

5 Things You Might Dig

1 // Find Of The Week: The gift of systemization?

For the first time in almost 20 years, I experienced that pure, childlike glee of playing with a shiny new toy at Christmas.

No, it wasn’t a new video game, Star Wars LEGO set (although that would have been awesome too) or piece of gear. It was devoting the time to explore and set up Notion, the all-in-one workspace app.

What can I say, I’m a systems nerd…

I first heard about Notion a few months ago from Khe Hy, but had held myself back from checking it out as I knew I didn’t have the time to obsess over it as I knew I would.

Well, the holidays gave me that time, and I’m hooked. I’ve spent the past 3 weeks moving over a ton of my systems and productivity tools and am really excited about a lot of the opportunities this piece of software is opening up.

2 // The podcast wars are just getting started

One of the best Twitter threads I’ve read in a while, **Eric Knight Hornung breaks down the current state of the podcast industry and makes a compelling case for why things are only going to continue heating up.

Of most relevance to individual podcasters (as well as this newsletter issue), is his advice on how indie podcasters can take advantage of this trend by focussing on niche and consistency.

3 // The beauty of small, mundane moments

I was inspired to write my above-linked 75 Things… list after reading through Austin Kleon’s 100 Things That Made My Year (2019). I was struck by how it’s the ordinary, day-to-day moments that make our years–and our lives–memorable and worth living. His 2020 list has also been released, and I’m currently slowly picking my way through it.

4 // The Importance Of Being Earnest

No, not the play by Oscar Wilde, but the actual trait of being earnest. I wrote a short post about embracing your eagerness a while back, but I love this in-depth, much better-written essay from legendary venture capitalist Paul Graham on why earnestness is one of the best indicators of future success.

5 // Feature Non-Profit: charity: water

At the end of each month, our team at Counterweight Creative nominates and votes on an organization to support. We then donate $5 for each client episode we produced that month.

This month, we’ve contributed $200 to charity: water, which is on a mission to end the water crisis within our lifetime.

I first heard charity: water founder Scott Harrison speak at World Domination Summit a few years ago, and was won over immediately by his personal story, vision for the future, and roadmap for making it a reality.

They’re also fantastic brand-storytellers, as illustrated by this tear-jerker of a story.

“I am determined to have fun doing my work… if I’m enjoying myself then that feeling is passed on to the reader.”

- Ed Emberley -

Photo of the Week

Lend a Hand?

I'm convinced all good things grow by word of mouth.

Each year, I spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars putting it together. I think it's worth it, and I hope you do too.

If you've taken anything away from this newsletter or anything else I've created, here are a few ways you can help keep it going:

  1. Help other generous marketers & creators find it by Tweeting about it or forwarding this issue to someone who could use it.
  2. Sign up for an upcoming cohort of Podcast Marketing Academy.
  3. Do something meaningful with your work and tell me about it. This would mean the most of all.

If someone sent you this newsletter and you want shiny new issues of your own, you can subscribe here.

This week I’m grateful for: My coach, Jaime, who provided some valuable perspective, encouragement and direction this week.

Win(s) of the week: Catching up on holiday email 😂

I’m currently excited about: One of my goals for this year is to take Friday afternoons off to focus on big-picture thinking, experimentation and tinkering on whatever feels fun to work on in the moment (this week, that was Notion…). The first one was this past Friday and I’m really excited about making this a regular part of my weekly schedule.

What I’m listening to: Check out my 2020 Spotify playlist.

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