I’ve worked diligently on my goal-setting habits during the last few years. Initially I was driven to work on these habits when some goals I had set for myself related to competing with my dog were not achieved. Seems petty in this context, but I had set goals and as a result, had expectations. Sound familiar?
It was through this self-work I learned about separating “process goals” from “outcome goals” and how to stay focused on those things we can control (the process), verses the end results (outcome). I embraced this philosophy and it greatly changed how I set goals for me and my teammate. Instead of being focused on having a winning run, I would focus on being smooth or staying connected, for instance.
Two things happened: Yes, we had more clean runs. But more importantly, I was not so emotionally connected to the outcome - win or lose. I was able to review the process, seeing the progress along the way while enjoying the experience and the effort of my dog.
But last week, boy did I backslide! Life happened (as it does!) and outcome goals I had (unknowingly) set fell apart and I was crushed. I found out that my girl would only be having a singleton, and my boy blew out his non-bionic knee. Bam!
In my (very!) emotional response I realized I hadn’t been focused on the process. If I had been, I would have been disappointed, of course, but not so emotionally devastated. After all, my girl was still having a puppy and my boy was otherwise healthy and happy.
I reminded myself that I am not the outcome. My self worth, who I am as a person, and in this case, my dogs, are not tied to the outcome. I can have goals - I must have goals - but I cannot control every variable, so I can not control the outcome.
Detaching emotionally from the outcome does not mean we don’t care, are any less passionate, or become robots. It means that we know it isn’t the end of the world. It means there is another path for us, a different lesson. We all have to stay open.
Next time you catch yourself reeling from an unmet outcome goal, try these things:
1 - Let yourself feel the disappointment. Be sad, mad, scared and selfish. Process your emotions. Call a friend, eat the ice cream. Acknowledge the pain and thank it for the lesson or reminder. But no wallowing!
2 - Be objective about the disappointment and what it means in the larger scheme of life. Remember, we are talking about un-met goals or outcomes that didn't go your way. Get perspective. Be thankful for what you do have.
3 - Go back to process and release your attachment to outcome. You are still an amazing person. There are still great experiences to be had. The journey continues.
4 - Reset your process goals. Maybe that specific outcome is off the table, but what are you getting from the journey? What will you do differently next time?
It’s a long life and we are all going to fall short from time to time. But oh, what a wonderful adventure it is!