Weight loss and exercise goals: process vs outcome?

aiming for the goal

I’ve followed Deb’s writing about goal setting with great interest because I have the same problem with it: I have a love/hate relationship with goal setting!

Setting new goals is fun and you can get a great boost from it. Then there is also the sense of achievement when you actually reach your goal. I think my own problem with goals is a result of my perfectionism. If I don’t reach my goals in the allotted time frame, I will mentally whip myself, declare myself a failure and in the worst case, quit on my goal altogether.

There have been times in my life I’ve sworn I’ll give up all goals in my life, just to relieve pressure.

But that has never been a happy – or at least permanent – solution either. Life without any goals lacks structure. Sooner or later I’ve always come back to setting some goals for myself.


I think things can go wrong with goal setting in many ways.

You set unrealistic goals – like losing 66 lb (30kg) before summer, or equate your self-worth with your success, or don’t take into account the realities of your life.

I’ve may have mellowed a bit with age, because I’ve started thinking about goals with more flexibility. On one of my many Feldenkrais mp3 recordings the teacher talks about certain “poses” as directions for movement rather than as a fixed goal you have to force yourself to adopt.

I think that’s a better way to think about goals – that they give you a direction to work toward.

Besides I’ve noticed that in practice, when I’ve reached some important goal in my life, the timing has always been off – way off. For whatever reason, reaching the goal almost always took more time than I planned. It didn’t prevent me from eventually reaching the goal though.

Now my goal is to fit into my size 38 jeans but I have no idea when I’m going to reach it. I might be able to reach that goal in 12 months, but that may not be enough time. I also want to be able to do at least 10 military push ups some day.

Sometimes I get frustrated because of my lack of progress, but keep plodding forward anyway.


There is also another change I’ve made in my goal setting lately.

I try to focus on process goals more than the eventual outcomes. That means I track certain daily and weekly behaviors that I expect to contribute to ,my eventual weight loss, to  decrease my stress or whatever. I actually have a weekly written register with which I follow (I adopted the idea from Darren Hardy’s book Compound Effect) my “focus” behaviors.

If you wonder what behaviors I track, you can check it clicking on the pdf icon pdf-icon🙂

You can see I track 11 different behaviors every week. I don’t always reach the goals I’ve set for myself. I have good weeks and bad weeks.

You can download an empty form (in Word / .doc format) for yourself too: doc-type

For some reason tracking my behaviors causes me less stress than setting big fixed goals. It might work for you too.


Do you set goals for yourself? What happens if you don’t reach them?


  1. Marion says:

    Hi Satu! Well, I did snoop the PDF to see what behaviors you’re working on. The ones I really liked: food journaling, flossing, and writing. I should try meditation, but I’m very hard to settle down for even a few minutes (which is probably why it would be good for me.)

    I’m all about the process. When I get a good formula and carefully follow the process each day, I get great results. Process, not goals is how I lost recent weight. Methodically using weight lifting principles is how I built up my strength. I use my fitness journal and food journal to use process.

    However, my husband says I have a hard time finishing things. So, like it or not, I guess I need deadline goals.

    As you say, both seem to have their place, but I just seem to do better with process.

    🙂 Marion

    • Satu says:

      Meditation is hard! I usually meditate only ten minutes and sometimes my mind wanders, sometimes it’s a bit more placid. I try to stick to the meditation habit because it should help with stress.

      I try to track my writing time. The more I write the better! 🙂

  2. Lori says:

    Well, you know that I like to set monthly goals for myself. It keeps me accountable, but I know going in that I will not be 100% successful. They are just goals to strive towards and not mandates. I figure if I achieve every single goal, then my goals weren’t pushing me enough.

    • Satu says:

      That’s an interesting way to think about goals. I often wonder why it’s so easy to do some things and difficult to do other things. Plus what does it mean that don’t seem to able to do some things..

  3. I like the sound of process goals Satu… though sometimes mine just sound like a ‘to-do’ list. (Though I do like my to-do lists!!!)

    During yesterday’s coaching session with Karen Anderson she talked about some new goal setting suggestions so I’m about to try that.


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