When it comes to goals, there are generally two types: outcome-oriented and process-oriented. Outcome goals are based on results we want to achieve, while process goals are grounded in repeating steps that help us to achieve the outcome we are pursuing. While both types are essential for success, having solely outcome-oriented goals can prevent us from reaching success and leave us feeling discouraged when things outside of our control stand in the way. On the other hand, process-oriented goals are the actions, tasks and milestones leading us to a larger goal that are within our control.
The SMART Goal framework
For anyone looking to develop a process-oriented mindset, Dr. Wason recommends utilizing what is called the SMART Goal framework. SMART stands for specific, measurable, ambitious, relevant and realistic, time bound and transparent. Many of the tools Thweatt uses and recommends to develop a process oriented mindset fit well with the SMART framework.
SMART Goal aligned practices
Thweatt first encourages us to reframe goals and what training means when we are struggling. Training should be seen as whatever our body needs on a particular day to prepare ourselves to chase after big goals, which could mean one day only cross training or even resting completely. Dr. Wason seconds this tip and points out that it fits well within the ‘specific’ category of SMART because it ensures specificity around training goals and needs.
Thweatt also finds it helpful to break things down day to day, setting smaller goals to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the whole picture or larger timeline of a goal. Meeting smaller goals gives us a sense of accomplishment along the way, which fits well within the ‘measurable’ and ‘realistic’ categories of the SMART framework.
The final recommendation Thweatt gives is to document progress through daily journaling and training logs. “If we’re so focused on that larger outcome, it can be easy to feel discouraged when that seems so far away, but, when you actually look at what you’re doing day to day, you realize that you are making progress and getting closer to that outcome,” Thweatt says. Dr. Wason agrees, saying that these practices are great ways to evaluate progress over time while also building awareness of our thoughts and feelings.
Trust the process
Developing a process-oriented mindset takes time. Looking back, Thweatt realizes that she had a very outcome-oriented mindset in college and became frustrated when she kept getting injured and did not achieve many of the goals she had set for herself. It was not until her professional career when she sustained a major pelvic injury that she developed the process-oriented mindset she holds today, realizing that the only way to get through her injury was to break the recovery process into smaller pieces and focus on controlling what she could control.
A skill for life
While Thweatt has come out on the other side of her pelvic injury, the tools she learned to use and the mindset she developed will stay with her and continue to benefit her going forward. When asked how she has coped with so many setbacks throughout her career, Thweatt says, “I don’t do this for the results, I do this because I love to run and I love the process.” Focusing on the process ensures that we will always be able to find joy and success, even in the hardest moments.
““I don’t do this for the results, I do this because I love to run and I love the process.” ”