All goals are not the same.

Big Salad Wednesday

My husband and I have been trying to eat better, especially to eat more whole foods and fresh vegetables. That’s a rather vague goal that is hard to measure. To help to reach that goal, we have instituted what we call Big Salad Wednesdays.

Each Wednesday for supper we have some kind of big salad—a generous bed of salad greens topped with other fresh vegetables and a protein source such as boiled eggs, garbanzo beans, cooked tempeh strips or tofu, nuts . . . all drizzled with homemade oil and vinegar dressing. Whereas we might be daunted by the notion of “eating better,” we easily know if we have met the goal of having a big salad on Wednesdays. It is now part of our routine to the point we don’t have to waste energy planning for it.

Outcome Goals versus Process Goals

Often we set goals over which we have little control or that are far in the future: We want to land a six-figure publishing deal, or sell a certain number of books, or win a writing contest. Such goals are not wrong, but if that’s the only kind of goal we set, they are also not helpful in terms of knowing what to do today to reach them.

Instead, we can focus on process goals. In the short video below, Stever Robbins explains the difference: “Outcome goals are goals of what you want to achieve. Process goals are goals of what you want to do.”

For example, we might have an outcome goal of finishing a novel (which is under our control) or making a certain amount of money from the sales of that novel (not entirely under our control). In either case, we can set an initial process goal of writing 5000 words a week of the novel or working on it for a certain amount of time every day. A subsequent process goal might involve editing or querying agents or getting the novel ready for self-publishing. In all cases, we have control over the process goals, which, as Robbins says, give us “guidance as to what to do on a day to day basis,” and we can feel good knowing that we are making progress, regardless of the final outcome.

What writing process goals are their own reward for you?