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Why Focusing on Process Goals is Key

Happy new year! New year and new semesters are fertile ground for setting new goals. This is great because goal-setting is one of the most powerful tools you can use to grow. But there are two types of goals and knowing which to use and when can make a big difference:

  • 1. Process Goals: focus on the actions, behaviors, or steps toward an outcome. These goals are within the individual's control.

  • 2. Outcome Goals: center on the end result or the desired outcome. Unlike process goals, the achievement of outcome goals may be influenced by external factors.

The Psychology behind these goals shows the impactful differences:

  • Control: Process goals are within your control because they rely on specific actions or behaviors. In contrast, outcome goals are not entirely under one's control: You can’t ever guarantee how a teacher will grade the Math test, but you can make sure that you complete your side of the equation (yes, pun intended).

  • Measurability: Process goals can be repeatedly measured in terms of the actions taken. You can be clear about how much and how often you will do a specific action: “all practice problems for each class.” So if one day goes less well, you get to try again tomorrow. Outcome goals are measured by a single data point; not much room for re-tries.

  • Motivation: Process goals can be more motivating as they provide a clear roadmap for improvement. Outcome goals can be motivating too but may lead to frustration if not achieved due to external factors–again, cue up every time a teacher takes points off unexpectedly or inconsistently on a test. 

When I coach students toward their longer term goals, we always set process goals. If you get the process goals “right,” you usually do not even need to think about the outcome goals. They become the natural result of sticking to the process. 

As an educational psychologist, I know it’s critical to maximize students’ sense of Control. A sense of personal agency is necessary in order to be motivated–if you don’t feel your effort can cause a result, then why bother? Using Process Goals is one of the best ways to implement this! 

Here are examples of Process Goals that my coaching students have been setting this new semester:

  1. Go to professor’s office hours once a month.

  2. Do course homework in the library two afternoons per week.

  3. Review lecture slides before class at least once per week.

  4. Make a weekly to-do list every Sunday.

  5. Get to know at least one other person in each class so you can study together.

Process goals are the ingredients to a recipe for educational outcomes that my students say they want. Best of all, when they implement these manageable actions, they experience the reward of small wins along the way, a sense of accomplishment, and overall academic wellbeing: feeling capable, confident, and in control.

I hope you all set strong Process Goals for 2024. Control what you can and let the rest go!

Wishing you well,


Events & Announcements:

Pop-up Book Club! Many of you have been impressed with the book Never Enough: When Achievement Culture Becomes Toxic–And What We Can Do About It (Jennifer Breheny Wallace, 2023). There’s so much good stuff to unpack in this book; I’d love to hear what you think of it! If you are local, please join me on Sunday Jan. 21, 3-4:30 in the Eden Prairie library. Even if you haven’t finished the book, please consider joining the conversation. We’ll let some of the discussion questions in the back of the book kick us off. Bring friends. Refreshments provided.

Instagram/Facebook Reels: One of my Process Goals is sharing more tips for academic wellbeing on social media this semester! If you aren’t following me already, please do. I’d love to “see” you there: Instagram: tina_kruse_coaching & the Facebook Page: Tina Kruse Coaching

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