It’s the Journey and the Destination: Process and Outcome Goals

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A little while back I was emailed by a wonderful blog subscriber and kickazz triathlete, Erin Lewyk (she gave me permission to use her full name and our email exchange). I love getting emails from readers and supporting each one of them but this email illustrated a perfectly concerns I often get from athletes regarding being focused on an outcome goal versus process goal. Here is our email exchange below along with two very kool pics she sent me:
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Hi Dr G!
I’ve been following your blog for the past 2+ years. I’ve learned and continue to practice many of the mental strategies you promote. I’ve been competing in triathlons for several years and have completed 0812_02794710 half Ironmans and 5 Ironmans. When people ask me what is my “best” part in triathlon I always say my mental fortitude. Work hard, no excuses, prepare, execute, achieve, no limits. I’m very driven also also love the process. I have a question that I’ve thought so much about and would love your thoughts and perspective. It’s in regards to specific race goals. I keep hearing that I should “not be attached to the outcome” but what if my dream and goal is to have a very specific outcome (qualify for 70.3 worlds)? What is your take on this? What would you suggest to a competitive age-grouper?? Do I continue to focus and visualize the exact outcome I want? Do I even bother with time goals?
Racing Silverman 70.3 on Sunday!
Erin
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Hi Erin!
I apologize in my delay in getting back to you. You ask a great question, there is a quote that says “have high expectation but low attachment to the outcome” I think it’s great to have outcome goals but I believe they must be balanced with process goals. Meaning how do you want to feel before, during, and after the race? What do you want to be thinking and focusing on in each section do the race? What is your definition of a successful race without it being attached to a number or time? These questions encompass aspects of your race that are much more within your control that a placing, rank, or time.
Process goals are much more within our control. However, I truly believe in planting the seed of desire and visualizing your best outcome too but also be open as to when that dream will come true. Wanting and having the desire dream goal is a great thing just be flexible with the way and when life brings it to you. Have a great race! Stay present. Do your best in each moment and just keep moving forward the best way you can:) and never give up on your dream or yourself.
All my best!
Dr. G

Dr. G,
My dream came true today!! I placed 2nd in my AG and qualified for 70.3 worlds! I never once thought tattoo ELabout fear of not getting a spot. I focused on staying present and how I wanted to FEEL. I felt like I was running towards something and not running to lose something. Everything felt very aligned today. This is one of the best days of my life. Thank you so much for your email. You made a difference. Your advice stayed with me today and it kept my mind in the right place.
E

CONGRATULATIONS!!! That’s an amazing accomplishment Erin..that YOU earned! I hope you celebrated in a big way! You were able to control to most important aspect of your race and you definitely reaped the results! Hold this experience dear. Are you planning on going to Austria next year:)

Thank you very much for sharing this with me. It means alot that in a small way I could be apart of your process…have a wonderful rest of the season!

Btw, I’ve been inspired by you to do a short blog post on process versus outcome goals. Don’t know when I’ll get it up but thank you for putting it out there:)

Gloria

Yes I’m definitely going to Austria (Aug 29 is race date).

So awesome to have emailed with you. I’m very happy you will do an article on this. I read everything you post! Please feel free to use my example if needed. Glowing today!!!

E

Again, I was so happy for Erin (Congrats again Erin on this amazing accomplishment!) and her ability to set the right focus before going into Silverman 70.3. I firmly believe that the most effective thing to focus on during a taper week and going into race day is the process goal. Process goals will get you through a race’s toughest moments. Process goals give you control in each moment (if you are able to be mindful). Every athlete I work with that has a target race coming up we develop an “Ideal Race Performance” essentially we developing a process goal for their race day. We draft and redraft it so that it continues to plan the seed of what to focus on during the race and what they ideally would like to manifest…However, if one has not be consistent in the outcome goals i.e. training at target paces, consistent training schedule, recovery, rest, and following coaches orders THEN the process goal merely becomes a hopeful wish. You must have both outcome and process goals. Mind you, outcome goals are very important and necessary. Without outcome goals we would not be able to measure our progress, push our body to healthy intensities and levels, take calculated risks in training, and as Marni would say “Race Smart.”

This past weekend I jumped into my first race since Vineman 70.3. It was my FIRST trail half marathon! I can honestly say that my only goal going into the race was to enjoy the process. For the first time in I don’t know how long I did not have any nerves or worries going into the race. My only goals were to be present, be mindful (for enjoyment and safety), respect my fellow competitors (trail runners are beasts, so much respect!) and be appreciative of nature and my body. However, I did have my Garmin to be smart about my pacing, I did have a fueling strategy (I rotated water and electrolyte drink at every other aid station and took gels when needed), and I did enjoy the thrill of being competitive again It was fun but hard at times- trust me all miles are not created equal. However I accomplished what I set out to do and had the best time out there! I managed to get 3rd in the 30-39 age group and 4th Overall Female. Not bad outcomes but definitely NOT the most important part of the day.

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Since starting yoga I have really come to develop a deeper appreciation for the process, in sport but most importantly in life. Through meditation and yoga I am developing a deeper sense of being present and mindful of what is important as I move through the moments in life. I can honestly say that I could not have had such a successful (as defined by my process goals, not placing or times) race without it. It’s important to know that we can have a really great outcome and shitty process or we can have a really great process and disappointing outcome OR, like Erin, we can have really great outcomes and process. However, on race day only one is truly within our control.

What focus do you currently have in life and in sport? Are you so focused on getting somewhere or 4682a24a0104e5a38ead7e2f9ef490fagetting something that you are missing what is important in the here and now? Or do you check-in with yourself, your values, how you feel, and what you surround yourself with so see if it truly reflects the journey of your heart’s desire?

I hope everyone is enjoying the beauty of the change seasons and enjoy the journey in life and sport!

Keep on shining beautiful people!
Dr. G

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Dr. Gloria Petruzzelli

Dr. Petruzzelli is sport and performance psychologist and mindfulness meditation teacher located in Sacramento, California and works with elite sport teams and athletes across the country. She is competitive athlete herself and enjoys practicing what she preaches.

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