Focus On The Process When Working Toward Your Goals

I started thinking about goal setting after reading Todd Brison and his article, “5 Five Minute Habits to Try Today.” In his post, Todd writes about creating habits and how we can “build the habit of building habits.”

How does this apply to goal setting? Well think about a goal that you have for yourself right now. Ask yourself, “What am I doing every day to achieve this goal?”

Let’s digress for a moment and use one of my favorite topics to help explain…college football.

Nick Saban, Head Football Coach at the University of Alabama, is one of the most successful coaches of all time. There’s not enough room to list all he and the program has accomplished. But if you asked him what is proudest accomplishment is, you might hear him say something about “The Process.”

The Process as explained by one of Saban’s former players, is “basically just focusing on the little things and not getting wrapped up in the big picture.” Saban might describe it as “what you have to do day in and day out to be successful.” Why this approach? Years of coaching has taught him that there are just too many things that he has no control over. He doesn’t set a goal for the program of winning a national championship every year(even though it seems like they do) because a lot of what goes into winning a national championship is beyond their control(rankings, injuries, opponents, etc.) Simply stated, he focuses not on the outcome, but the process.


“Know what you want to accomplish and focus on the process rather than the outcome.” -Nick Saban

When we are trying to set goals for ourselves(personal, financial, etc.) we too often focus on the outcome or what specifically we want to achieve. Truth is sometimes we will have very little control over the outcome. The market could crash. You could lose your job or become ill. The list goes on and on.

Instead put your focus on the process of what you are going to do to accomplish your goal. This will provide guidance of what you need to be doing on a daily basis. Why? Well if you don’t reach your goal, you can review and evaluate your process and identify what you are doing that isn’t working.

Here is an example that I discuss with my students early on in the semester. This is a finance specific goal, but can apply to many situations:

I try to get our students to think about where they see themselves in the future. Where? Doing what? All things lifestyle related. Something that most everyone will need in the future is cash(say $10,000). Maybe it’s for a down payment on a house or to start an investment portfolio.

Unfortunately there is so much uncertainty that it is difficult to predict what will happen in 5–10 years. You may lose your job. You might get relocated. Maybe you go to grad school and have to delay working. Or maybe things go better than expected and you need to readjust goal.

Now let’s remove the $10,000 goal and instead change it to saving 10% of your monthly income or reduce your spending on non-necessities every month. Not only do you have a clear, measurable plan of what you need to do to reach your goal, but you are in complete control over the process.

My next post will have some technology tips for helping with the “process” of reaching your goals.