The Difference Between Action Goals and Result Goals


Setting SMART(ER) goals is - let's be honest - AMAZING. But sometimes, we get caught up in goal-setting and forget to make sure we're also focused on goal-getting.

How do you truly make sure you're moving from desire to possibility and not just treading water?

This is where it's important to know the difference between two major types of goals that will help you achieve your dreams.

Let's look at the difference between Action Goals and Result Goals.

Action Goals aren't necessarily the finished 'product' but achieving them is moving you toward a bigger goal. Essentially they are helping you develop or maintain a habit. Action goals can often be completed in one day.

Examples of Action Goals include:

  • doing yoga three times a week
  • walking one mile every day
  • following your nutrition plan for every meal

A Result Goal is something you're working toward. You might be able to get this result within a day, but sometimes it's a larger, bigger goal than can be accomplished in just one day.

Examples of Result Goals include:

  • building a website
  • landing 3 new clients in January
  • dead-lifting your body weight

The fundamental difference between Action Goals and Result Goals lies within one word: Control.

Sometimes, things will happen that are outside of your control which prevent you from achieving a particular result. You can try hard, put in the work, kick, cry and scream...and you won't get there.

It's January 2018, so here's an example a lot of people can identify with: Let's say I want to lose a few pounds of holiday weight and fit into my favorite old pair of jeans. Seems like a reasonable goal, right?

Let's take it a step further and set a SMART goal: "I will fit into my favorite old pair of jeans by the end of January."

It might seem like this is a good goal. It's specific, measurable, acheivable, results-focused and time-bound. 

But is it the right goal? 

What happens if the end of January rolls around and those jeans don't fit? Let's assume that I've done the work. I've eaten healthy, I've worked out. I stayed focused on my goal and worked hard to reach it. So, what's the problem?

Despite my best efforts, I can't actually control whether or not those jeans will fit me. What if my weight loss and physical activity made my waist smaller than it used to be, but my thighs got more muscular? I did all the work and this SMART goal still can't be reached.

To clarify, I'm pointing out that the actions I took didn't truly ensure the success of the results. It's important, therefore, to review your goals and determine which of them are Action Goals and which of them are Result Goals and to approach them in the appropriate way. 

The next time you make a list of your goals for the day, week or year, take a moment to review them and mark Action Goals with (A) and Result Goals with (R). Then, review each Result Goal and determine if you can reach the same outcome by setting more specific, smarter goals based on actions you can control. 

Both Action Goals and Result Goals have a place in your world. You can't really achieve well-rounded success without incorporating both into your daily life.

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