Process and Habits for Achieving Goals

These articles were written and contributed by Scott Rosberg

Process and Habits for Achieving Goals (Post 4 of 5)

This is the fourth post in a series of posts I have been doing on “Individual vs. Team.” If you missed those first three posts, go to the “Blog” page of the Coach with Character website – www.coachwithcharacter.com – and scroll down to the posts – “Individual vs. Team,” “Individual Goals vs. Team goals,” and “Aligning Individual and Team Goals.” Today, we will move into the importance of process and habits when it comes to developing goals.

Quite honestly, while setting goals is an important step in getting where you want to go, the setting of the goals is worthless if you don’t commit to the daily, weekly, and monthly habits necessary to get to your goals. In fact, authors Joshua Medcalf and Jamie Gilbert go so far as to say to “burn your goals” (in their book Burn Your Goals) and zero in on the mental toughness necessary to stay focused on the habits you need to achieve what you seek. Check out Burn Your Goals for more on this concept.

Focus on the Process, not the Outcome

This concept discusses something that is critical to any success that someone seeks, either individually or in a group. That something is “process.” Process has become a bit of a buzz-word over the last few years. However, there is a good reason why buzzwords have made their way into our lexicon at any given time, and the word “process” is no exception.

Process is important because it strips everything down to the necessities. It helps people focus their attention where it needs to be focused – on doing what needs to be done to achieve what one is seeking to achieve. By focusing on process, people can put blinders on and ignore all the noise that can create chaos and confusion while trying to achieve an outcome or a goal.

Focusing on process requires discipline. According to Bruce Brown of Proactive Coaching, “Discipline is focused attention and focused effort.” I love that simple, straightforward definition of discipline. When you focus your attention on doing what needs to be done, doing it the right way, and doing it that way every time it is needed, you have discipline. When you have discipline, you take care of your process. When you take care of your process, you work towards achieving your goals.

Let me give you an example of this concept that might help to illustrate this point. It will use a skill in basketball, but it can be used for any skill in any sport. Pick your sport and pick a skill and use that skill as you compare it to the analogy you will see here.

My son is a high school basketball player. When he gets fouled and goes to the free throw line, there are all kinds of things that could be running through his mind as he prepares to shoot the free throws. Imagine if it is late in a close game, late in the season where his team is trying to go to the playoffs, which is one of the team’s goals. Imagine how much his mind will be racing with thoughts of having to make the free throws to win the game and get his team into the playoffs.

“If I make these we’re going to the playoffs! Uh-oh. What will everyone think if I miss? People will hate me. Oh God, I need to make these or I’m a loser.” And the list goes on and on. The noise, the chaos, the enormity of the moment will all be seeking to take his mind away from where it needs to be for him to achieve his and his team’s goals.

Ultimately, he has little control over the outcome if he doesn’t take care of the process that he has had for shooting free throws all year long (and maybe even for many years leading up to this point). He needs to clear his head of all the distractions and the “noise” and zero in on his process. Whatever he has created as a process for being at the free throw line, that is what he needs to focus on now. “Deep breath, dribble 1, dribble 2, dribble 3, spin the ball into my shot pocket, bend knees, deep breath, shot line, up & out, follow-through.”  Swish!

When he clears out all the noise and distraction and focuses on what he does every single time he goes to the free throw line, he has a much greater chance at success, which means he has a much greater chance at achieving his goals and his team’s goals.

The Importance of Committing to Habits

But that doesn’t just happen when he goes to the free throw line in that moment in the game. It starts with developing repetitive habits that he follows throughout the entire year. When he puts in time in the gym in the spring, summer, and fall, he develops the habits that become his process. He needs to focus his attention and effort on doing the somewhat mundane, daily tasks that become his process for when he goes to the free throw line (and every other skill he needs) in games.

By committing to creating a habit, he allows his habit to prepare him for eventual success. But he also focuses on the habit when he needs it; he doesn’t focus on the outcome. By focusing on the habit, he does not allow himself to get caught up in distractions of worrying about the outcome that can take him out of his focus on what needs to be done in the moment. The habit allows him to zero in on simple, repeated steps that will ultimately bring him to his success.

Focusing on process also allows him a simple way to re-focus when things aren’t going well, when he is in a bit of a shooting slump. He can quickly go through his process in his head to help him prepare and re-focus on what he needs to do to get back on track. I am not a parent who yells many things out to him while he is playing. It is his game, and he needs to play it. But when I see him slumping at the line a bit, I will sometimes yell, “Process” to him to help him re-focus himself on following his process and the positive habits for success that he has created for himself.

Consider all that I just discussed here for one simple skill – shooting a free throw. Now think about all of the skills, techniques, workouts, strategies, etc. that go into any practice or game situation. Do the same thing as was done for free throw shooting, and focus on the process rather than the outcome for each of those skills and techniques to maximize your chances for success.

Goals are extremely important for players and teams to have as something to shoot for. However, it is the process that one develops to create the habits for them to follow that will ultimately be able to lead them to their goals. Goals give us a destination; process and habits give us a way to get there. Focus on the way to get there if you want to get there. Focus your attention on the road you are on in this very moment in order to arrive at your final destination.

Next time I will wrap up this series by going against the grain a bit and discussing the idea of forgetting goals as the focus but focusing on our standards instead (which is actually part of focusing on our process).


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