Your Goals Should Focus on Output, Not on Result

Published on 7/14/2021

I’m on many Facebook groups for writers, mainly because I don’t know many writers, and it makes me feel like a ‘real writer’. These groups are a great place to learn from others, find people to review your work and even just get inspired. Because if they can be successful, why wouldn’t you manage?

These groups form the ideal writing communities, yet time and time again, I see the same thing happening. There will often be posts by either the Admin or a simple member like myself regarding goals for the month, week or day to come. Individuals will pitch in, aiming to hold themselves accountable and maybe do a bit of humble bragging. So I get this sneaky glimpse into the goals of fellow writers on this platform or elsewhere, and I consistently notice a key mistake. A mistake that is likely leading them to fail at said goal, and if rectified, could allow them to succeed with ease.

The Mistake

I’ll reach 1,000 followers on Twitter this month.

I’ll earn $300 on Medium this month.

I’ll get 2,000 visitors to my blog.

What do these three sentiments have in common?

They’re masquerading as goals when really they’re the outcome of your efforts. These are all things that are not in your control. Because A never leads directly to B, and so you just can’t guarantee these things happening. You could write dozens of posts, and yet they receive minimal attention, and so you ‘fail’ despite having your highest output yet. These points are not guaranteed, as there are too many variables that could interfere.

By being outcomes, they also remove the responsibility from your shoulders. You don’t feel the same pressure to make them happen as they’re not items that can be ticked off your to-do list. They’re vague enough that you could get away with minimal effort and then blame your failure on one of the other interfering variables - “Medium’s algorithm must be off this month!”.

You don’t have a path to success with goals that are actually results. You don’t have clear steps to follow or a to-do list that can easily be written down. Rather than being a goal, these are wishes or hopes. They’re not an ambition.

The Solution

It’s simple, really, as all you have to do is take things a giant step backwards. Consider how you reach this point and label those actions as your goal instead. This places you in the primary position of being responsible for your goal. Nothing else can get you there, not a celebrity sharing your article or retweeting you, not a surprise bonus from Medium or algorithm change. You are the only person responsible for your goal. That sounds like a lot of pressure, but this has always been the case; you just didn’t acknowledge it before. And whilst it may sound scary, consider it instead to be freeing. If you are responsible for your goal, that means that you have the power to make it happen.

What actions do you need to take to feel successful this month? What can you do to work towards your dream?

I like to look at it in terms of how many articles I’ll write. I aim to write at least twelve a month, and so from there, I know that requires three per week. This already gives my writing days an easy chore and focus. It makes it clear when I have failed and pushes me to ensure that isn’t the case.

But if you prefer working in-depth, you can find another metric for your goal. The key is to make it quantifiable. For example, you could say that you’ll dedicate a certain number of hours towards your goal. Or that it will be a certain number of words. This helps if you’re worried about rushing articles and not doing them well, as then you can make them as long as you like whilst still churning away at your goal. This is also an excellent goal for those working on a novel or more extensive project.

If you want a goal focused on your social media presence, instead of the number of followers, consider the number of posts you’ll make. It should lead to a similar outcome but rather shows you how to get there and holds you accountable.

The last years have taught us many things, including how short and unexpected life can be. So if you want something, then you need to make it happen. Stop shying away from your ambitions with vague goals that allow you to shrug off responsibility. You are the only person that can make things happen, so what are you waiting for? Sit down with a pen and paper, or pull out your electronic equivalent, and write down firm goals for the month, week or day. Goals that make you responsible, goals that will get you the outcomes you’re hoping for. Then feel free to let me know what they are in the comments section!



Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.

Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.

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