Goal Setting: Outcome Goals & Process Goals

Set your goals with Honey Stinger

We’ve been working with Neely Spence Gracey, professional runner and coach and author of Breakthrough Women’s Running: Dream Big and Train Smart, to help you set your fitness and performance goals for the upcoming year. Over her years of competing as an elite, Neely learned that success always starts with having clear, compelling goals.


Outcome Goals & Process Goals

Once you’ve examined the factors in your life that make a specific goal both meaningful and realistic for you to pursue (click here to get our first worksheet), the next step is to think in terms of outcome goals and process goals. 

Honey Stinger Athlete and Professional Runner, Neely Gracey

An outcome goal is one where you envision a result in the future–it’s your desired end result. Think of an outcome goal as a ‘big dream’ goal but understand you don’t always have control over it. Because we can’t control it and not every day is perfect, you might even set multiple goals.

For example, when Neely ran the California International Marathon after having two babies, her Outcome Goals were:

  1. To qualify for the 2024 Olympic Trials (I need a 2:37:00 or better)
  2. To run a personal best time (after my tune-up-races, I’ll evaluate whether I could aim even faster)
  3. To reach the starting line healthy and see what's possible on race day

    Next come the process goals. Process goals are the smaller or everyday steps you take on your journey towards achieving your outcome goals. These seem less exciting and glamorous than the outcome goals–and many people overlook their value–but they’re how your dreams become reality. Process goals are the key to achieving your goal.

    For the California International Marathon, Neely’s Process Goals were:

    1. Wear running clothes to school drop off or run my oldest to school so my run routine is consistent every morning
    2. Turn the lights out by 9:30pm
    3. Twice a week, after the kids are in bed, spend 5-10 minutes doing hip mobility exercises

      Stay Focused

      Despite best laid plans, the trajectory of achieving a goal is never straight, smooth, or easy to follow. No matter the twists and turns, It’s important to stay focused on and excited about your goal. Don’t lose sight of what you want to accomplish especially when you’re feeling tired, unmotivated, or doubtful. (If you’re human, you will feel tired, unmotivated, or doubtful.) 

      One tip for managing your mindset when you’re feeling down or challenged is to adopt a mantra. A mantra is a form of meditation that can help reduce stress and heighten awareness. The mantra Neely used before running the 2016 Boston Marathon was “Attitude, believe, commit,” and her performance catapulted her career and prompted possibilities.

      Write Goals Down

      Another tip is to write down your goals. When you do, they’re more likely to happen. Some people write their goals on their bathroom mirror, put sticky notes on their dashboard, or turn them into screensavers. However many reminders you need each day, make that many! If you can’t completely steer yourself away from doubt and vulnerability, give yourself a deliberately structured 10-15 minutes per day to feel those feelings. This routine can help you compartmentalize and overcome negative thoughts rather than spiral down into them.

      Keep Working

      Imbalance, or even obsessing over your daily goals, is part of the process of working toward your achievement, and you have to trust the process.

      “Especially if you’re chasing a big goal,” Neely shares, “there’s often a slight imbalance in your life. If everyone in your support group is on board with that, then that’s okay.” Focus on the things you can control, accept that you’re not perfect, and allow space for failure. “Just keep putting in the work,” Neely recommends. “Start where you are, and stay diligent day to day.” 

      Now that you understand the goal setting terms and key tips, work through the “Goal setting” worksheet to create specific outcome goals and process goals.

      Goal setting worksheet: Set your goals

       Download Worksheet HERE.


      About Neely

      Neely has represented team USA five times including the IAAF World Cross Country Championships and the Pan American Games. In college, she was an 8x NCAA DII National Champion. Neely was the top American at the 2016 Boston Marathon and the 11th American female ever to break 70 minutes in the half marathon. Alongside her own goals, Neely helps coach other runners to reach theirs. She is a Lydiard level I & II Certified Coach and has worked with over 500 athletes through her business, Get Running. While Neely has achieved a lot of success, she didn’t achieve every goal she set. But over a decade later, after two successful pregnancies and founding a thriving business, Neely just ran a personal best time of 2:30 in the marathon and qualified for her fourth Olympic Trials.

      Coach: Get Running Coaching

      Author: Breakthrough Women's Running

      Instagram: @neelysgracey