Defining Outcomes – Why Most Athletes Can’t Reach Their Goals And What To Do About It

“What do you want to achieve?”

Probably one of the most difficult question to answer as an athlete.

When it comes to creating outcomes, most athletes would respond with, “I want to place x for the Open” or “I just don’t want to be injured.” Truth is, most of these responses are either fluffy or things you can’t directly control.

At Op Meta, the Goal Setting strategy is different – goals become carefully considered and meet certain conditions that make them realistic, motivating and achievable. We call them “outcomes.”

When you set your outcomes in the right way you become inspired, proactive, take ownership and actively seek out a solution to the gap between your current state and your desired state. You can clearly define the problem at hand and can create the best strategies to overcome them.

On the flip side, if you DON’T set your outcomes correctly and don’t know what you want, you’ll fall trap to staying where you are right now, self-sabotaging and/or working to let others get their outcomes.

Problems cannot be solved unless you have clear outcomes – just as much as you cannot clearly drive to an unknown territory without a clear map.

This is the key to achieving your goals.

When you clearly define your outcomes, it becomes simple to figure out what resources you’ll need: programming, lifestyle factors, mental strategies, language, physiology, emotional states, beliefs and values.

The biggest challenge for most people is shifting from ‘problem thinking’ to outcome thinking.

Problem thinking focuses on what is wrong – allocating blame, getting angry at themselves and get lost in a downward spiral of never-ending problems.

Problem thinking focuses on the past and the present. This focus also guarantees to make you feel worse about the problem. It makes you feel less resourceful.

So, how do you shift from problem thinking to outcome thinking?

There are two aspects to outcomes:

  • Outcome thinking – deciding what you want in a given situation: a workout, your training, your life.
  • Outcome orientation – consistently thinking in outcomes and having a general direction and purpose in life.

Until you know what you want and can clearly language it, what you do will be aimless, and your results will be random.

Your programming will be random, your results will be random and you’ll feel overwhelmed and frustrated.

As an athlete, here are few pointers on clearly defining your outcome:

1 ⇢Define the outcome in the positive – this isn’t about ‘positive thinking’. It means you want to direct the goal towards what you want, as opposed to what you wish to avoid. Ask yourself, “what do I want?” and, “what will it do for me? Example: sub 2:30 Fran, 130kg Clean and Jerk, or 20 unbroken muscle ups.

2 ⇢ Know the evidence – what is the evidence that you are succeeding/have succeeded? It’s important to know that you’re on track. Sometimes when the goal is large, like getting to Regionals or top 100 of the Open, you need to make sure you can have milestones. There are two kinds of evidence:

  • Feedback on your progress towards the outcome (internal and external/personal feedback and from your coach).
  • Evidence of having achieved the outcome – what specifically will you be seeing, hearing, feeling, even touching when you’ve completed your outcome?

This allows your Reticular Activating Function in your brain to know what to work towards. When you don’t know the evidence, your brain will try to keep you safe by letting you achieve what you’ve done before and not the unknown.

The more specific you are with the evidence, the more your unconscious mind will string together strategies to make it happen.

3 ⇢ List your resources – Your resources will fall into 5 categories, some more relevant than others depending on your outcome:

  • Objects/Tools: what equipment do you need to optimize your training and your progress? Think inside AND outside of the gym.
  • People: who do you need around you to help, support and guide you along the path?
  • Role models: do you know someone who has already succeeded in getting this outcome? How can you model them? Have their strategies been documented?
  • Personal qualities: what qualities do you already have or need to develop to achieve the outcome? Are those personal qualities to the standard of the person achieving that outcome?
  • Money: do you have enough to support this lifestyle and this goal? Will you have enough to maintain this standard?

4 ⇢ Control – can you start and maintain this outcome? How much is this outcome under your direct control?

Sometimes, athletes have goals that have too many variables to achieve. For example, if your goal is to be at the top 100 of the Open, you cannot control how everyone else performs. Instead, it’s smarter to look at benchmarks that will give you a higher probability of achieving that goal. For example: look at the Open workouts over the last 5 years and the scores top 100 athletes have achieved. Work towards those scores (and higher). This is a much more effective game plan and will allow you to know that you truly gave it your all.

5 ⇢ Ecology – when you say ‘yes’ to getting that outcome, what would be the wider consequences of achieving that? Everything has an opportunity cost and it’s important to note that sometimes, spending time and effort on one thing can leave others neglected. You also need to consider who will be affected when you achieve the outcome? Both positively and negatively.

You would also need to consider what you must give up to achieve the outcome. Remember, you CAN have anything you want if you are willing to pay for it and put in the work (and it doesn’t have to be money.)

What else can happen when you achieve the outcome? The clearer you are about the secondary consequences, the more your mind can realize how important it is to work towards the outcome (or, perhaps change the desired outcome.)

There are few more detailed steps you need to focus on to get clearer on your outcome, but these 5 steps are important to get clear on.

Once you’ve completed answering these questions, then you need to ask yourself these three questions to seal the deal:

  1. Is it possible to achieve the outcome?
  2. Do I have the ability or can I eventually have the ability to achieve the outcome?
  3. Do I deserve this outcome? Take note of how your body reacts to asking this question – usually your belief of whether or not you’re worthy of achievements shows through how you feel when reflecting on it. This will point to obstacles and self-doubts and if left unchecked, it will always lead to self-sabotage: missing lifts, injuries, sickness for no apparent reason.

Now that you’ve read this, the next step is to take action. Sit down and think about the next 90-180 days. Write down at least 5 outcomes in AND out of your training that you’d like to achieve.

If you’d like any help on filtering your outcomes with this method, send us an email at – we can get one of our coaches to jump on the phone for 15 minutes and give you clarity.