How To Set Goals You Can Control

Have you ever found life slipping out of your control? This happens to anyone who believes their expectations of the outcome will align with reality. They often find their expectations falling short. When this happens, a lot of people become stressed, and many throw in the towel. If they can’t have the outcome they want, then what is the point in putting in so much work? They have that look about them that they have had enough.


A business leader declares the business will increase 8% in revenue this year. Instead, the economy dips, people stop buying, and the business only increases revenue by 2.5% this year.

A teacher prepares the lesson plans for the week thinking of the 2nd graders smiling as they learn. Instead, the 2nd graders decide this is the week to declare mutiny, and try to end the teacher’s career.

An aspiring author determines their book will be accepted by a publisher, and that self-publishing isn’t an option. Every copy they send is rejected, and they dismiss the idea of self-publishing.

A lot of disappointment in life comes from unmet expectations. Some people say, “Don’t go into life with great expectations, because you’ll only be let down.” Life without expectations doesn’t connect with my soul. I like to have great expectations, but I’m learning to shift these great expectations.

For the longest time, my great expectations have been centered on the outcome. Yesterday, we briefly examined an outcome goal — losing 15 pounds over 6 weeks.) Outcome goals do produce results at times, but sometimes a person doesn’t lose 15 pounds over 6 weeks. Instead, they tone up, and begin to add muscle. Their muscle weighs more than they anticipated. They became much healthier in 6 weeks, but instead of losing 15 pounds, they only lost 5 pounds. However, they are much more fit and toned than they were at the beginning.

“We cannot control the outcomes in life.”

At this point, some people will say, “What is the point of making goals then?” If goals are short term extensions of your values, then what is the point if you don’t reach them. And this is where I learned to set a different kind of goal. I heard Craig Groeschel talk about this first. Make Input Goals instead of Outcome Goals.

“We can control our input.”

Below are examples of Outcome Goals vs Input Goals followed by Results.

Outcome Goal: I want to have 20 new clients in the next 60 days.

Input Goal: I will ask 400 people to meet with me in the next 60 days. I cannot control if they will become clients, but I can do my part to meet with them.

Result: If I ask 400 people to meet with me, 200 of them might meet with me. If I can meet with 200, then 10% of them might become clients. (Or maybe way more than that.)

Outcome Goal: I will write a music album that sells over 1000 copies.

Input Goal: I will write 10 songs, record a music album, connect with 500 venue owners about playing shows, and run an excellent social media campaign for my new album.

Result: Will the album sell 1000 copies? Not necessarily. But I can have great expectations for myself, and the work I do in meeting with others. I will do my part, and position myself for

Outcome Goal: I will have a lot of new friends this year.

Input Goal: I will ask 25 people that I don’t know very well to have coffee, go to a movie, come over for dinner, or hike a mountain. I will choose to be a friend to them, and care about their life. Result: Will I have a lot of new friends this year? Depends on how you define “new friends.” This allows me to stop worrying about quantities of friends, and work on the quality of the friendship. By asking people to join me in doing something, we have a greater likelihood of becoming friends. Also, I am determining how I will treat these people. It’s like my parents told me growing up, “If you want friends, then be a friend.”

I believe it is worth having great expectations in life. My great expectations have shifted though from focusing on great outcomes to making great inputs. One of the most amazing benefits of this shift is that I don’t place the burden on other people that they have to treat me perfectly. Potential clients don’t have to buy from me. I don’t live and die by the outcomes of life. Instead, I define what I want to do, and then do a lot of that. When I create input goals, the outcomes are much sweeter.

What would it look like for you to create input goals, and focus on what you can control? Imagine letting go of the outcomes for a bit. What would it look like to simply focus on what you can do, and let the results come from that?

Questions To Consider

  1. What are some outcome goals you’ve created? What is your internal response when the outcomes don’t turn out how you planned?
  2. What would be one input goal you could create? How could you use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal tool to make an input goal?


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