Ethnic man sitting on coach and thinking about his decisions

Why You Should Focus on Both Your Progress and The Results When Achieving Your Goals

Some people say, don’t focus on the results, enjoy the progress. Some other people say, whatever progress that you made, make sure it’s reflected on your results. Which one is true?


Asian girl thinking with her notebook about goals and progress


Well, when we have two sentiments, both at the opposing ends of a spectrum, the answer’s gotta be in the middle somewhere. Progress without goals would make you lost. A goal without progress will take you nowhere.


Balance both, because both progress and results are very interconnected with each other.
But that’s the question; how are they interconnected? Here are 4 reasons why you should focus on both your progress and the results when achieving your goals.


1. Behavior is triggered by goals

Imagine that you want to save money, to buy a dream car. Well, let me ask you, what kind of car do you want? Oh, haven’t you thought about it yet?


Because my friend is also on the same mission of saving money to buy a brand-new Toyota Vios at the end of this year. Let’s make a bet, who will reach their goal first?


Notebook with clear goal planning and a cup of coffee with a watch on the side


Your concentration is mobilised into actionable activity when you have a clear, compelling objective. If you have a tangible goal already, it would become a mental signal for you to focus on and inspire you to initiate behaviors that would reach said goal.


When you create a clear goal, you will naturally focus your attention on the next actionable step. As a result, you will guide yourself on the correct path, causing your behaviors to follow suit.


2. Progress sustain momentum

This is fairly an extension to the first point, which emphasizes the importance of progress as well. Let’s say when you do take the step of making a clear goal, let’s say saving RM300 per month for your dream car, it’s easy to get excited when you do fulfill that goal, let alone achieve more.


Asian girl high-fiving a guy friend after rock climbing goal achieved


It’s difficult not to become addicted to seeing progress, due to the dopamine produced in your brain after achieving a reward. Momentum operates in the same manner that a snowball expands in size as it is rolled down a hill. When you start to achieve, you don’t wanna quit; which is the ideal condition of mental performance.


3. Progress differentiates winners & losers (not goals)

Survivorship bias is a major problem in goal-setting, i.e. we focus on the ones who win—the survivors—and make the error of assuming that their ambitious goals are the ones who contribute to their success while ignoring all of the individuals who had the same ambition but failed.


Everyone wants to win. Everyone has the goal to win. The goal is always there. What makes the result different is, whether they adopted a system of incremental, ongoing improvements.


Ethnic couple laughing together on the couch after progressing to goals


While goal-setting is essential because it helps you discover and identify what matters most to you, progress is the self-booster as it promotes self-efficacy, or your ability to attain your goals. You can’t manage what you can’t measure, and you can’t improve what you can’t manage.


4. Achieving a goal is temporary, progress is not

Assume you have a cluttered space and have set a goal to clean it up. You’ll have a clean room for the time being if you summon the energy to clean it up. However, if you keep the same behaviours that contribute to clutter, you’ll just rely on another burst of inspiration to clean when things get messy again.


We may think we need to change our results, but what we really need to change are the systems that cause those results. If you never modified the system that produced it, you’re left pursuing the same result. You dealt with a symptom without dealing with the root of the problem. Thus, in order to improve for good, you need to solve problems at the systems level. Fix the inputs and the outputs will fix themselves.


Ethnic man sitting on coach and thinking about his decisions


Additionally, goals can generate an “either-or” conflict; you can either achieve your goal and be happy, or you may fail and be disappointed. But happiness does not need to be determined by our achievements, especially on one specific achievement. When there are so many ways to succeed, it makes no sense to limit your happiness to one situation.


In the short term, goals can offer direction and even drive you ahead, but in the long run, a well-designed system will always triumph. What is important is that you have a system in place. What makes the difference is a dedication to progress.




To sum this up, it is easy to get caught up on either one, to be either worried about your goal, or to be too preoccupied with your progress. And to balance both is not easy either, it needs creativity. So do not beat yourself up too much whenever you feel like you’re swaying to either side. As long as you keep the mentality that both are equally important, you are on the right track already. All the best!


For further reading, check out these articles related to Why You Should Quit Striving For Perfection And Focus On Progress and How To Cultivate Consistency In Achieving Our Goals.

An introvert writer since 2009. Writes about personal growth, psychology & looking at life from a different perspective. Enjoys a lazy evening watching YouTube on the cozy bed.

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