Outcomes and Behaviors

Outcomes and Behaviors

When setting goals or objectives, it is important to differentiate between outcomes and behaviors.  Basically, outcomes are the end results, whereas behaviors are the actions that drive those results. 

Most people focus on the outcomes because that is what they ultimately want to achieve.  However, outcomes are difficult to control, while behaviors can be modified and adjusted by the individual setting the goals.  Therefore, the focus should be on the behaviors because they are under the person’s control. 


About Outcomes and Behaviors

Outcomes are the measurable results of activities.  Examples of outcomes include such results as first place finish, completed project, twenty pounds lost in six months, or two books read in a month. 

Behaviors are a way a person acts or conducts themselves.  Examples of behaviors include typing a report, stretching, running, or reading.

Most people focus on outcomes because they are what can be easily measured in terms of results.  What they do not see are the behaviors that lead to the successful completion of the activities.


Goal Setting

Often times when people set goals, they focus on the outcome and not the behaviors.  They concentrate on the outcome because it is what they want to ultimately achieve.  It also tends to be easier to quantify and measure.

Unfortunately, outcome goals solely focus on the end result, and if the person does not reach that exact result, it is often thought to be a failure. 

Additionally, when establishing outcome goals, most people often leave out the most important details and the step-by-step actions for how they will reach that outcome.  However, if they focus on behaviors, it is likely that they end up with an outcome that they desire.

A person has far more control over their behavior than any outcome.  Behaviors drive outcomes; therefore, it is important to focus on the behaviors that cause the outcome.  When a person gets the behaviors right, the desired outcome typically follows. 

When setting behavior goals, people focus on how they will personally think, feel and act, rather than just looking purely at the outcome of their actions.  When a person changes how they think, feel, and act, they will notice a change in results.  Therefore, when setting goals, begin with the end result in mind, but include the behaviors that will lead to that result. 

Key Differences between Outcomes and Behaviors


  • Results
  • Measurable
  • Hard to control
  • Derived from behaviors


  • Actions
  • Hard to quantify
  • Controllable
  • Lead to outcomes

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