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Enjoying the Journey: Focusing on Process, Instead of Outcome

Within sports, it’s easy to become wrapped up in who wins the game, or who finishes the race with the fastest time. It’s a competition, so occasionally people become focused on the results and forget about the process along the way. This mindset is labeled as outcome focused. In a Washington Post article titled, “You’re obsessed with outcomes. Here’s why attention to process pays off”, Barry Ritholtz eloquently describes why switching your focus from outcome to process is beneficial. For starters, he describes process as “…simply the methodology used to accomplish an undertaking. It could be a simple checklist or a complex systematic approach. Process focuses on the specific actions that must be taken, regardless of the results.” Conversely, he defines outcome as “the result; it could be due to skill, luck, intelligence or many other random factors. At the end of the day, outcome is who won or who lost the game…”

“In sports terms, think of process as your playbook and outcome as the final score.”

-Barry Ritholtz

Ritholtz continues, “Without understanding the underlying process, good outcomes could just as likely be due to blind luck as to skill.” In other words, without acknowledging the process, winning a basketball game could be just as likely due to making a lucky shot as to working incredibly hard during each practice. It is not sustainable to depend on luck for every accomplishment, and it doesn’t feel as satisfying as knowing that you worked hard for it. However, it can be difficult to gear your emphasis more towards the process of the athlete. You may find it helpful to recognize that by doing so, you don’t entirely neglect the outcome. In fact, “the key to becoming more process focused is to understand that good outcomes follow good processes” (Ritholtz, Washington Post). If you are willing to put the focus on practices and individual improvements in athletes, there is a good chance that you will subsequently see improved outcomes in games.

As a coach, it is important to engrain in your athletes that it is about the journey of the season, not the end results. Some coaches find it helpful to have team slogans for the season that reflect the team’s values. Some examples are:

“Excellence is a continuous process and not an accident”

~A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

“Focus on the process, not the outcome, and you will enjoy success.”

~Dr. Julie Amato

“Trust the process.”


“A failure isn’t a failure if it prepares you for a successful tomorrow.”

~Lolo Jones

“Fear is part of the process. If you weren’t scared, you’d be in trouble.”

~Bruce Jenner

Whether it’s having the athletes recite the saying before every practice and game, or having them write the saying on a notecard that they bring with them to every event, a unifying slogan can help unite a team and remind everybody that sports aren’t all about winning or losing. It’s the journey that’s most important.

To read the entire Washington Post article, see here:

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