Are we too focused on outcomes?

March 9, 2023

By Jeff Becraft


I was thinking earlier today about outcomes… and in particular, how much we focus on outcomes. Certainly outcomes are important. Who is going to say something like, “Yeah, we are not expecting anything to change or there to be any progress or this to make any difference.” Who in the world would want to be part of something like that?

But I sometimes wonder if we have become too focused on outcomes… something we can measure, something we can graph, or whatnot.

I am going to use an example that I wrote about years ago, but I am going to bring it up again to illustrate what I am talking about.

Years ago, I had inherited a basketball team from a friend because his job no longer allowed him the time to coach the team. In one of the games during the season, we were behind 30–8… towards the end of the third quarter.

The outcome we were looking for was to win the game. But the players knew that the possibility for that was rapidly fading … and you could see the life and enthusiasm just draining out of them.

I jumped up off the bench and yelled, “Let’s get to 20!” This would not get us our desired outcome… but it gave us a new goal to shoot for. It was still a big goal. It took us all three quarters just to score 8.

To make a long story long, the final score of the game was 30–29.  We wound up scoring 21 points in the 4th quarter and held one of the best teams in the league (they would later play in the tournament championship) to zero points in that quarter.

We still lost the game; we did not reach our desired outcome… but we gained a whole lot more.

Let’s look at something that might be more close to home – a person says they are going to exercise (or anything else) 31 days in a row for the month of March. They do great for the first 6 days and then they miss day 7. Well… based on the outcome outlook, they have now failed.

But have they?

I heard someone say recently (and I think they got this from Craig Groeschel but I am not sure) that if you have a goal like one I have mentioned, if you miss one day, then don’t miss two; if you miss two days, then don’t miss three; if you miss three days, then don’t miss four…

We don’t have to follow the path that Patsy Clairmont would describe, “Well, I ate one cookie… I might as well eat the whole bag.”

Back to the 31-day workout, let’s say the person gets back after it on day 8 and does well for a while.  nd then misses day 21. But is back in action on day 22. And then does well until day 31 when they miss again. This person has exercised for 28 days in a month! And yet they did not achieve their outcome – 31 days in a row.

But what about the fortitude, the determination, the emotion, to get the train back on the track after getting off track? How much is gained there?

There are some things that simply can’t be easily put into data… and yet they are extremely important and significant… and not a failure.

So if you have gotten off track with a goal, get back on track and focus on each step.

And don’t eat the rest of the bag of Fig Newtons… that will simply cause a whole other set of problems for you.


Jeff Becraft is the Interim Director of Our Place of Hope and the Director Emeritus for Youth Corps and has dedicated much of his life to helping shift the vision of people’s lives. Youth Corps is a life-changing leadership development experience that inspires high school students to be leaders in the Midlands and beyond. You can connect with Jeff at [email protected].