Digital Presence & Marketing Strategy

Performance Goals vs. Outcome Goals

UPDATED: February 7th, 2023

I talk with clients all the time about ROI – Return on Investment.

One of my main objectives when building a new website & digital marketing strategy is helping the client SEE the ROI as quickly as possible.

Naturally goals come into the conversation.

To help a client set realistic goals, I ask questions:

Where are you now?

Where do you want to be in a year from now?

What’s your website doing for your business to help you get there?

If we do ___________, how will that affect ______________?

What does success look like for your business website?

These are all important questions we review early on in the Discovery Process.

When I think about goals, the Serenity Prayer comes to mind:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

I can’t always control everything.

Sometimes, no matter how much work I do on a project, the results aren’t coming as quickly as I’d like.

I have to make adjustments.

Making Goal Adjustments

I love sports.

I played a lot of sports as a kid. And I learned many valuable lessons that have helped me as a business owner today.

One of those lessons is that I can’t control my height.

Growing up I played basketball nearly every day. But no matter how much I practiced, that practice wasn’t going to change my height (something I couldn’t change).

Eventually I had to change my goals and focus on other priorities.

That experience, along with countless others in business, brings me to the point of today’s conversation: Performance Goals vs. Outcome Goals.

Performance vs Outcome Goals – What’s the Difference?

Have you ever heard of these concepts?

Performance Goals?

Outcome Goals?

Why are these types of goals even worth considering?

performance goalsWe all want outcomes, results, money in the bank.

But before that happens we have to take the necessary steps to get everything in place.

As I’ve studied about goals and goal setting, a couple terms kept coming up: performance goals & outcome goals.

The summary of the two goals is simple:

I CAN control a performance goal.

I CAN’T control an outcome goal.

In other words,

“Performance based goals can be controlled by the person who sets the goals while outcome based goals are frequently controlled by others…Performance goals focus on the person’s performance while outcome goals focus strictly on the outcome or result.”

This is really helpful when thinking about goals for a business.

What CAN I control?

What CAN’T I control?

Help me to know the difference!

The Danger of Outcome Goals

Goals based on outcomes are extremely vulnerable to failure because of things beyond my control.

For example, I might achieve a personal best time in a race, but still be disqualified due to a mistake by the judge.

If my outcome goal was to be in the top three, then I’m screwed.

However, if I set a performance goal of achieving a particular time, then despite the outcome or the decisions of others, I’ll have achieved the goal and can know I did my best.

Another example of an outcome goal is to make a certain amount of money.

In my Moller Mission Statement, I set some specific “outcome goals”.

But, in front of those outcome goals were well defined, written out action steps (or “performance goals”) that I committed to in order to give myself the best chance to achieve the final result.

If I want to make a certain amount of money, I’d better set specific goals I have control of that lead me down that path.

So here’s an important question:

What performance goals can I set that will help me achieve the outcomes I’d like to see?

The Power of Performance Goals

I have control of performance goals. They are measurable, things I can track.

In an online business, performance goals may be things like this:

  • I will write one article per week on Wednesday.
  • I will contact 2  businesses today in my target niche.
  • I will reach out to 2 podcasts today to offer to guest speak.
  • I will create 3 videos on Friday of this week & schedule them to publish.
  • I will record my performance on a spreadsheet.
  • I will report back to my mentor.

Do I have “outcomes” in mind?


But the outcomes are based more on my performance than anyone else’s.

It doesn’t say I will close 2 deals this week. But by contacting 2 businesses this week, I’m giving myself the best chance to make connections that will result in new business.

Here are some questions to consider when setting “performance goals” for your online business:

  • What do I need to do today to make a sale?
  • How many people do I plan to contact every day to build my network?
  • When I contact these people, what am I going to ask them?
  • What content am I going to consume to get ideas for help with my sales?
  • How many current clients will I talk to about their purchases and attempt to get repeat business with?
  • Do I have a “Plan of Attack” on what I’m going to do each day to increase the chances of making more sales?

How Do I Apply This Information Today?

Here’s a real example that I’m working on in order to implement the performance goal ideas:

I have a goal, maybe it’s an outcome goal, to use video more as a marketing channel in my business.

Ultimately I want to create online courses that help my clients grow their online businesses.

Video is an essential piece in that puzzle.

So I need to get going with video creation.

Where am I now?

I have two YouTube Channels.

One has 1,150 subscribers, 1,164,471 views, and was started on May 19th, 2013.

The other has 20 subscribers, 30,989 views, and was started on March 16, 2012.

The first one has all kinds of random videos: a funny dance recital video that has over 1 MILLION views, family stuff, DIY handyman stuff, a pool install, and some website tips and tricks. Not very focused or niche.

The second one has mostly just website tips, tutorials, & guidance. But obviously very little traction.

The first is currently titled VID801.

The second is currently titled Nate Moller.

My natural inclination is to continue to grow the VID801 channel. But in all my video research, there’s a lot of clean up that would have to happen.

And the majority of those subscribers are probably mostly interested in the funny dance recital – NOT digital marketing.

So, my decision is to work on the Nate Moller channel.

Here are my performance goals:

1.  I will have my designer create a channel style guide (banner background, icon, color scheme, logo implementation, etc.)

2. I will review content I currently have and create an editorial calendar, focusing on creating 3 videos every Friday.

3. I will watch 2 of the the 400+ Watch Later videos  every day and take detailed notes on what I’m learning.

4. I will IMPLEMENT those notes in my video strategy.

5. I will record my progress in a Google Spreadsheet.

So that’s my plan.

Sharing it with readers like you can be helpful.

Now that I’ve written it out, printed it, and put it on my desk, I plan to remind myself of it each day.

Let’s get your take on this.

What are “Performance Goals” you plan to set the help you get the “Outcomes” you want?

Leave a comment below! 👇

48 replies on “Performance Goals vs. Outcome Goals”

Good tips on goal setting. If you think of your daily “to do” list as “performance goals” instead of just tasks, it will help you focus on and achieve your “outcome goals”.

i just read this same thing on another website. word for word. i dont know which is the original but neither helped me

If people would base goals on performance, there would be much more satisfaction in what we do daily. So many times, goals are based on outcome, and for one reason or another, the goal is not achieved because of circumstances beond our control. Once you understand this concept, you can find it in sports, work etc.

Blogging is an excellent way to get readers, feedback on what you wrote, and people to keep coming to your site. The sharing of ideas lets you see not only what they think of what you wrote about but they may present a different outlook then yours, giving you another perspective on the issue you wrote about.

It really is true what you said about how in the beginning we are super motivated and then when things arent looking the way we pictured our motivation dwindles. I think that reinforces the need to set performance based goals that will give us a sense of accomplishment and motivation even if our ultimate goal is not reached in the manner we’d like.

How many people do I plan to contact every day?
People who sign up at my website. I will start a free newsletter program which will be a reminder for the signees and give them a reason to come back and visit the website and ultimately sign up for the regular paid service. I am looking forward to get 500 visitors a day within two months of time and start targeting them.

What book am I going to read to get ideas for help with my sales?
good to great companies. Also books from fellow commodity trading advisors who have done this in my field.

How many current clients will I talk to about their purchases and attempt to get repeat business with?


Do I have a “Plan of Attack” on what I’m going to do each day to increase the chances of making more sales?

What are “Performance Goals” you all have set to help you get the “Outcomes” you want?
Very important question. My own trading account activity. My own performance will determine what I can provide. My own positive outcome in my real time trading account will be the evidence of what I can do for my clients.

Make the website front page more attractive and starting a free weekly newsletter. Free phone consultation service for the first time clients. Following up on how they are doing.

Hey Adnan,

How are your performance goals coming? I see you’ve had lots of traffic to your blog posts – is this something you’re continuing to work on and promote?

How are sales? What specific things are you doing to see more traffic and conversion?

Keep me posted! I look forward to hearing from you.

Your idea of win win situations is great. I agree with that. I can produce gains for myself and share them with my clients.

For me performance equals goals. If my performance each day is productive then I can assume my goals are being met. I can feel good about my outcome. Staying on track and keeping my goals reachable will make the outcome feel great. Motivation, goals, and performance are all included in outcome. Thanks.

You recorded a call for your students about this topic. Since I know you, I tell them that you really follow your own advice. Almost everyone who listens to this call raves about it.
It’s very common for people, me included, to get caught up in dreams and forget the small unglamorous steps along the way. There are some we love to do and others are chores. Making small goals and making a little progress consistently over time is the key.
I like to say it’s not “NO” I can’t do something, but “WHEN” I’ll accomplish it. Some goals are longer term, yet we want everything now. Finding satisfaction out of the things you accomplish as you go can help you keep going when you lose motivation.

Thanks for the comment Janet. How are your “small unglamorous steps” coming? As I tell every client I work with, “Small Success leads to Big Succes!”

I’d love to hear some updates on how you’ve applied this advice about performance goals.

well i think that you lose interest as go along but i look at my goal everday that are in front of me and i say i need this i want this dont give up and just thing of your acoploges as your goal and you will be there sooner then you thank you

Performance = Goals; if you genuinely plan, then strive to achieve those plans, do not give up even if it takes 3 weeks instead of one week as you planed, and stay positive. I think the one key to success is to focus on the things you can control and not complain because something happened that you could not control. When things like that happen then just re-construct your plans to figure a way to achieve your goal by taking a different route. Let us all admit things happen in life that we don’t plan on like sickness, family issues, attitudes of others. These are just a few things in life you cannot control. You just have to adapt yourself, deal with issues as they happen, stay positive (as hard as it may be at times) re-prioritize. Sometimes slow and steady is best; you do not burn yourself out before you get to the finish line.

Hello Linda,

I see you’re making changes on your site. What’s been happening? How are things going? How are your performance goals helping you see the results you are hoping for?

Keep me posted!

Thinking of ‘goals’ as a ‘to do list’ makes it a little easier for me to wrap my head around !!

Excellent ideas on goal setting. This has always been a weak area for me, not so much the long-term ones, but the ones that will get me there day to day. I really like the idea presented by Noreen on May 14th, about looking at the “to do list” as “performance goals.” Thanks again.

I really like the idea of performance goals, eventually they will add up to outcome goals in their own time. Very insightful and helpful. Thanks

Everything i’ve read so far looks really positive, any goal whether it short or long has to be planned, but of coarse even the best plans go astray, and then the sinking feeling kicks in, it’s at those particular times when you must stay focust, single minded & determind to keep going no matter what stands in your way. Often you feel overwelmed by the enormity of the task, I suppose similar to eating an elephant, you cant eat it all at once, so you eat it one bite at a time same as attaining goals one step at a time.

Working as an electrician in an industrial setting for 25-30 years, definitely taught me to differentiate between “Performance Goals & Outcome Goals”. With the Straw Boss breathing down your neck asking loudly and frequently, “when will you get this money making (money losing) equipment running again”? It’s all in the perception. Our ecommerence business is analagous to that industrial setting. It is a Performance Goal until it breaks down and then it is becomes an Outcome Goal.

Goals – that is an important word in business whatever you decide upon.

Take small steps at first, then bigger ones as time goes on.

Get the preparation done and dusted, because that is very important, then you are ready to take the next steps.


When it comes to setting our goals it is one of the most important factors in succeding in anything that we do. And here again one should look at their goals regulary to see how their progressing on the things that they they have set for themselves. Also your article was a good reminder for me and it has let me know where I am at.

Great article. Really helps clarify the difference and how you set performance goals in the short term to achieve your outcome goals in the long term.

I agree with some of what you are saying. I don’t believe in luck, either or good or bad. I think attitude has a lot do with whether or not things happen. If you study with Bob Proctor or Joe Vitale, or any other people who were in the movie “The Secret” and you believe what they teach then all things are possible. You just have to do the work and create it for yourself. According to some of those gurus, when you set goals, you actually set limits on yourself as to what is actually possible for you to achieve. Just food for thought!

Thanks for the comment although I’m not sure I completely understand – so are goals important to the success of a business or are they not?

In my opinion and based on my experience, a company HAS to have objectives, a plan, GOALS, in order to get where they want to go. “A goal unwritten is only a wish.”

However, just setting “outcome goals” without a “how to” that specifically plans out what you are to do on a day to day basis to achieve the outcome won’t work either.

I agree, attitude is a key component – but without a plan and specific performance goals, the small success will never become big success. I’d be interested to hear more from you Nancy (and others).

I believe somewhere you said you are a big believer in setting goals. Could it be that it is the belief in setting goals that creates your outcome and not the goal itself? I was listening to a cd by Jack Zufelt who stated that if writing goals worked for everyone, then everyone who ever wrote down goals would have achieved all those goals, but many haven’t. I think that there is more to it than just writing down goals and having a plan.

You have to be motivated, you have to have confidence that what you are writing down will happen, you have to have confidence in your own ability. It really helps if it is your passion.

For example, I could write down as a goal, I am going to be a doctor. I could write a detailed plan of how to make that happen, how I will get into premed and medical school, how to pay for the schooling, how to support myself in the process. Does that mean I will ever be a doctor just because I wrote it down and had a detailed plan. Of course not! Even when people write down goals they start putting up their own roadblocks. In the example above if I started thinking I am not smart enough to be a doctor, or I can never pull that off, or I could never funding needed, or, or, or….. then I am creating blocks that wil never get those goals off the ground.

In my opinion believing in yourself and what you are doing is key. Like I said in my last post…just food for thought. There are always 2 sides to every coin. What works for one, may not work for others. We all different. We all process information different, we all have our own beliefs. Again…just food for thought!

How can you be motivated without a desired aim or object, which is what a goal is essentially?
True, one’s self-efficacy (or one’s belief that they can exert control over their environment to accomplish their objectives) is an important part of motivation. However, all this elements work hand in hand. A motivated person cannot have one without the other. To illustrate I believe it is like your vital signs you can’t say one is more important than the other, they all have to work together to keep you alive. I believe what Edwin Locke defined as your motivation hub sums it up well. He said it consists of three things, personal goals, including goal commitment, and self-efficacy.

It is true that goals can limit you but this would be directly related to your attitude or self-efficacy. To elaborate, look at the paradox found between satisfaction and high goal production. This is that people with high goals produce more because they are dissatisfied with less. The bar for their satisfaction is set at a high level. This is why they are motivated to do more than those with easy goals. It could be said that their motivation causes them to constantly set higher goals, which ultimately causes them to be in a dissatisfied state. A person with this type of personality can be said to be an overachiever or obsessive.

Motivation is the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal; the reason for the action; that which gives purpose and …

i just want to say one thing about the luck thing.
(11) I returned to see under the sun that the swift do not have the race, nor the mighty ones the battle, nor do the wise also have the food, nor do the understanding ones also have the riches, nor do even those having knowledge have the favor; because time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all. Ecclesiastes 9:11
Anyways the thing is that unforeseen occurrences are something to acknowledge but you can’t let them have the best of you no matter how many times you get kick down. You have to learn from it and keep on going until your time is up at least that’s my 2 cents.

Thanks for clarifying the difference between performance goals and outcome goals. Thinking of performance goals as a “to do” list helps cut the concept down to a size I can relate to, and gives back some of the control over my destiny that fate (life) seems to strip away. Keeping a positive outlook is easier when things feel more in one’s control.

Hi Nate:

Once again a well written perspective on not only goals but daily living. This is not only what I try to do with my upcoming business, what I try to do in my career. Some days I am more successful than other — aren’t we all?

Hi Nate
Great article. This really helped me get focused on not just the big picture but to focuse on the day to day goals which will make reaching the final out come for my business more successful and less stressful. Thank you for great tools for motovation.

Thanks for the comment Robin! It is all about focus and consistency.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about consistency and what you said is crucial – it’s easier to focus on the day to day “small tasks” that can help you gain momentum that overwhelm yourself with the BIG PICTURE (which can be WAY TOO BIG).

I’m excited to help you succeed with your new online business and have 100% confidence in your abilities to make this happen!

Talk soon!

I can see how performance goals will help me and writing them out where I can see them every day will help keep me on track.

Thanks Nate

Setting only “outcome goals” is like setting oneself up for failure–too many unpredictably, uncontrollable situations can interfere. Performance goals can set an environment that one can at least have the control to succeed in.

Thanks for the comment Marlene! I have to actually go back and read this article from time to time to remind myself about how true it is 🙂

Talk soon!

I think using the term “action steps” synonymously with performance goals helps to clarify the meaning of this term. Action means active involvement on my part! What do I need to do vs. the more passive approach of what do I “think” I need to do. Good reminder, and help with bringing this into clearer focus.

After you’ve been is business for a while, you realize that the only thing you can control is your own behavior.

After the honeymoon period wears off and your business becomes real work, your personal motivation to learn and pursue new skills and new ideas for sales, leads you in directions you never would have thought of before and presents new and unique challenges and infinite opportunities.

Just the fact that you’re doing something to move yourself along your personal path to success, puts you ahead of most everybody else. It’s ok to pat yourself on the back every now and again.

Excellent comment Mark! i felt like our recent conversation was something we ALL need to hear from time to time to remind us why we are in the business of starting an online business.

I encourage you to share your very own comment with all the people you come in contact with who are looking to “make money online!”

Yes, it CAN be done and YES – you better be ready to work and love it!

Keep the questions coming!

Good advise! I find motivation amongst others that are in the same boat as me. It encourages me to go full steam ahead when I read comments like the once above.

Part of what I read above is almost word for word what is in my textbook!! The book is practicing college learning strategies 5th edition by carolyn hopper

Glad you liked the content J Mason. So you’re saying that your textbook talked about the “Moller Mission Statement”? That’s AWESOME! Didn’t realize I had such reach in the Goal Setting arena.

How’d you find my site? Thanks for the comment!

I often get caught up in the task of the moment and forget to get the foundation steps to build off of taken care of. As an artist I often get stuck in a creative funk and struggle to get anything done. Performance goals help me stay on track. Great reminder Nate! You’re the best outsourced CMO EVER 🙂 !

I read this article a few times because there are so many good tips and examples in it. And I always love to see the Serenity Prayer used at just the right moment and this was it. To say I’m feeling a little overwhelmed is an understatement, so being reminded about accepting what you can’t control, having the courage to change what you can, and then the wisdom to know the difference. I’m going to post that in my office as a constant reminder. And now I feel better prepared to establish my goals… my PERFORMANCE goals, for the new year. What perfect timing!

1. Close old business tasks asap
2. Networking is key to personal and business success.
3. Record POA in a spreadsheet and Mission Statement to stay in track.
4. Ask for advice if feeling stuck
5. Continuance of education. Learn new terminology to advance and stay innovative.
6. Inform business partners and collaborate on “What’s working and Not working”.
7. Publish ‘New and Refresh’ of articles for Blog audience.
8. Monitor accomplishments daily/weekly.
9. Minimize distractions!!

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