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Prompted: Focus on Inputs
Verifying efforts before judging outcomes produces consistent results.
We love setting goals, but we can all benefit from forgetting about the outcome and focusing on the quality of the work we’re putting in, not what we’re getting out.
I hope this week’s prompts provide a new perspective on whatever you’re chasing at the moment and if I can be of any help, or you just want to say hello, don’t be afraid to hit reply!
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First forget inspiration.
Habit is more dependable.
Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not.
Habit is persistence in practice.
- Octavia Butler
Focus on Inputs
We measure everything based on the outcome. This makes a lot of sense. To win a soccer game you have to have the highest score when the game ends. What happens at practice or during the game doesn’t matter as long as you have more points than the other team when the final whistle blows.
However, there’s a case to be made that inputs are far more important than outputs.
In a poker game, players often lose when they are dealt great cards and win when they are dealt poor cards.
If a player has a pair of Aces and bets big only to be beaten by another player, our natural reaction will be to change our strategy because we didn’t get the outcome we wanted. It’s easy to identify the logical fallacy here because a pair of Aces is inherently a good bet but in other endeavors, it can be harder to see how outcomes can lead us astray.
Our brains, being the association-finding machines that they are, assign a reason or a cause to everything. This helped us survive throughout our evolution, but now it clouds our judgment and creates illogical associations.
Not all outcomes are a direct result of the inputs.
Lots of investors buy stocks and get lucky. Others invest with an informed thesis but don’t see immediate returns. Human nature tells the lucky amateur to double down on their strategy and sends the careful investor back to the drawing board.
Sometimes only time will reveal if our inputs are correct, but one of the easiest mistakes is to change our strategy before our desired outcome has time to take shape.
When we exercise, we expect to lose weight, gain muscle, get faster, etc. But when nothing happens after a week or two, we feel the pull to change our training because we haven’t received the output we’d like.
If we’re focused on outputs we’d keep changing the plan until we saw some kind of immediate result. If we’re focused on inputs, we’d spend more time finding a reliable training program and stay consistent trusting that the results will come with time.
With the correct inputs, most journeys of progress look something like the above. Even if we never get the results we’re looking for, we can ensure that our inputs are helping us make progress and we can make them enjoyable too.
Chasing results can ruin the enjoyment of the process, but if we focus on inputs we can have fun along the way, focus on what’s important, and more often than not, the results will come anyway.
Even if I don’t achieve my desired output, are my inputs valuable for their own sake?
i.e. Even if I don’t win my soccer game, am I still getting better at soccer when I practice?
What is one thing I should do every day regardless of the results?
Have I been consistent enough for long enough to achieve the results I’m hoping for?
Habits vs. Goals - Farnam Street
The case for replacing big goals with small habits.
If you’re looking to take your personal development to the next level, I’d love to chat and see if working together could be a good fit.
Thanks for reading! I’ll see you next Sunday.
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