The Process vs The Result

One of the major buzz phrases in sports psychology right now is the need to “be a process-driven athlete” as opposed to “results-driven”.


The results-focused athlete enters a match or race thinking about winning or achieving a desired time. It’s a good competitive attitude but can actually cloud our judgement when it comes down to doing the things that make us successful in the first place.

Take the pre-2011 All Blacks.

Most New Zealanders will remember sitting through Rugby World Cup after Rugby World Cup in which we were the favourites, only to choke in the finals. In those heart-breaking games the All Blacks looked like they had the end result at the forefront of their minds while the process of how to get there was left fighting for attention. Unimaginative plays, poor defence, lack of team work, low work rate, these were all characteristics of the All Black’s game that somehow crept in for just minutes at a time during those crucial World Cup misfires.

However, the All Blacks of late seem to be the opposite.

Last year on several occasions they came from behind to win in dramatic fashion, having worn down the opposition in the first 60 minutes with resolute defence, high and sustained work rates, and consistency in all facets of the game. They nailed the processes and, almost on queue, often with Hollywood levels of drama, the results arrived.

Now, rugby is a sport that has many clearly defined processes: tackles, kicks, passes, lineouts, scrums. But individual sports like running or even our own fitness or weight-loss endeavours tend to place even more emphasis on the results. So, in these fitness endeavours, the need to be process-driven becomes even more important.

In the Auckland Marathon last year I came 12th in a PB of 2:39. It was a good result, but what was most pleasing for me was my success in completing the processes that got me to that result. I wanted to run even splits and ended up with a negative split of just two seconds (two seconds faster in the second half). I wanted to hydrate well and missed only one of ten drink stations. I wanted to close hard and managed to pass three other runners in the final kilometre.

As it turned out I got my PB. However one of my results goals was a top ten finish and I missed that. This was largely out of my control as the depth of competition varies from year to year. In the same race in 2011 I could have run 2:46, having dive-bombed on my processes (I did just this a few months before at the Dunedin Marathon and got second) but still picked up tenth place. This positive result could have clouded my judgement as to how I truly ran, leaving me with no lessons to be learnt for next time.

So whatever your sporting-focus might be, whether it’s a half marathon, weight management, or pre-season training for rugby or netball, look to be successful in the processes first. The results will come eventually.

Happy running.

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