Don’t Make This Mistake: Are You Setting The Wrong Goals For Your Game?

Recently, on the 18STRONG Podcast, I had the opportunity to interview one of my favorite people in the golf world, Ellen Port.

If you don’t know Ellen, she is one of the most decorated amateur golfers of all time, both male and female, and is the most recent winning Captain of the Curtis Cup (the amateur version of the Ryder Cup for females).

(You can listen to that episode and see Ellen’s incredible history HERE; really, you should check her out, she’s rather impressive!)

In our talk we discussed how she manages the course as both a player and recently as a winning Captain in a huge international tournament. I wanted to know what her secret is to playing so well and how she “rights the ship” when things may not be going her way.

Her answer was pretty simple and straightforward. She said it’s the “process-driven” goals that keep her on track and don’t let her get away from the task of simply playing the next shot.

I thought this is such an important concept that is often over looked, so I figured this was the perfect place to expand on it.


I can remember a day years ago when I had just gotten into reading books on the topics of business, personal and professional improvement, productivity, etc. Like many, I was looking for ways to get better at my job and be more successful.

Naively, as I look back, I realize I was looking for the short cuts, the quick route. As you know those don’t exist. In my reading I kept running into the experts saying that in order to achieve what you want in business, life, sport, etc, you have to set real goals. You have to write them down, look at them, and revise them on an ongoing basis.

Well, that wasn’t what I wanted to hear. That was boring. There were no exciting tricks or tips. Everything I read basically boiled down to the fact that I had to start writing down goals and working toward them. Damn.

Despite my disappointment, I finally came to the conclusion that I was wrong and they were right. Kind of.

You see, all of the books I was reading told me to set a goal of something I wanted to achieve, put a date to it, and go get it. Which sounded great, but that isn’t really the whole picture.

You see; setting a goal and taking the steps to actually achieve that goal are 2 different things. The outcome of the goal is the “result” and the steps to get to that goal are the “behaviors,” or the “process” as Ellen was talking about.



Both of these types of goals are important. Just setting a higher bar for yourself will no doubt raise your game (or just your life in general) to another level. However, in my experience, golfers are often focused on the results-based goals more than the behavior-based goals, which, to me, is backwards.

Let’s look at both of them and go through a couple of examples to give you a better understanding of how you can start using them.

Results Goals:

These are goals of things you want to accomplish. This may be getting your first birdie, breaking 80, getting a hole in one, winning the Masters, etc.

All of these are great goals. And I love when clients of mine tell me they have goals like these written down.

The main focus of the results goals is on achieving something, reaching a new level of performance, or accomplishing something that you’ve been striving for a long time.

The only issue I have with these goals is that they are often “all or none,” without any real direction of how to get there.

That’s where the behavior goals or process goals, that Ellen mentioned, come into play.

Behavior Goals:

These are the goals that actually list out the things you are going TO DO in order to get you to your results goals. These are more of the step-by-step, “I have to do (behavior), so I can achieve (result)” goals.

Mind you, that these obviously aren’t just for golf, they apply in all aspects of life, but if you start applying them in your golf game, you will start to notice a big change in the way you approach your rounds and practice.

With the behavior goals, your focus is not so much on the end result; it is on being diligent about the steps you are going to take to get there on a regular basis. This is how you systematically get better and start knocking down those results based goals.


To make this a little clearer, let’s take 2 examples. Let’s say your goal is to lose 5% bodyfat and you want to drive a ball 10 yards further.

Both of these are results based goals. Both great goals, but my question to you is “OK, now you have 2 great goals, but how are you going to get there?”

This is where a lot of my clients stumble. They see where they want to be, they have even proclaimed what they want to achieve, but that is where it stops.

It’s the next step that makes all the difference. Now you have to actually sit down and think of a plan of attack. What is it that is going to get you to these end results? The answer is actions. Consistent actions that you will religiously repeat over time until your goal is achieved.

That is what makes up your behavior-based goals.

So in this example, behavior-based goals to lose body fat might be . . .

  • I have cut out all starchy carbs from my diet with the exception of post workout meals.
  • I am limited to one “cheat meal” per week until I reach my goal of 5% loss of body fat.

In the case of driving a ball further, examples might be . . .

  • I perform at least 2  lower body strength workouts per week.
  • I take at least 20 swings with the orange whip both right and left handed 3 days per week.

In Ellen’s case, her behavior-based goal was focusing on her pre-shot routine before every shot, as well as taking a mental temperature of her state of arousal/energy before each shot to make sure she was mentally ready to perform.


I have no idea who said that or if that’s even a real quote, but it makes a lot of sense.

I am a firm believer that we should all have big dreams and written goals for the things we want to achieve in life. But I have also found through personal experience that if we do not commit to the actions that it is going to take, then those goals often remain simply that, goals.

It’s when you draw the line in the sand and commit to the behaviors that you know will get you there, that bring you one step closer everyday.

So whether your goal is to get up and down out of the bunker 50% of the time, or to take home a green jacket; start asking yourself

  • “what is the next step?”,
  • “What are the specific actions that I need to take to achieve that goal?”

Then write it down and start it today.


I find that one of the best ways to stay committed to your goal is to tell someone else what it is. So if you are brave enough, share with us one of your big “results-based” goals and then one “behavior-based” goal that is going to help get you there.

I’d love to support you in your quest. Thanks again for reading!

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