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Using process goals to create success

Idaho coach Erica Davis uses process goal-setting to create a growth mindset and find success on the bike. Learn how this strategy can help you (and your athletes) use your values to achieve great things!

Photo by Brian Kohagen, Idaho Interscholastic Cycling League

Earlier this year, a friend told me he wanted to ride 8,000 miles in 2023.

Wow! I thought… that sure would sound impressive to tell everyone at the end of the year. Think of all those kudos on Strava!

As a wellness coach, it’s important for me to dig into the WHY behind goals. So, I asked my friend “what will riding 8,000 miles this year do for you? And what will you have to do to get there?” My questions left him speechless… he hadn’t thought about WHY it mattered or the sacrifices he would have to make to get there. 

We’ve all probably set a big goal without really thinking it through. Here’s how it plays out…

“I’m gonna ride 8,000 miles this year. Let’s go!”

Then, life gets busy. It’s June and you’ve only ridden 1,000 miles. 

“Geez… maybe I’m not very good at this goal thing. I just need to dig deep… Only 7,000 miles to go. I can do this!! Right? I will just stop hanging out with my friends, stop showering and spend every day on my bike. I said I would do it so….”

Ever backed yourself into a corner with a goal like this? I know I have. 

We all like to set outcome goals that might look something like this:

“I want to podium!”

“I want to be the fastest student on our team.”

“I want my parents/friends/girlfriend/boyfriend/coach/etc to be proud of my performance.”


The problem with outcome goals like these is that they involve:

  • External factors beyond our control (getting injured, someone else training harder than you, weather/conditions, changing priorities, etc.) AND 
  • Extrinsic motivators (the opinions and values of others!), which do not provide lasting motivation

Setting outcome goals isn’t wrong, but it can be limiting and short sighted. 

How do we do things differently? 

Let’s start with our values…what is important to us?

When setting my goals this year, I started with my priorities and values. Empowering women to be more engaged in the cycling community is a high value to me. Women are underrepresented in this sport, especially in racing, and I care about changing that. It is empowering to race! I want to create more opportunities for women to experience this.

So for me, a big outcome goal this year was to get more women engaged in racing. 

The WHY was clear. Next step… process goals. How will I get there?

Process goals are the incremental, measurable steps you are going to take. Process goals are likely the ones you have the most control over and can easily track and see your progress. Process goals are the “how”. They are often the things that nobody sees or cares about, but are crucial to your success.

Here’s what some of my process goals looked like…

  • Hosting a session for women to learn about racing
  • Providing scholarships for racing 
  • Competing in races and inviting women to join me
  • Organizing a team of five women for a 24 hour race
  • Being a cheerleader at races to support women racing for the first time

A process goal for an athlete this season could look like…

  • Consistently and adequately hydrating before practice so you can perform your best
  • Getting your nutrition dialed in so you don’t bonk during a race
  • Doing one extra ride per week to increase your mileage
  • Going to bed at a regular time each night to ensure you get enough sleep for practice
    (Hint: these process goals might also be the things that have kept you from reaching your outcome goals in the past!)

Process goals are likely not the “cool” goals everyone wants to talk about. It can be hard to get stoked about drinking more water and 8 hours of sleep every night. But being consistent with our process goals will lead to a greater likelihood of success. 

This season, let’s take a fresh look at goals and consider our WHY and our HOW. I encourage you to talk about this with your coach or your parents. Seek input on how you can make your goals more about the process to get there versus just the outcome. 

Want to read more about creating a performance mindset? I highly recommend checking out Mindset by Carol Dweck, The Power of Habit by Duggee, and Do Hard Things by Steve Magness.

About the author

Erica Davis is a Level 3 NICA Coach with the NICA Idaho League, a women’s wellness coach and founder of Crank Queens, a Boise-based women’s cycling organization focused on empowerment and community building. Erica’s life purpose is to help women and girls improve their health and well-being by embracing a growth mindset, getting outdoors and building community. When she’s not coaching, you can find her on the trails with her husband and teenage kids, on her paddle board or competing in endurance MTB races. 

Special thanks to SHIMANO, a platinum-level NICA partner.

NICA Partners are enabling NICA to reinvent youth sports and engage families in a thriving cycling community, for life.

Our partners’ commitment to NICA’s mission has a huge impact on our student-athletes, their families and communities across the nation. NICA partners are changing the world by getting #MoreKidsOnBikes!