Why focusing on the “Outcome” can hurt you.

Overcome “outcome-oriented thinking”

Have you ever wondered; why it is that when you are having to make a 3 foot put in practice, you will sink it nine times out of ten, but the moment you put as little as R 100 on making the put, you start to miss?

“Optimal performance in sport and in life happens when you have a calm, clear mind that can react to your environment. “

Most probably the biggest mistake most athletes make is to focus on the outcome. Yes, we need goals and yes, we play to win and yes, we keep score, but focusing on the outcome, whilst in the game, can be your kiss of death.

STOP doing that immediately. Yes, whatever you do, make sure to disconnect from the outcome.

“outcome-oriented thinking” happens when your attention is fixed on the end result e.g. the result of a game, your stats, order of merit or ranking etc.”

You may wonder why it is harmful to think of what you want to achieve and isn’t results how we are measured and achieving the results is what you aspire to. Yes, BUT! … and this is a really big but.

Remember that although you aspire to achieve your goals, you cannot predict the outcome. However, you can influence the outcome with your actions! Better actions can put you in the better position to achieve the results you want.

“Although we in it to win it, and having a champion mindset is what it takes, connecting to the outcome has been the kiss of death for many athletes”

The more you are focusing on what others are thinking the more your anxiety will grow and you will lose your focus. When this happens, you are more aware of what can go wrong and how that will make you look, than what you can DO to achieve the result. It is at this point that your body will start to reflect your thoughts. You will notice this when you start to feel your body tensing up. Your body has a natural mechanism to protect you and when you stress about the result, you will activate this. The result is impaired and narrow thinking, sensation of heaviness in your body and your movement may be affected.

“Think about this; if you really believed that you would get the outcome you wanted, would you worry about it or would you just trust that it would happen and start to enjoy playing?”

When you are focused on the outcome, you may start to focus on what if you don’t achieve the outcome and how this can impact on your stats or what people will think or how you will be judged. You may also start to become more aware of what you don’t have control over.

Outcome thinking can also activate your “fear of failure” or “fear of success”. This will make you want to play it safe or avoid making mistakes. Playing it safe rarely works out. When this happens, you start to focus on exactly what you should not be focusing on and thinking becomes impaired.

If outcome thinking is so bad, then what is the solution?

Consider this: Shifting your focus from the outcome towards the process can make all the difference from achieving success! Remember, the process/actions you take is what will get you there. You have more control over the process than what you will ever have over the outcome. Better actions create, better results.

Be aware when you start to shift your focus towards the outcome and make sure to STOP that and refocus on the important action that will help you in that moment. This is where a focus word can bring you back on track. E.g. #makeitcount, #focus, #keepgoing etc. The quicker you shift your focus the better.

Focusing on what you can control…

Therefore, Let go of the outcome and turn your attention onto the process. I cannot emphasize this enough. Holding onto the outcome is the kiss of death.

Outcome-oriented thinking is one of the worst mistakes you can make and although sport is all about achieving outcomes, you cannot be consumed by the outcome. Especially when you are competing.

Mental EdgeThis will only distract your attention away from what you can be doing and just create more anxiety, fear of failure and diminishes your focus.

By shifting your focus more towards the process, you will reduce the negative impact of outcome-oriented thoughts and improve your chances of success.


Mind training can help you improve your performance in many ways, e.g. confidence, managing emotions, setting goals, better focus, effective self-talk, enhanced motivation, more effective practices and more.


Article compiled by Bennie Louw the Sport Mind Coach
Training Your Mind for Sports Performance – Providing training for coaches, managers, parents, high level performers and keen amateurs who wish to learn the techniques to improve their mental approach to sport.

Click here to Contact Bennie