Goal Oriented vs Process Oriented

Joel, one of my pickleball buddies, is, in my mind, a zen master.


He’s a thinker and a studier while he plays, and yet he’s very physical as well.

I got to talking with Joel about my journey to become more competitive when I play. Unless I’m in a tournament, I could care less whether I win or not. I just want to sweat, learn something, and have fun.

I explained that I don’t think I’m focused enough on the outcome of the game. So I’m working on increasing my competitiveness–beating my opponents being my goal.


He asked, “Why in the world would you want to do that?”

I said that I thought it would improve my game.

He disagreed and quickly began to explain to me how wrong I was. (Joel is very good at that! ­čÖé )

Joel played competitive tennis in high school and  college, so much of his musings start with tennis and then finish in pickleball.

Tennis players are taught to be ‘process oriented’ which means that they work on the mechanics of the game, perfecting the process.


By focusing on winning in my pursuit to be more competitive, I am ‘goal or results oriented’.

As much as I wanted to disagree with him, the more Joel talked, the more sense he made.

If I switch my focus to being process oriented, I will play more in the moment. I will work on EACH shot so that it’s the best shot.

Instead of focusing on beating my least favorite opponent (Herb), for example, I will focus on the process of training and the process of mastering pickleball.

While waiting for our next turn to  play, I asked him for some specific exercises to do. He mentioned one to start with.

And as I played, I focused on using his ‘process’ while playing.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much my play improved and how ‘in the moment’ my play became. I chose which shot to try based on the situation,–trying to achieve the best placement, speed, and timing.


I’m hoping to become more process oriented in other areas of my life, not only on the pickleball court.

Here’s a good definition of process orientation (in regards to human resources, but I think it will help me) :

Process Orientation places a priority on “how” things are done. It is a willingness to remain open and follow in new directions. It means setting aside mainstream ways of achieving results and instead following culturally respectful processes that also produce results. It is letting go of agendas or the need to control, and trusting that the appropriate outcome will emerge from a good journey together. It means accepting that both the use of process orientation and a “good relationship” are concrete deliverables.

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