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Those two words might sound interchangeable, but they aren’t. Outcomes are dispassionate and static, but results change and offer opportunity for differentiation.

An outcome is what happened in the end. The outcome of a test is the grade. If you got an A and placed first in the class, that’s the outcome. It doesn’t take into account the work you did, the work others did, the fairness of the system of grading or the actual understanding you have of the concepts being tested. We’ve all crammed for a test and the following week totally forgotten everything we learned. Is that an outcome you want?

When people concern themselves with outcomes alone, by definition they aren’t looking at the whole structure that is based on people’s choices, their comparable work or what makes them happy at their core. It’s just numbers.

“She got the job at the big company.” “He got into a famous school.” “She got promoted to a management role.”

Outcomes aren’t what we should be focussing on because it doesn’t tell a whole picture, just a snapshot. It can be really dis-empowering to look at the world through this lens, and it makes you less likely to succeed, not more, when you wrap up your effort and your work in outcomes.

Results are the difference between what you got before and what you get when you make intentional changes. If I work hard on my Irreplaceable Coach course, am thoughtful about what I’m building and what change I’m hoping to make, then I have an opportunity to get great results. If I just leave it and hope for the best, I won’t get the same results.

A good example is the number of female CEOs in Fortune 500 companies. There are 33 in 2019 (6.6%). If we only look at outcomes, this looks pretty discriminatory and not a positive number. But if we look at results, we see a different picture:

Stats from From Fortune.com

In the last twenty years, as our culture has applied itself to increasing opportunities for everyone in the workplace, more and more capable women are rising to the top. Those are results! 

Think about what results you want in your life. Outcomes be damned. Focusing on outcomes will lock you in a dis-empowering spiral. Move forward with intention and look at the results you get.

What changes in your life when you apply yourself?

What changes when you think about the results you are gaining instead of just the outcomes?

You might not get to be a Fortune 500 CEO, though I would also question why you want to be in the first place, but you might just get to live a life of fulfilment, purpose and joy when you look at how much you are improving, rather than how you stack up against others.