Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Process Oriented vs. Result Oriented Thinking

As I mentioned in my last blog, I've been playing a good deal of pool lately. I've been doing a lot of reading and studying about the mental aspects of competition in an effort to improve my game. I've found a lot of what I'm reading is also applicable to poker. I thought I'd share one such thing I read from a book called, "Finding Your Zone" - it's a book I highly recommend to anyone in any form of mental competition (I'm reading it for the third time)

Here's a few paragraphs taken from the book:

"Process-oriented thinking is about doing the best you can; goal-oriented thinking is about beating someone or something. For example, if your goal in tennis is to beat your brother, then this result-oriented goal automatically narrows your chances for doing so. If the match is close, you will naturally start to think about the possibility of your pending victory. Your thoughts start to move to the future, and you start to feel that pit in your stomach. This emergence of additional anxiety causes your stroke to become tight and your balance awkward. Your chances for beating your brother lessen.

However, if your goal in playing your brother is to hit the smoothest shots and always maintain your balance, then beating him becomes an incidental consequence and not such a big deal. Your thoughts are much less likely to focus on the future, and you are less likely to choke. When you think strictly in terms of results, you open the possibility of doing everything perfectly and still losing. You may play impeccably and still lose to your competitor who scores better. However, if you focus on your effort or the quality of each shot, then you allow the possibility of winning even if your competitor beats you."


  1. What a great paragraph and that is really true. When i am griding to make vpp's on stars, i do not play my "A" game poker. Because i am goal-oriented thinking. But when i do really concentrate in playing each hand the best i can, well i turn out to play much better, i am process-oriented.

    Great view and that book must be awesome, what is the book ISBN?

    Thank you.

  2. It's a great book for developing a winning mindset. It's written by a sports psychologist who works with a lot of pro athletes.

    The ISBN is : 039953427X

  3. Good one! I totally agree with that. It takes practice to think that way because it is a human tendency to think ahead of something that's not done. In Baseball, It's hard for pitchers not to think that a no-hitter game is possible when they are into the 9th inning with 3 batters left and no hit for the last 8 innings. They have to focus on each pitch at a time to make sure that it is well-executed.

  4. This is valuable advice that can be applied to everything we do in life, but I will stick with the pool analogy.

    I really do see something rare in you that I almost never see in any non professional pool players. I see a huge amount of confidence and a positive attitude, not only during the game, but also before and after playing. With this attitude and a whole lot of playing, I have seen you improve from maybe a ball below my speed to two ball better than me...a little pool lingo for the other readers. For the non pool players, this is a incredible improvement to occur over a year or less period. The only way to see this type of improvement is to have a very strong mental game, which means keeping a positive attitude.

    More specifically, you focus every time you get down to shoot a ball, not just thinking about whether you may or may not win the whole set. The end result does not represent how hard you played, and you don't allow the end result, or your perceived expectaion, to affect your progress.

    I see you get down on every ball like it's the last ball to win the set. When you rush the shot, you miss it more often. But you allow yourself to rush the shot a very minute amount of times, which comes back to subject of the article you quoted. Focus on the process of each shot, and you make that the best you can. Not only will that allow the best outcome, but it will also allow you the greatest chance for improvement.

    I think that the mental aspect of pool, poker or even life is the most important aspect when it comes to improving and being successful. This article that you quoted is even more specific: referring to what kind of positive attitude is most productive. Thanks for sharing it, as it it very applicable in my own progress.

    Much respect,


  5. Thanks Alex, this is a great comment, I appreciate it.

    I'm still working on my confidence. I lost it in my mid-twenties after having a lot of personal problems including doing drugs. It still wanes on me from time to time but it's something that seems to improve every day.

    I try to give 100% on every shot. This partly comes from the old days where I was frequently playing for all the money in my pocket. It also comes from playing poker where every decision has to be carefully thought through.

    Something I'm working on right now is not to take things too seriously and to keep the bigger picture in mind - there are a lot more important things than pool even though I love it. I struggle with this. Sometimes I take things way too seriously which puts a lot undue pressure on myself which causes me to choke. I'm constantly trying to remind myself when playing now that it's just a game and not a matter of life and death. Not that I'm trying any less, just that I'm not going to worry about missing a ball or losing a set. I need to stay focused on the process as mentioned above. I've also found laughing helps a lot so you might just see me start laughing after I miss an easy shot or get a really bad roll. This is still a work in progress though, I have a ways to go.