Problem and Outcome Management

In one class, our professor explained two ways of going about one’s business: problem management and outcome management.

Problem Management

  • “How can we resolve this right now?”
  • Only implemented when there is a problem at hand

Outcome Management:

  • “Where do I ultimately want to end up?”
  • On-going reflection of progress and goals

To illustrate the idea behind problem management, my professor compared us to an elastic band. When we experience stress, he says as he pulls the elastic band in opposite directions, we stretch, and that’s uncomfortable. This discomfort motivates to do something that will help us return to a unstressed state. However, if stress is the only thing that pushes us to change, we may never actually get closer to our goals. The solutions we implement were never designed to take us anywhere, except back to baseline.

The other way of looking at things is through outcome management. This depends on using positive goal statements. For example, instead of saying, “I will stop watching TV on weeknights”, we focus on what we want to accomplish, “I will work out for 30 min every weeknight”, or “I will publish a new article on my website once a week”. Outcome management is used even when things are going well and there are no obvious stressors. The difficulty with outcome management is it requires us to be proactive, to act when there isn’t a fire underneath our bottoms.

As I’m starting my dietetics internship, I will no doubt run into stressors caused by deficits in knowledge and skill, and I will prioritize addressing those gaps. At the same time, I’ll need to think about where I want to end up as a dietitian, as a person, and move towards those goals as well. Does that sound too lofty? Maybe, but I need to try, or else I’ll never know.


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