Effective goal setting is an essential skill for any athlete. That’s right – it’s a skill – just like your physical skills, which means that it takes work to become proficient at it. Goals help you direct your energy and focus, increase your motivation, boost your confidence, and can help improve performance. The difference between someone who WANTS to get better and someone who DOES is that they know exactly what they want and they have a plan for how to get there.
One of the keys to effective goal setting is to make sure that you are setting the right types of goals and that you take the time to evaluate your progress. The journey of goal setting is like going on a road trip. Your goal is the destination you’re driving towards and you have to figure out the best way to get there while navigating the roadblocks and re-routing along the way. Like any skill, learning how to set effective goals takes some work in the beginning, but once you develop the skill and see the progress you’ve made – it’ll be worth the effort!
The Destination: If you don’t know where you’re going, then you certainly won’t know how to get there. The first thing you need to do when you’re headed out on a road trip is to figure out where you want to go. What is your long-term goal? Where are you headed? Your long-term goal focuses on the result that you want. It provides you with the vision of where you want to go and what you want to achieve.
Tips for setting your long-term goal …
- Challenging, but realistic
What would you be really excited to accomplish; something that feels like it’s just on the outside edge of what you think is possible? When setting your long0term goal it is important that your goal is both realistic AND yet challenging enough to inspire you to want to work hard to get there.
- Write it down
Write down your goal and post it up in a place where you can see it. Stick it on your bedroom door, bathroom mirror, inside your locker, in your workout bag; make sure it’s in a place you will see and read often. Having your goals posted helps to serve as a visual reminder and motivator of what you want to accomplish.
Short-term & Process Goals
The Map: It’s time to hit the road! Now that you know where you want to go, you have to figure out the best way to get there. Short-term goals help you get more specific. They should help you answer the question “What do I need to do in order to achieve my long-term goal?” Then your process goals will provide you with the steps you need to take in order to achieve your short-term goals (which lead you to your long-term goal).
Tips for setting your short-term and process goals …
- Be specific
Setting goals that are too general is a common pitfall of goal setting. The more specific you are with your short-term and process goals, the more likely you are to follow through with the steps you need to take to achieve your goal.
- Adjust your goals as needed
When you’re on a road trip, sometimes you might have to change your agenda. You could encounter road blocks, get bad directions, run out of gas, decide to take a cool side trip – it’s all part of the journey. It’s important to be able to adjust your goal if needed.
Evaluating Your Goals
The Journey: Your ability to progress with your goals is directly related to the feedback you receive. Feedback lets you know what is working and what isn’t so you can make adjustments and continue to build on your performance. A good goal setting plan needs to have a check-in time built into it. After you write out your goals, pick two future dates to check-in on your progress.
Tips for evaluating your goals …
- Chart your progress
Every once in a while, you need to pull out the map and see how far you’ve gone. Seeing progress towards your goals can both build your confidence and help motivate you to keep moving.
After your road trip, you should figure out how it went and where you want to go next. Take time to reflect on your goals. Ask yourself:
- How much progress did I make towards my goal?
- What went well?
- What was challenging?
- How did I overcome those challenges?
- Do I need to adjust my goal?
- What did I learn about this process and about myself?
- What do I want to carry forward into the next goal I set?
After a road trip – you can bring out all of the pictures that you took along the way and remember all of the amazing things you did. The same is true for recognizing all of the work you put into accomplishing your goal. We are often quick to set the bar higher and immediately look towards setting the next goal and forget to take the time to relish in what we’ve accomplished. Take the time to give yourself a pat on the back, think about all of your hard work, about the moments when you thought you might not make it, and recognize your hard work and accomplishments.