I hate going to the gym in January. It’s always crowded with people who’ve made New Year’s resolutions to get back into shape. My only consolation is that, like every year, most of these people will be gone by Valentine’s Day. This unscientific observation is consistent with the results of research showing that 50% of people who begin an exercise program will discontinue it within six months. It just goes to show you: Setting goals is easy; reaching goals is hard.
Goal-setting can be an important part of your training plan, whether your goal is to improve your physical skills, mental skills, or just get more enjoyment from your sport. Setting goals can help you focus on what’s most important, motivate you to stick with your plan and help you track your progress.
There are, however, two big problems with goal-setting:
- Many people think goal-setting takes too much time, and
- Most people don’t know how to set the right kind of goals.
Setting goals does take some time, at least in the beginning. Once you’ve put in the initial investment, however, goal-setting pays off and actually saves you time because it helps you stay focused and motivated.
Additionally, many well-intentioned people mistakenly set the wrong kind of goals. Because they don’t know how to set effective goals, they end up abandoning them in frustration.
The good news is that effective goal-setting can be learned in a short time! Here are some tips that will help you set goals for a New You this New Year:
Set the Right Kind of Goals
One of the most common mistakes in goal-setting is creating too many goals about how you perform compared to others. Attaining goals like winning or beating a rival depend, not only on your performance, but also on the performance of others. These are called “outcome goals.” Outcome goals can be motivating, but relying solely on them can make it difficult for you to get motivated in the short-term. They can also end up making you frustrated if, for reasons out of your control, your opponent just happens to be better than you that day.
Instead of relying on just outcome goals, set goals for your personal performance independent of others. Obtaining a personal best or playing your position well are examples of “progress goals.” Additionally, set goals for what you have to do during a race to perform your best. Improving a specific technical skill or decreasing your pre-race anxiety level from an 8 out of 10 to a 5 out of 10 are examples of “process goals.” Setting a combination of outcome, progress, and process goals will help you stay focused, increase your motivation, and help you structure your training.
Climb the Alpe d’Huez to Your Goal
This 10,924 foot high mountain has twenty-one switchbacks, and each one has a sign counting them down to the top. When cyclits climb Alpe d’Huez, passing each sign is an indication that they have reached another sub-goal on the way to their ultimate goal.
Keeping the image of Alpe d’Huez in mind is a good way to think about how to map the road to your ultimate sport goal of the year. Here’s what you do: Take a pad of paper and draw a mountain on the top half of the page. At the top of the mountain write the goal you wish to achieve for this year – your ultimate goal. Make the goal moderately difficult, but attainable. You should be 60% to 80% sure that you can reach this goal. After this, write some short-term goals that you need to reach on your climb toward your ultimate goal. These might include some of the progress and process goals described above. Structure these sub-goals so that they can be reached in 2 to 4 weeks each. After this, write these sub-goals next to a switchback of the mountain, and draw a road up through every switchback to your ultimate goal at the summit.
The next step in crucial. Underneath your mountain, write down each sub-goal on the left side of the page. Next to each sub-goal list what strategies you will use to attain each one. For example, if one of your sub-goals is to improve your free throw percentage by 5%, a strategy to attain this goal might be to practice 100 extra free throws after each practice. If one of your sub-goals is to increase your confidence, you could use the strategies of practicing imagery and thought-control techniques during your warm-ups and training rides.
After you’ve listed your strategies for reaching each sub-goal, hang your masterpiece on the refrigerator where you will see it every day. Publicly displaying your goals will help keep you focused, enlist the support of your family or roommates, and might even keep you away from those late-night raids of the refrigerator.
Use Your SMARTS
The “SMARTS” acronym was created by time-management consultant Hyrum W. Smith to help people remember some of the most important aspects of effective goal-setting. Keep these things in mind as you create each of your goals:
S – Specific.
Run faster is too vague. Finishing a marathon in less than 4 1/2 hours is specific.
M – Measurable.
Quantify your goals. Use numbers to describe how often, how many, how much.
A – Action – Oriented.
Goals should imply actions that you need to take.
R – Realistic.
Make your goals moderately difficult, but reachable.
T – Timely.
Create goals that you can reach in a reasonable time.
S – Self-Determined.
Set your own goals, ones that are meaningful to you.
Goal-setting works best when you focus on one goal at a time. Many people get bogged down by working on too many goals at once. Also, remember to be flexible. Sometimes goals need to be modified, especially if you’re new at goal-setting.
Follow these principles of effective goal-setting and you won’t become one of those people who just sets goals this year – you’ll reach them!
Fri, January 1, 2010
by Dana Blackmer, Ph.D, CC-AASP filed under