While it is well-established in the sport psychology literature that setting goals is an instrumental part of athletic success, the importance of setting small, daily, “micro-goals” sometimes gets overlooked. When I conduct seminars on goal setting, often the athletes I work with tend to over-focus on the long-term goals (i.e. making an all star team), while the small steps toward the long-term goal are taken for granted, overlooked, or even devalued altogether. Perhaps the thinking is that because these daily goals seem so insignificant on the surface, they are of little overall value when it comes to achieving long-term goals. This is faulty thinking, however, as daily goals may be the most important of all goals.
What are micro-goals?
Before I give examples of micro-goals, I want to first build a case for why they are so important. Aside from the fact that completing daily goals leads to the achieving of long-term goals, people who focus on daily goals also enjoy better confidence, focus, motivation, discipline, responsibility, and sense of work ethic. Sure, it might seem like on the surface that setting a goal to be 10 minutes early to all appointments (including practices) is relatively trivial, the reality is that it reflects solid time management — a desirable trait for all of us to master.
A short list of daily, or micro-goals, include:
- Having a positive attitude
- Being well rested, nourished, and hydrated
- Having all homework assignments completes
- Updating journal on goal progress
- Communicating with teachers, parents, coaches, and anyone else important
- Managing injuries
- Creating pockets of down-time to recharge energy
Putting it all together…
The science of goal setting relies on individuals setting specific, measurable, controllable goals that include long-, mid-, short-, and daily-goals. In essence, by taking this approach you are developing a virtual road map to follow to success. Yes, the daily goals might seem insignificant on the surface, but checking off these little life tasks each day lead to greater self-confidence, and studies show the more confident we are the better we perform in life.
If you are a sports parent or coach, take time to sit down with the kids in your life and model successful goal setting by being explicit about the importance of small, daily tasks. Remember, all great life accomplishments started with one small step, hence the reason for the importance of daily, micro-goals.
Check out The Mental Toughness Guide to Athletic Success (pictured left) for more help with the topic of goal setting.