If you are in search of reaching your full human potential, then setting effective future goals has got to be a big part of the conversation. Beginning with what we know from previous sport psychology research findings and one thing is certain: People who take the time to set specific, measurable, controllable goals almost always out-perform others who set “do your best” goals (i.e. “do as well as I can today and see what happens”), and people who set no goals at all. We know goal setting is a powerful tool, yet only a small percentage of people take the time needed to set up future goals that are clearly stated, motivating, and flexible enough for those occasional setbacks that are almost certain to occur. If you, or someone you parent or coach, would like to incorporate the most efficient way to improve mental toughness and overall performance, then tune in for today’s examination of the basics of goal setting and the relationship to increased confidence, better focus, and reduced anxiety.
A dream with a finish line…
One way to look at goals is to think of them as important pieces to a map leading to the ultimate life prize. One quote that sums up goal setting is that a goal is a dream with a finish line, prompting thought around the great things we want to happen in our future and how to direct our thinking and behaviors in line toward that dream. Without goals, we are left to our own subjective, biased appraisals relating to whether we are improving, staying the same, or even getting worse. With goals, however, we can specifically identify what it is we want to achieve, and objectively measure our progress along the way. Goals are motivating, informative, and can be a great way to increase self-confidence — all leading to better overall self-worth and a greater likelihood for future success.
In order to get started with goal setting, a few important tips are provided below:
- Begin by brainstorming. One easy way to get started with goal setting is to think about the things you want to change about yourself, or things you want to accomplish in the future. Write down all of your ideas, and later go back through your list and cross off items you do not want to pursue at this time, and refine the ideas you want to develop into future goals.
- Work backwards with the steps needed to reach your goal(s). Once you have a future goal, you can then work backwards to develop realistic steps to help you reach your long-term goal. For example, if you want to lose 20lbs by the end of summer (and it’s currently the beginning of June), you can divide 20lbs by 3 (months of summer) and see that you will need to drop about 7lbs a month. Taking this a step further and you can divide 7lbs by 4 weeks in a month and know that you are looking at needing to drop about 2lbs a week. A challenging goal, but definitely one that can be accomplished!
- Set daily, short-, mid-, and long-term goals. Once your long-term goal is identified, where would you like to be by the half-way point (mid-term goal)? And looking at the half-way point, where can you be in half of that time (short-term goal)? And finally, what simple, daily goals will you need to do in order to reach your short-term goal, and give you the best chances for your mid- and long-term goals?
- Be specific, measurable, and controllable. Telling yourself you “hope to get better” is not a good example of effective goal setting as it is vague and impossible to measure. Instead, clarify exactly what it is that you want to improve, be sure you have control of reaching the goal, and construct the goal in such a way that you can measure your progress along the way.
- Keep track of your progress. It is important to write down your goals and keep a journal or online log so that you can see your progress, tweak your efforts as necessary, and ultimately know when you have reached your goal.
- Set process goals. Process goals are goals you can control, like completing specific weight exercises at the gym or shooting X number of baskets each day. Outcome goals are goals that measure whether you have won or lost an event or competition, and while these goals are nice to set, they are not completely under your control and should not be prioritized over process goals.
Goal setting is a very powerful tool if you are looking to improve aspects of your life. As we reach our personal goals, our confidence increases while anxiety decreases, adding another layer of benefit to setting personal goals. Why not get started today by writing down some ideas of things you would like to change for the future, then go back through the ideas here to help you get started with effective goal setting.