Coach Yourself: Goal Setting

I love sports psychology. Not only because I can directly apply the content to sport and coaching, but also because once you remove the “sport” context out, the knowledge and theories you learn are incredibly versatile and readily used in any circumstance where one is required to “perform”. Whether you are performing a dance, presenting a business proposal, or taking a midterm, there are many parallels in those situations (and others) and that with athletes who prepare for a big game/competition.
So we’ll start off with a key theme that allows you to focus and direct your actions towards success – goal setting. If you’re looking to get an A in your class, kicking ass in Great Trek, or improve your professional skills, goal-setting is definitely a great place to start. No life coach or sports coach needed.
Note: I do not claim any expertise in Sports Psychology. BUT I have tried using these strategies both in my own personal life and as a coach with varying degrees of success, and I say that it’s definitely worth a try. As with anything, take it with a grain of salt, try it out, see what works or doesn’t work for you, and tweak things if you need to. Good luck!
The Principles of Effective Goal Setting:

  1. Make goals specific, measurable, and observable. “I want to be good at ultimate” is neither of those three things. “I want to be able to flick the disc past half-field consistently” allows you to focus on the specific thing you want to improve, and a way for you to see and track whether you’re getting there or not.
  2. Give yourself a realistic window of time. “I want to memorize my ten minute speech within the next ten minutes” isn’t realistic, and will probably cause you a lot of grief. This is a tougher idea that takes some trial and error – you don’t want to give yourself too short of a time span to complete your goal (you’ll get frustrated and give up), but you don’t want to give it too long either (you’ll get bored and/or forget about it).
  3. Come up with medium-difficulty goals. Like we discussed in point #2, you want to try and come up with a goal that makes you strive for something, but isn’t so unattainable that you lose confidence.
  4. Write down your goals and KEEP TRACK of them. This is a huge pitfall in goal setting – many of us come up with great attainable goals, but too often we forget or abandon them completely (I’m guilty of this a lot) because we don’t write them down or have a way of seeing whether we’re getting close to achieving them. The mere act of simply writing it down and putting it up somewhere you always see it greatly increasing your chances of actually getting where you want to go.
  5. Use different types of goals simultaneously. Try to come up with goals that speak to specific, actionable behavior during/or leading up to your event (called process goals), in conjunction with goals that reflect an end result (called performance goals). Example: “During my karaoke performance of ‘I Will Always Love You’, I want to focus on breathing into my diaphragm (process), so that I can hit my high notes (performance).” Avoid using a goal that is dependent on the performance of others or that calls for some sort of comparison: “I want to win this thang” or “I want more Grammys than Adele”. While it isn’t bad to want to win or have more Grammys than Adele, this type of goal doesn’t give you a lot of control over the situation and downplays any success you have because you’re putting yourself up against a standard or someone else.
  6. Use a mix of short-range and long-range goals. What do you want to accomplish this week? In a month? In a year? In five? How can your short-term goals help achieve your long-term ones?
  7. Review and Edit. Life happens. Or maybe you decide you don’t want total domination of the world, you just want a nice little beach hut on the shores of Tahiti. Goals aren’t rigid, nor will they always be achievable. Reflect frequently on what you want, and adjust your goals to fit your current values and/or circumstances.
  8. Buy into it. Nothing will work if you don’t have the basic belief in yourself that you can achieve it (as cheesy as that sounds), or if you think all of this is just mumbo-jumbo-hooplah. Start small, and once you have little instances of success, feed off of that and go for even bigger goals!

Lululemon has a great goal-setting page on their website, if you’re interested in this sort of thing and want to do some more:
Source: Sport Psychology: Concepts and Applications, 7th Edition, Richard H. Cox

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