Goal Setting – Not Just for New Year’s Anymore

Goals – They’re not just for New Year’s day anymore! So, stop waiting for some special day to set goals and do it now.

Goals do the following things:
1. Give you direction and route to take in your plan.
2. Help to motivate you towards success.
3. Help to enhance self-confidence.
4. To help you monitor your progress.
5. Direct your attention to what’s important.
6. Help you identify address strengths and weaknesses.
7. Improve the quality, purpose and focus of practice.

There is nothing new about goal setting. Everything has been written about goal setting that can be written. The problem isn’t in goal setting. The problem isn’t in knowing how to formulate them for most people. The problem is people just don’t do it. They do not set goals. But let me get to what the real problem is. People don’t take the time to write them down. This is the most critical element to all goal setting.

Writing goals and putting them where you will see them every day is what helps keep you focused and supports good decision making – that is, it reminds you to get your ass out the door and do a workout instead of sitting down having a donut and watching someone else perform in sports on TV. So, if you do nothing else, write your goal down on a piece of paper, a tree-by-five card, a business card, a brown paper bag, or toilet paper. And put it where you will see it every single day. Hopefully you will see it multiple times each day.

A trick I learned long ago was to have a key word that reminded me of my goal. I wrote it on a small colored piece of paper and put it in my wallet next to the dollar bills. Every time I went to purchase anything anytime, I would see that paper. Several times a day I reinforced my goal. What makes this so practical is that in very short order, I would only have to see glimpses of that piece of paper and I would immediately think of my goal. I didn’t have to take a “goal setting worksheet” out of a file in my desk and read through it to remind myself of what I wanted to achieve. It was instant. It was repetitive. It was cheap. It was private.*

Avoid Pitfalls
Some people imagine some fuzzy wish like “I want to get in shape” or “I want to run a marathon” or “I want to lose weight”. It’s a nice way to stay non-committal. It’s a great way to let excuses sabotage you.

Other people create goals that are unrealistic. Their approach is to be able to tell people what great things they endeavor to accomplish. If they fail, they fail doing something that most others wouldn’t attempt. One woman I coach falls into this habit. Elizabeth is a high energy novice runner who runs a few times a week and averages about nine minute miles for four miles in a workout. Her goal: run a marathon in four months and run fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon. She has never completed a marathon before. She completed one half-marathon nine months ago in a time that would have to be cut in half to consider being conditioned enough to run a Boston Qualifier. However, to tell someone you are “training to qualify for Boston” sounds so much more impressive.

Contrary to my comment above about keeping a goal private*; there may be times you should make your goal public. This is a technique used for those of us who like peer pressure or do not like letting others down or have a strong social support system. It creates a built in accountability system. If you know someone will be asking you about your progress, you may be far more likely to do something about it!

Here is another word of caution on goal setting. Set goals that you control. You control your effort, your focus, whether you workout or not, how many quality workouts or long runs each week, your attitude. Many individuals want to “beat so-and-so” or “win” a particular age group or race. Though this is laudable, you do not control your competition. They might have a better day than you. Some faster runner may show up you don’t even know. You don’t control them. You control you. If you prepare yourself to run the best you can, then there is no more you can do. Focus on giving 100% on the day.

By the way, there is no such thing as more than 100%. Do not set goals to the effect of “give 110% on race day.” By definition 100% is everything you have. If you do better than in the past it just means you previously functioned at less than 100% and now you are running closer to your 100%.

So get a writing implement and paper. Do not go to the scrap booking store and get fancy stuff. Do not get on your computer. Do not look for the best looking colored paper. Just get it. Sit down. And write.

Steps in Goals Setting
1. Identify your goals
2. Set appropriate goals
3. Decide on goal-achievement strategies to accomplish goals
4. Monitor, evaluate, & modify

Set Goals
1. Long-term or dream goals
2. Intermediate goals
3. Short-term goals
4. Immediate or daily goals

Goals can be set for:
1. Outcome (wins, top tens, championships, etc.)
2. Performance (performance statistics)
3. Practice (specific drills or practice outcomes)
4. Mental (commit to 95% of shots)
5. Tactical (game plan, race plan, course strategies, etc.)

Guidelines for Writing Goals:
1. Set specific instead of general goals. Everyone should be able to know when you’ve achieved it. It is not subjective or open to interpretation such as “I want to run faster” or “get in better shape” or “lose some weight”.
2. Set goals that can be measured with target dates to assess attainment. Without dates there is no reason to get going on them.
3. Set positively stated goals instead of avoidance goals. Say what you want to attain versus what you want to avoid or lose, such as weight.
e careful not to set too many daily goals. Everyone varies but setting seasonal goals (like race times) with supporting process goals (such as run five times a week and do one speed workout each week).
5. Use goals to focus attention on what’s important or relevant. Back to that piece of paper. Our minds process tons of information and we are inundated with input daily. It is too easy to become distracted and not focus on our goals.
6. Use goals for practice and competition. Practice goals are process goals. They focus on the individual things you must do – today and the next day, incrementally – to reach your competition goal. Competition goals are too far into the future to motivate most people most of the time. That is why we fall to excuses. (By the way, my book on excuse making and busting – “Coach, I didn’t run today because…” – will be available 12/09!)

Your goal reminder piece of paper should reflect your goals succinctly. Here are examples of what might have written down.
Get out there and run. Go for a run just for today. Eat right.

It could reflect a time for your race or even just the name of your target race.
Tucson Marathon 12/09; Sub-3:30 marathon; Sub-20:00 5K

Or maybe just the meaningful numbers:

You’ll know what they mean. You’ll know what you are working towards.

The number one reason people fail at goals is pretty simple. They leave their goal achievement process on the piece of paper. You now have to ACT on it! Do something! Anything! Ask yourself each day, what one thing did I do to get closer to my goal? If you can’t answer that question, then get your ass up and do something!

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