“If you do not know where you are going, you might wind up somewhere else” - Yogi Berra
Goals are an important tool to have to be successful. We can consider goals as the road map to where we want to be and what we want to accomplish as athletes. Goals influence performance indirectly by affecting psychological factors, such as anxiety, confidence, and satisfaction. If we have a clear vision of what we want to accomplish, we can limit those factors that affect performance. When creating goals, we have three categories: outcome, performance, and process goals.
Types of Goals:
Outcome goals - focusing on a competitive result of an event (e.g., beating someone)
Performance goals - focusing on achieving standards of performance or objectives independently of other competitors–usually making comparisons with one’s own previous performance (e.g., let’s perform better than last meet)
Process goals - focusing on the actions an individual must engage in during performance to execute well (e.g., setup out the back to smack the finish)
It’s important to have a goal for all three categories when creating goals. All three are important in directing behavioral changes, such as confidence and anxiety. While all three are important, performance and process goals should be the priority. Performance and process goals are more precise than outcome goals, less dependent on the behavior of others, and particularly useful before or during competition. Focusing on outcome goals often increases anxiety and irrelevant distracting thoughts, especially closer to competition.
Long- and Short-Term Goals:
Long-term goals provide direction, while short-term goals serve as the stepping stones to completing those long-term objectives. Think of a staircase with a long-term goal at the top. The present would be the lowest step. Each step progressively links each short-term goal, connecting the top to the bottom of the staircase. Each short-term goal serves as a step and progresses in difficulty as it gets closer to the top, aka the long-term goal.
Common mistakes with long- and short-term goals are we tend to focus on the short-term urgent goals, but most of the time, the long-term, non-urgent goals are more important and should be mapped out. Athletes and coaches should set both short- and long-term goals but focus more on short-term goals and provide feedback on the progression toward meeting long-term goals.
Principles of Goal Setting:
Goal setting can be a complex and challenging process. Factors such as the willingness of the athlete to take risks toward challenges are a part of the complexity, but goal setting doesn't always have to be that. We can make the process simpler by using principles of goal setting to guide the process.
Principles of Goal Setting:
Set specific goals
Set moderately difficult but realistic goals
Set long- and short-term goals
Set performance, process, and outcome goals
Set mastery-approach* versus performance-avoidance* goals
Set practice and competition goals
Mastery approach (e.g. improve my finish)
Performance avoidance (e.g. don’t finish last)
A good way to put the principles of goal setting into use is using the SMARTS goal structure:
Specific. Goals should indicate precisely what is to be accomplished or achieved.
Measurable. Goals should be quantifiable.
Action-oriented. Goals should indicate something that needs to be done; specific actions achieve the stated goals
Realistic. Goals should be achievable, given various constraints.
Timely. Goals should be achievable in a reasonable amount of time.
Self-determined. Goals should be set by, or with input from, the participant.
Goals are an important tool to have to be successful. Using goal-setting principles, athletes and coaches can create SMART goal, performance, and process short- and long-term goals to help guide them to success!
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