With a brand spanking New Year rapidly approaching, it seems like an appropriate time to discuss goal setting and how this can help us make 2017 (and every year after that!) the year of progress and success (it sounds waaay better than the year of the Rooster).

Goal setting is the driving strategy behind any successful individual – those who have reached the top of their field used effective goal setting to get there. Goal setting is a fundamental aspect of Performance Psychology – and why?

  • Goals focus attention and direct action towards a specific target.
  • Goals maintain and enhance motivation through recognising progress and offering the prospect of being in a better place than at the beginning of the goal.
  • Goals contribute to confidence through achievement and skill acquisition.

So what exactly is goal setting? This isn’t just having a vague idea of some things you’d like to do or achieve at some undefined point in the future…. This is having a structured timeline of precise goals that have been recorded, with plans to progress, and an allocated end point. Monitoring and evaluation is a key part of this process and done regularly in a structured goal setting programme to assess progress along the way – and revise goals if necessary. So how do we develop an effective goal setting programme?

The SMART Principle

This is a principle for goal setting that has been rolling around for years – you might have come across it before. But don’t skip over, appreciate how it is  a useful structure of developing effective goals (particularly in sport and exercise) by making you think about all the elements needed for a good goal.

Goal: I want to get stronger this year.

This is a common goal you see within many gym goers, beginner or pro. But what’s wrong with this?

SPECIFIC – The goal above is pretty vague. You want to get stronger? How much stronger? Any particular areas you want to target (i.e. legs/arms/core)? Any particular function for the goal (bodybuilding/ sport/health)?  Is there a certain weight you want to be able to lift/carry for a particular move (i.e. 100kg deadlift for one rep)? Setting a more specific goal and considering the purpose is important – anything too vague can result in a loss of focus and motivation. Something like “My goal is to develop strength with a focus on back and core, with the aim of completing 150kg deadlift” gives something to word towards. Try not to overcomplicate this – adding a few details to keep the goal from being too general is fine.

MEASURABLE – Potentially the most important part. So you’ve set a specific goal – but how are you going to be able to track your progress over time and recognise and end result? Without objectively recording and monitoring goals, it can be difficult to see any changes, which is how motivation can take hit. Recording the starting point to compare to the end of your goal, and ensuring you have a way to objectively measure progress at regular intervals is key to effective goal setting.

ACCEPTED – All this means is that you understand your motivations for setting a goal and are willing to put the effort in to make progress towards it. Sometimes discussing with relevant people (e.g. coaches, personal trainers) can play a part in this.  Record your goal in a place where you can access it regularly (the Wall Road Map is a great way of doing this).

REALISTIC – You have to give yourself the best chance of achieving your goal. This means creating a goal which is of course challenging, but not impossible. It might be a case of setting yourself a series of short and medium term goals before reaching a big long term goal. If you want to complete a 150kg deadlift as a complete beginner, setting this goal within a month is a tad unrealistic and essentially setting yourself up for a loss. Setting this goal for a years’ time, with progressions in strength per month is much more feasible and easier to sustain. However, don’t forget that everybody is different and your goal needs to be set according to your abilities and needs, not anyone else’s. “Comparison is the thief of joy” and also motivation when it comes to goal setting. JUST DO YOU!

TIME PHASED – The time frame over which you want to complete your goal should be appropriate for the type of goal you have set, and taking into consideration what life is going to throw at you over that time. As an athlete, you might need to build a goal around a certain time period according to the schedule of the sport, which is an important consideration in developing a goal. If you only have a 4 week period to work with, then you’ll need to adjust a goal to be appropriate for this time frame.   If you’re looking to set a time frame for your goal, it’s worth considering things such as holidays, deadlines, family commitments. Planning for these things will prevent any disappointment for goals not being met within their time frame. As a general rule of thumb, these are the time frames for different types of goals.

Short term: 4-6 weeks

Medium term: 2-12 months

Long term: 1-2 years.

Incentive

There’s nothing wrong with setting yourself rewards for when you reach a certain target or complete your goal. These little rewards can help enhance your motivation and keep you going from goal to goal (as well as giving you a guilt free excuse to make a purchase – new gym trainers? I earned these! Private jet? Yeah sure, I deserve this…). The important thing to remember when doing this is that these rewards aren’t your ONLY motivation. When you’re having a rough week it’s unlikely that the reward of a takeaway at the end of the month is going to keep you from giving up… (private jet, maybe…). Keeping in mind your real motivations for achieving a goal is going to be the real driver behind your progress and ultimately the attainment of the goal. Keep this motivation accessible at all times (try Wall Road Map, Self-Journal, or creating your own motivation board). It’s also worth considering whether your rewards are appropriate/conflicting with your end goal. Aiming to lose fat? Always go with the private jet, not the takeaway….

Of course SMART goals aren’t the only way to go about goal setting – but it’s a good place to start. Use the principle to prepare your goals for 2017 – don’t wait until January! If you do it right that private jet could be right around the corner….

Part 2 will talk about other things to consider when setting goals- in the mean-time, happy goal setting from NCW PERFORMANCE!

If you want to reach your 2017 sport and exercise goals, contact Naomi to arrange a Performance Psychology session.

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