Every coach has their own opinion on goals. Some talk about their value and importance as if training without them is completely pointless. Other coaches talk about how it can put too much stress on “athletes” and cause people to beat themselves up over shortcomings or failures. I think both of these cases can be true but, in my experience, beating yourself up over shortcomings happens whether you set goals or not. Calling them “expectations” rather than goals doesn’t change the mental impact they have on your good or bad training day. Failure is inevitable. Get comfortable with failure and how valuable it is. That’s another post, altogether. To further reinforce the idea and importance of setting goals, just “working hard” without a goal or direction, is like driving a car with the gas pedal pressed to the floor and no hands on the steering wheel. Motivation is of little good without direction, without goals.
Where do you start? You don’t want it to be too easy but, you also don’t want to fail… the fear of failure is crippling. In short, don’t think of missing your goal as a failure, it’s a learning experience – if you make it one. What did you do poorly? Where could you improve? Did you prepare and execute correctly? Assess and adjust. It’s an ongoing process. A great place to start is setting SMART goals. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely (or set to a time-frame). Don’t live and die by this but, it’s a great place to build from. Don’t just say “I want to get better at Math” or “I want to get better at running.” People often do this to take some of the stress off and make missing their goals more acceptable, more palatable. It’s planning to fail. Don’t. Be firm and be SMART.
The cliche saying “Always aim for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars” may sound corny but, it also provides us a valuable lesson – shooting high sets us up for improvement and success. Creating goals that scare us a little force us to work hard to achieve them, that helps assure that even if you fail you’ll still experience growth and progress. Research done by Locke and Latham back this, showing that setting higher, more ambitious goals results in higher achievement and progress. Aim high and get after it.
Track Your Progress
Once your goals are set and put into motion, track your results. Don’t just guess and hope for the best. Record actual data and hold yourself responsible. There are various apps that will help you with this but, I personally prefer daily journaling (bullet journaling has become increasingly popular), it allows me the freedom to share and record my ups and downs throughout my journey. Once it’s recorded, you can reflect and learn from your work.
The last thing to do, is get to work. At the end of the day, assume self-responsibility and own that success or failure is on YOU. Reaching your goals isn’t a byproduct of (only) great coaching, or a great podcast or blog… success is reached through YOUR HARD WORK. On the flipside of that coin, failure is also on your shoulders. If YOU don’t put in the work, don’t expect a magical program or formula to save you. Now, close this motherF#@$er and get to work.