Setting goals ensures roadmap to your success

 In Focus & Awareness, Motivation, Winning & Losing

Setting goals can be highly misunderstood. But it is critical to get you to where you want to be. Where YOU want to be! When setting goals, you create the roadmap to your success. You can’t get somewhere without knowing where somewhere is! We generally have a sense of where we want to go, or we have a huge grandiose idea about it, but we end up falling short because it’s not specific or realistic enough.

Or, other times we rely on others to tell us what our goals are – parents and coaches – but fail to meet expectations. But you need to set goals for yourself. Goals should be written like a roadmap so that you can pick them up and figure out where to go; what to do. They also can’t hinge on someone else because many times we can’t meet someone else’s expectations because we don’t understand them, they change often, and they aren’t yours.

For many people the pitfalls outweigh the benefits but that’s because it seems like an overwhelming project.

The benefits of setting goals

As with any mental training technique it is important to highlight the benefits. The benefits of developing your own goals include:

  • A road map for success. An action plan that shows you where you are going, the plan for getting there, and what to focus on t versus focusing on internal and external distractions or other’s expectations.
  • Increased and sustainable motivation. If you set realistic goals, every time you meet one it motivates you to continue; which is another reason you need your own goals.
  • Self-confidence. Very similarly, as you meet your goals, your confidence increases. You have a sense that, ah, I can do this.
  • A focus on the process. When set correctly, goals keep you focused on the process (what do I need to do right now) and out of the outcome, and the end result. Why? Because if your goals are done correctly they are designed to get you the outcome you desire. You no longer have to think about the outcome because you are confident your process will get you there.

What are the different types of goals?

It is also beneficial to understand the different types of goals. You should set goals for both long-term and short-term.

How long is long-term? Probably no more than 6 months (which is still a long time). In 6 months a lot can change which means your goals will probably change. Your long-term goal may not but it usually depends on what it is. Long term goals are made up of many short-term goals.

How short is short-term? Short term goals can be set monthly, weekly, or daily and this usually depends on the individual. Some athletes like to have really small goals that they check off in their training journal daily. Others like to have a list of weekly goals that they can work on during the week. Monthly goals are really an intermediate goal and most athletes don’t use them because it’s too long a period of time and then they aren’t necessarily seeing the results they want.

Prioritizing goals

Walk through this process so you can focus.

  1. What mental & physical skills do you need to be successful in your sport? Write down your top 10.
  2. Rate yourself on each of these on a scale from 1-10. 1-I don’t have that skill at all. 10-I am excellent at that skill.
  3. Decide where you need to be on that scale to be successful in your sport. For example, I need confidence to be successful. Currently, my confidence is a 5. I need my confidence to be a 9 to be as successful as I want to be.
  4. Determine how to develop each area to make you most successful. This is where you can get more detailed and create a plan for yourself to reach the level you want.

How many goals should I have? 5? 10? 20? It’s best to start with a few during a week, see what happens and move on from there. The point of setting goals is to set you up for success. Too many goals can be overwhelming and set you up for failure. Start small, feel it out and reflect on how it’s going. Are your goals motivating? Are they realistic? Do you need more daily goals? Are your goals broken into bite size pieces so that you can actually do them? Celebrate each success and set another.


An important part of this conversation is talking about how you operate. Do you need feedback regularly? If so, how regularly? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? What is the most motivating for you? The second thing to consider in terms of accountability is, how do you keep track of your goals? Some clients use a training log. Some put them in their calendar. Some use a calendar. Thirdly, do you need others to help keep you accountable? Do you share them with a spouse, roommate or teammate you trust?

Setting goals effectively

A common goal setting acronym is SMART, which stands for specific, measurable, adjustable, realistic and time-specific.

Specific goal setting has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal.

  • Who: Who is involved?
  • What: What do I want to accomplish?
  • Where: Identify a location.
  • When: Establish a time frame.
  • Which: Identify requirements and constraints.
  • Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits.

Vague goals produce vague results. You want to make your goal as detailed as possible in order to achieve the specific results that you desire.


  • Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set.
  • To determine if your goal is measurable, ask questions such as:
    o How much?
    o How many?
    o How will I know when it is accomplished?

You want to be able to see the progressive changes that you make on your goal so that you can judge whether or not you are reaching the completion of your goal. You want to see exactly how far you have come from the start of your goal and how far away from the completion of the goal you are.


  • Goals should change as you reach them so that you continue to advance and stay motivated.
  • When goals are a little out of reach, change them to something more realistic.
  • Your goals should be within your control and if not, then they need to be changed.


To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work. Be sure that every goal represents substantial progress. A high goal is frequently easier to reach than a low one because a low goal exerts low motivational force. Your goal is probably realistic if you truly believe that it can be accomplished. Additional ways to know if your goal is realistic is to determine if you have accomplished anything similar in the past or ask yourself what conditions would have to exist to accomplish this goal.

Time specific

A goal should be grounded within a time frame to give you a sense of urgency with this goal.

VERY IMPORTANT! Write down your goals. Athletes increase their chance of reaching goals by writing them down. Word your goals positively. Make them about what you want to achieve, versus what to avoid.

Avoid common pitfalls in goal setting

Just as it is important to recognize the benefits of effective goal setting, it is also important to be aware of common pitfalls with goal setting.

  • Time Commitment: Give yourself the time necessary to integrate an effective goal setting program.
  • Too Many Goals: “Less is more” so as not to divide focus and energy between too many different goals.
  • Outcome-only oriented goals: Make sure you include what you need to get to the outcome – the process to succeed. Set short term process goals with each.
  • Failure to adjust goals: When you start setting goals, you may set them a bit lofty. It takes practice so give yourself some time. We are human. Things happen and it’s important to be flexible with yourself. For example, if you get sick and are unable to work on your goals, you’ll likely be unable to meet them. Evaluate and adjust them when you feel better.
  • Lack of support: You know what you need to do but your goals may be in conflict with what others need from you. You’ll have to decide if you stick with your goals or combine your goals with another’s expectations. For example, coaches have expectations of what you need to do to perform. Often time they have information that is necessary for you to perform at an optimal level otherwise why bother having a coach. However, as we’ve already ascertained, you also need your own goals in order to stay internally motivated. In this situation, you might talk to your coach to see how you can combine efforts.

Make it easy on yourself by thinking about what you want to accomplish (setting goals long term) and the roadmap for getting there (setting goals short term). Start small and build. Once you start to see yourself accomplishing versus failing, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start setting your own goals sooner.

Goals keep us driven, give us focus, and allow us to create our own destiny.
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