Set Your Sights High, then Conquer & Achieve
Determine What you Want
I want you to close your eyes and picture your ‘ideal’ self. Think of yourself wholistically, including your physical, emotional, mental and social health. Take time to visualize this, what context (environment) are you in? Who is around you? What sounds do you hear? What do you smell? How do you feel? What else do you notice?
Truly, give yourself the time and freedom to consider this…. to feel it…. to see it. Allow yourself to have grandiose, bold, daring thoughts. In fact, sport psychologist, Doug Swanson (2019), avidly and regularly prompts his athletes to dream up “big, hairy, audacious goals’. Doing so lays the foundation for high performance habits, and also elicits sustained motivation.
Now consider how this ‘ideal’ (perhaps audacious) version of yourself compares to your current state. Again, consider how you would rate your physical self, emotional state, mental health, and social environment. Think about each component (physical, emotional, mental, social) individually. Is there a gap between your ‘ideal’ self and current state? If so, determine the size and direction of this gap. Don’t get down on yourself about this gap, because excitingly this is where goal setting starts.
Goal setting has been defined as “the process by which people establish desirable objectives from their actions” (Moran, 2004, p. 55). Notice that this definition places each of us in control. Meaning we have the control to take an active role in reaching our goals. Correspondingly, goal setting enables us to systematically create a path, or roadmap, to get there.
Of course, travelling this path will at times be a tough, perhaps even littered with obstacles and setbacks. It will require self-discipline, delayed gratification, time management and will likely take place outside of our comfort zone (where our growth zone begins). Nevertheless, by pursuing this journey and staying committed to the goals we set, we can develop self-confidence, focus, resiliency, autonomy, competence, and ultimately the satisfying feeling of achievement.
Giving yourself the space, permission, and time to identify your goals (and think audaciously), was the first step along this journey. The next occurred when you frankly and honestly evaluated how your current state (physical, emotional, mental and social) compared to your ‘ideal’ self. While these two steps are deeply personal and can only truly be accomplished by you, there are numerous goal setting models, resources, and supports that can help you along the remainder of your journey.
Create your Goal Ladder
Dr. Maura Bergan (2019), assistant professor of Exercise Science and Athletic Training at Springfield College, uses a ladder analogy for goal setting. She explains that we can place our long term (longer than 6 week) goal at the top of the ladder. From there, we need to establish shorter term, process goals which will represent each rung in the ladder. These short-term, process goals should realistically help us achieve the specific long-term goal we want to achieve. Furthermore, to improve the likelihood of sticking to a goal, each of these short-term goals should be attainable, meaning feasible and accomplishable. Importantly, while we want the short-term goals to be attainable, they still need to be challenging. Setting moderately difficult goals, that push us to achieve a 5-15% improvement, have been shown to increase motivation and adherence to our goals (Gillam, 2016). Recognizing the need for moderately difficult, attainable goals also highlights the need for our goals to be measurable. Measurable goals allow us to track our progress and evaluate if our habits are aligned with the goals we set.
Another aspect of goal setting includes the element of time. As a generalization, humans tend to be procrastinators. Therefore, setting a deadline for our short- and long-term goals creates a sense of urgency. This sense of urgency prompts us to prioritize the task and/or habits that will help us stay on track (Gillam, 2016). Furthermore, we can enhance our ability to achieve the goals we set for ourselves by making goal-getting habits (or behaviours) automatic. This is done by creating routines, and eliminating decisions, which lead to more consistent, predictable, and reliable habits (Swanson, 2019).
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is therefore not an accident, but a habit” – Aristotle
For example, if I set a process goal to exercise five days a week, I could work it into my daily routine so that instead of going home after work, I drive directly to the gym. Or perhaps if I wanted to utilize the tactic of eliminating decisions, I could set out my workout clothes before I go to bed. Then when I wake up, they are the first thing I see, making it so that I don’t have to make a decision about what to wear. It also minimizes the temptation to alternatively do another activity, as the decision was already made that I would workout first, and the only clothes I have out to wear is my workout gear.
Don’t Forget About the Sides
Once you have established realistic, attainable but challenging, measurable, and time-bound short-term goals that will act as steps (or rungs on the ladder) to your specific long-term goals, you must also consider what and/or who is supporting you in reaching these goals. No matter how solid the rungs of the ladder are, we don’t have a ladder until we have side supports (Bergan, 2019). These supports can be made up of our family, friends, and/or a significant other. They could also include role models, our gym fam, and/or online communities who inspire, encourage and keep us accountable. Nevertheless, their importance can’t be overlooked. So, reach out to those around you. Tell them about your goals and the path you have set to achieve them. Write your goals out and display them where they can be seen. Even track your progress towards your goals in a visual way. These tactics will keep you on track.
Lastly, when evaluating your progress towards your goals you may periodically realize that your goals have to be modified. That is ok. Goal setting takes practice and work. We won’t get it right the first time. “Learning begins with failure” (Swanson, 2019), so celebrate failure as it presents a new opportunity to better align our behaviours with our goals. Viewing goal setting and goal attainment as a journey, gives us permission to learn. This journey will require us to continually seek ways to push ourselves out of our comfort zone as that is where growth and learning begin, and where progress and self-confidence manifest.
Happy goal setting, conquering and achieving!
Bergan, M. (2019). Positive youth development through strength and conditioning. Retrieved from https://www.nsca.com/education/videos/positive-youth-development-through-strength-and-conditioning/
Gillham, A. D. (2016). The application of systematic goal setting for strength and conditioning coaches. NSCA Coach, Vol 3(2), p. 4-6.
Gillham, A. D. (2017). Combining physical and mental training. NSCA Coach. Vol 4 (3)Moran, A. P. (2004). Sport and exercise psychology: A critical introduction. East Sussex, UK: Routledge.
Swanson, D. (2019). Habits of Champions [PowerPoint slides].
Want to Learn More About Goal Setting?!?
Join us, at TnT Metabolic Igniters, on Monday November 25th when Doug Swanson joins us to talk about ‘Habits of Champions’. In this presentations he will explain why goal setting is everything!
To learn more click here.