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Goal Setting- How, When and Why?

The end of the competitive year also means the beginning of a new one. Goal setting is an important process to go through on a regular basis. The transition from one season to the start of another is a great time to revisit your goals on a deeper/bigger picture level.

Why?

Goal setting lays out your intentions. Intention is a powerful force. When you give your intentions attention good things happen. Goal setting helps direct your actions over the short and long-term. Actions lead to outcomes and most goals are outcome oriented. Goal setting holds you accountable and accountability is important especially to yourself!

When?

Goals can be revisited with frequency throughout the year. It’s always good to check in and take stock of what you said you were going to do and what you are actually doing. The transition point from the conclusion of a competitive season and the start of a new training season is a great time to do a more thorough goal setting exercise. It’s good to cool down a bit after your last race so you are not planning and reacting on too much emotion or with too much fatigue.

The fall is usually an appropriate time for a more thorough goal setting exercise if you are a summer sport athlete. The timing can account for both long term and short term objectives and can look at the year as a whole, which can then be broken into smaller, more manageable chunks.

How?

Start long term. For Olympic athletes this can even be a 4 to 8-year plan depending on where they are at in an Olympic cycle. Long-term first allows you to define a larger end goal- often one with greater rewards attached to it but also one that may not be entirely possible with your current fitness or skill level.

After you have a long-term objective, work it backwards and figure out what you need to do to get there. Working it backwards allows for the integration of short-term goals that point ultimately to the long-term goal. The short-term goals will identify what you need to spend energy on at specific times of the year. Back it up to the present moment and be specific about what is required to actually achieve those shorter-term goals.

Good goals are ones that are attainable but require work to get there. Good long-term goals can be lofty if you are committed to the long haul. Poor goals are ones that are too lofty given the time frame you have identified for them. You should have success with your short-term goals (not always but with frequency) because it will keep you motivated and solidify that you are on track. If you are not achieving any of your short-term goals you may need to revisit how high you are setting them or take a critical look at your commitment to them. Likewise, if you are easily attaining all of your short-term goals without much effort you may need to revisit how high you are setting the bar.
Goals are important because they help you identify what the process needs to be. For many people goals or outcomes are the primary objective but for true success you need a well-defined process you can sink your teeth into on a daily basis. This process is easier to map out when you have clearly defined your goals.

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