THE MENTAL EDGE

Why do we need goals?

If you were going to dig for buried treasure on an island, you wouldn’t just start digging anywhere would you? No, you would need a map to get you to where the treasure is buried. You can think of goals in the same way. Not having goals is similar to digging for treasure without a map. Goals, like a map, help you to get to your destination much faster than digging up the whole island to find the treasure.

Goal-Setting Guidelines

Now that you know why you need to set goals, we must use guidelines to help us set goals. The following analogy has been used by many sport consultants to summarize the main guidelines.

Specific – The goals should be specific enough that you know what you are aiming for. (50% of at-bat opportunities for the game.) Measurable – Goals should be set so that in the end there is something you can measure to know if you accomplished your goal. (8 out of 10 free throws during the game.) Attainable – Goals should be challenging but not too difficult so it will motivate you to strive toward your goal. (Shooting 90% from the free throw line is challenging because it is a moderately difficult task, but one that can be achieved.)

Realistic – You must be realistic with the goals that you set. Don’t set yourself up for failure. (You can’t say that you will pitch a no-hitter every time. It is possible, but is it realistic?) Target Date – This means that you should have a target time or date in mind for each goal. Guidelines are extremely important because they have a major impact on how you set your goals. Setting your goals effectively as compared to another athlete without effective goals may result in you having the upper hand during competition.

Types of Goals

Research has shown that setting goals effectively can influence performance. When setting goals there are three types of goals that an athlete should remember:

Outcome Goals – This type of goal focuses on an end result and usually involves comparing oneself to another. (Winning the game/competition.) Performance Goals – This type of goal focuses on the end result, but does not involve a comparison to other athletes. (Shooting 90% by the end of the season from the free throw line.)

Process Goals – This type of goal is the most important and should be used on a daily basis. This goal includes certain mental, physical, and technical strategies that an athlete uses to accomplish his/her process and outcome goals. (Shooting 50 free throws after practice every day.)

Problems with Goal Setting

Goal setting can be very difficult and the most common problems that athletes and coaches have with setting goals include:

• Setting too many goals too soon.
• Failing to recognize individual differences.
• Setting goals that are too general.
• Failing to modify unrealistic goals.

Research indicates that goal-setting does influence performance. By following these guidelines, you will be well on your way to setting effective goals that will work for you!