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Setting Goals Effectively

The way in which you set goal strongly affects their effectiveness.

Before you start to set goals, you should have set the background of goal setting by:

These were discussed in the previous section.


General Guidelines

The following broad guidelines apply to setting effective goals:


Important Points

A number of general principles should be noted about goal setting:

Set Performance, not Outcome Goals

This is very important. You should take care to set goals over which you have as much control as possible - there is nothing as dispiriting as failing to achieve a personal goal for reasons beyond your control such as poor judging, bad weather, injury, excellence in other athletes, or just plain bad luck. Goals based on outcomes are extremely vulnerable to things beyond your control.

If you base your goals on personal performance targets or skills to be acquired, then you can keep control over the achievement of your goals and draw satisfaction from them. For example, you might achieve a personal best time, but still be disqualified as a result of a poor judging decision. If you set an outcome goal of being in the top three, then this will be a defeat. If you set a performance goal of achieving a particular time, then you will have achieved the goal and can draw satisfaction and self-confidence from its achievement.

Another flaw is where outcome goals are based on the rewards of winning, whether these are financial or are based on the recognition of being a winner. In early stages these will be highly motivating factors, however as they are achieved, the benefit of winning another prize or championship at the same level reduces. You will become progressively less motivated.

One difficulty you will face is that people who are ignorant of sports psychology, such as many poor coaches, parents, media, fans, etc. base their assessment of success on winning. This completely ignores the effect of raw luck on high quality performance. As with many things, stick with what you know is right rather than what uninformed people think.


Set Specific Goals

Set specific measurable goals. If you achieve all conditions of a measurable goal, then you can be confident and comfortable in its achievement. If you consistently fail to meet a measurable goal, then you can adjust it or analyse the reason for failure and take appropriate action to improve skills.


Set Realistic Goals

Goals may be set unrealistically high for the following reasons:


Setting Goals Too Low

Alternatively goals can be set too low because of:


Setting Goals at the Right Level

Setting goals at the correct level is a skill that is acquired by practice.

You should set goals so that they are slightly out of your immediate grasp, but not so far that there is no hope of achieving them: no-one will put serious effort into achieving a goal that they believe is unrealistic. However, remember that the belief that a goal is unrealistic may be incorrect. Such a belief can be changed by effective use of imagery.

Personal factors such as tiredness, injury, stage in the season, etc. should be taken into account when goals are set.

Now try setting some goals, and then measure them against the points above. Adjust them to meet the recommendations and then review them. You should now be able to see the importance of setting goals effectively.

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