I am not sure if you guys have ever formally set goals, but I would encourage you to do so! Setting a few big, but reachable goals along with smaller process-oriented goals can go a long way towards keeping you encouraged and motivated throughout the year.
I took sports psychology in college, and while I have forgotten most of what I learned there, the discussions on goal setting really stuck in my brain. I have used them ever since in my running career, as well as in life, and I want to share them with you.
It all starts with the acronym SMART. Goals we set for ourselves should be SMART if we want to be successful in achieving them. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely.
A goal should be pinpointed and clearly laid out. A good way to do this is to answer some questions. What? Where? Why? How? State it clearly, write it down, and share it with someone. Verbalizing your goals is powerful in making them more real to you and for holding you accountable.
How are you going to measure the extent to which you achieve your goal? An important aspect of measuring your goals is to strike a balance between measuring by outcome and measuring by process. Goals emphasizing process are more about habits formed and steps taken rather than a win or loss. Goals measured by outcome do not take into account the steps, effort, and small victories along the way, and instead focus solely on the black and white end result.
I’ll use myself as an example here. In college, I had a season in which I was really struggling. By halfway through the season, my head was a mess and I was in a big rut. I went to talk to the team sports psychiatrist, who resembles Gandalf to an uncanny degree. The first thing he asked me was what my goals for the season were. I immediately rattled off a list that included running a certain time, winning conference and regionals, and placing in the top five at nationals. I’ll never forget Dr. Gandalf looking at me calmly and gently pointing out that all of those goals were outcome based, win or lose, with no in between and no give. They did not take into account my effort on a race day and workouts or my competitors. If I was giving my all day in and day out, but other girls were simply better than me at conference or regionals, I could only see that as a loss, despite the fact that I had done my absolute best. If I ran the races of my life but didn’t achieve my time goal, it was still a loss, at least based on the way that I had written my goals. And constantly losing was making me crazy.
Dr. Gandalf made it clear to me that outcome goals have a place. They give us solid results to strive after, but they should not be our only goals. Process goals fill in the gaps and provide steps and habits that will help us achieve our outcome goals. They also help take out what we can’t control. In a race, I can only control me. I will do everything in my power to run lights out, but sometimes other people are simply better than me. It doesn’t make me compete less, I still put all of me on the line, but helps me to process the end result in a positive and empowering way. My goal might be to win the race, but if I do check off all of my process goals but get sixth, I still come away with a win.
Let’s say your goal is a promotion this year. Striking a balance with that outcome goal is important and can be achieved by giving yourself processes and habit goals to reach promotion. In this way, you set yourself up to get that promotion, but also can still be victorious if they give that job to someone else; you know you did all you could.
Your goal should be tough enough to make you stretch, but not so tough as to be demoralizing and out of reach. It is not motivating to be pouring yourself into a goal that will never accomplished. It is a sure fire way to burn out.
Goals should be relevant to your life. If it is something you don’t care about or can’t see how it pertains to your life, you will be much less likely to follow through. Don’t decide to learn to crochet just to spend time with your grandma even though you don’t really like it. You will never make that blanket. Or if you do, it will take you two and half years. I speak from experience.
Set target dates to ensure completion. Build in check points and deadlines. If it is pertinent, include frequency and how often you will perform the task.
I hope these principles of goal setting help you guys to formulate plans of attack for the new year. If you feel comfortable, feel free to share with me. I would love to hear what you all have cooking!! I am going to write out my own and I will share mine with you next week.