Monday, 10 February 2014

Goal Setting - Part II

Last week I blogged about the importance of goal setting in the context of both performance and lifestyle management.  This week I wanted to go into a bit more detail about effective how to set effective goals, and outline some of the different type of goals which can motivate us in different ways.

The acrimony SMART (or SMARTER) is often used in the field of sports psychology to determine what makes up an effective goal, though discrepancies exist in what each of the letters stand for.  Here are just two of the many descriptions that I have come across:

Specific – Target a specific area for improvement.  Non-specific goals can be irrelevant or difficult to define
Measurable – Will you know when you have achieved your goal?
Aspiration or Ambitious – Is the goal stretching?  Easy goals don’t inspire or motivate us.
Realistic – Is the goal achievable?
Time-related – When do you want to achieve the results by?
Evaluated – Check that you are progressing towards your goal and adjust
Re-evaluated – Keep checking that you are progressing towards your goal

Specific – make them as precise and detailed as possible
Measurable – a method by which you can quantify or rate your current position and then determine the amount of improvement required
Accepted – goals need to be shared and negotiated with all others involved
Realistic – the goal is realistic yet challenging
Time phased – date is set for when the goal is to be achieved by
Exciting – goal motivated the individual
Recorded – the goal and progress towards it are recorded

Together these two definitions cover all but one aspect of what makes up a good goal.  I’ll come back to the other in a moment, but I just wanted to highlight the importance of a goal being exciting.  Some of us are excited by challenging goals; some of us are excited by working towards shared goals as part of a team; some of us (particularly those who are extrinsically motivated), are excited by the final outcome and the fame, fortune or reward that achieving the goal will achieve.  Find what excites you, and set your goals accordingly.  Think about how achieving your goals will make you feel.

The final thing that a goal should be is ‘positively phrased.’ This is where goal setting and mental imagery cross over.  The value of positively phrased goals is probably best demonstrated in the following example:
Negatively phrased goal: To not let people pass me in the home straight of an 800m
Positively phrased goal: To stay ahead in the home straight of an 800m
These two goals set about to achieve the very same result, but the athlete with the first goal will imagine himself being passed when he reads his goal, while the second athlete is likely to imagine himself feeling strong and staying ahead of the pack when he rereads his goal.  Very subtle wording adjustments can really help our goals to be more effective.

Types of goals
Not all goals are the same.  In fact there are three main categories of goal; all of which are important.  They are:

Outcome goals – these are goals where the outcome depends on winning or achieving a particular result.  Outcome goals are highly motivational, particularly in the long-term, but sometimes the result is completely beyond the control of the individual.  An athlete might aim to make the Olympic Games.  They might achieve the qualifying time, but still not be selected to compete.  Similarly a team might aim to win a national title.  They might play the game of their lives in the final, but just come up against a better team on the day, or be defeated as a result of incorrect referring decisions.

Performance goals  - these can be very similar to outcome goals, but give a little bit more control back to the athlete.  With performance goals and athlete sets a specific standard which they want to achieve.  For a track athlete that might be to run 4 minutes for the mile; or for a gymnast it might be to achieve a specific score for their floor routine.  Achieving performance goals is usually unaffected by the performance of others, and are highly effective in monitoring progress towards long-term outcome goas.  Athletes can achieve their performance goals without winning.  Extensically-motivated athletes may be more excited by outcome goals, while intrinsically-motivated athletes can be sufficiently motivated by performance goals.

Process goals – these relate to perfecting a strategy or technique necessary to perform well.  The athlete has complete control over process goals, and process goals can help to reduce anxiety and precompetition nerves.  Examples of a process goal for a long jumper might be to maintain controlled rhythm during the run up.  A golfer might focus on their putting technique and tennis player might focus on their forehand technique.  A series of process goals can be set working towards a medium or long term performance of outcome goal.

1. Write down your goal (s) for the coming year.  Try to set an outcome, a process and a performance goal.
2. Are your goals intrinsically or extrinsically motivated?  Are they exciting to you?
3. Check that each goal is positively phrased.  Can you imagine yourself achieving your goals?
4. Double-check that each of your goals meets the criteria for a SMARTER goal, and adjust accordingly.

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