CAN BE A VERY LONELY BUSINESS.
In regards to training, keeping yourself motivated will
reduce the distance between where you are and where you
want to be. Setting goals can save you from losing your
Anyone interested in athletics will be aware of the
achievements of the US 200m and 400m sprinter Michael
Getty Images/SHAW Ezra
rewrote the record books when he became the only
man ever to win both 200m and 400m Olympic gold
medals, at the 1996 Olympics.
However, according to the man himself, his achievements
were based not purely on talent but on hard physical
conditioning, mental strength, a clear vision of
where he wanted to go, and a plan of how to get
Not everyone has the talent to be a Michael Johnson, but
anyone can achieve significant improvements in performance
by means of effective goal-setting.
Research on goal-setting in the worlds of business and
in sport and exercise has consistently shown that it can
lead to enhanced performance.
In fact, a recent meta-analysis (statistical technique
used to evaluate the data from a whole series of experiments)
showed that goal-setting led to performance enhancement
in 78% of sport and exercise research studies, with moderate
to strong effects.
Goal-setting is a powerful technique that appears to work
by providing a direction for our efforts, focusing our
attention, promoting persistence and increasing our confidence
(providing we achieve the goals we set ourselves).
SHORT TERM GOALS
The key to success
Top athletes like Michael Johnson have understood that,
although dream goals such as Olympic gold medals are important
in helping to direct our efforts, it is the day- to-day
short-term goals that provide the key to success.
GOALS are the ones that seem a long way off and
difficult to achieve. In time terms, they may be anything
from six months to several years away;
INTERMEDIATE GOALS are markers of where you want
to be at a specific time. For example, if your dream
goal was to lower your 400m PB by one second over 10
months, an intermediate goal could be a half second
improvement after five months;
SHORT TERM GOALS are the most important because
they provide a focus for our training in each and every
session. Past research on Olympic athletes found that
setting daily training goals was one factor that distinguished
successful performers from their less successful counterparts.
For every week and each training session you should
decide what you need to do in order to take another
small step towards the next intermediate goal, and ultimately
towards your dream goal.
Focusing on one small step at a time and achieving
that goal developed confidence, and confidence
allowed us to move on to more challenging targets.
According to sport psychologist Terry Orlick, there
are four prerequisites for successful goal-setting.
First, you need to decide what you want develop
Secondly, you must be committed, so your goals must
be worth striving for;
Thirdly, you have to believe that the goals you set
Goals that are too easy to achieve provide little motivation;
but, on the other hand, unrealistically difficult goals
can lead to loss of confidence and eventual rejection
of the goal.
The fourth prerequisite for successful goal-setting
specified by Orlick is to focus on one step at a time.
In beginning the process of setting goals, its important
to be specific and realistic about what you are striving
to achieve. Ditch such vague goals as, to get fit
or to do my best for more objective alternatives.
Objective goals allow the sports performer to measure
progress and re-evaluate the goal if targets prove either
too difficult or too easy.
The types of goals set in sport and exercise typically
reflect what psychologists have identified as outcome,
performance and process goals. All three
are valuable in guiding athletes towards higher standards
of performance, although you need an awareness of some
of the potential pitfalls with these goals.
Outcome Goals tend to focus on an objective competitive
result, such as beating an opponent, but they can never
be completely under your control since the ability and
form of your opponents on the day can influence the result.
Outcome goals can provide motivation, but focusing purely
on the result can lead to increased anxiety.
Alternatively you could set a Performance Goal,
which are set in the context of comparisons with your
own previous performances, such as completing more press-ups
this week than last weeks total. Performance goals tend
to be more flexible and within your control. In the event
of injury, performance goals can be easily readjusted
to provide meaningful and realistic targets.
Process Goals are to do with the actions or techniques
that are required to achieve success. When practicing
precisions for example, a traceur may focus on an imaginary
point 30cm beyond that of the target.
One recent study found better results when using a combination
of goal strategies (outcome, performance and process goals)
than either one alone.
Most people set goals that are too difficult rather than
too easy, which commonly leads to the rejection of those
Once rejected, the goals no longer direct our efforts
or our focus. It is also important to avoid setting too
many goals. Instead, focus on one dream goal, perhaps
two or three intermediate targets and two short-term goals
for todays session. Thats enough to start
with, but be sure to give your short-term goals the highest
priority. Through achieving these you will naturally progress
towards the intermediate targets.
Goal-setting is a smart move for athletes who want to
develop their self-confidence, increase their levels of
motivation and achieve higher standards of performance.
Remember that time spent in preparation is worth it and
can prevent disappointments. Take the advice of athletes
like Michael Johnson and use goal-setting to change small
steps into great feats.
To help remember the key principles of goal-setting you
need to think SMARTER. That is, your goals should be:
Indicate precisely what is to be done. Avoid vague alternatives;
You should be able to quantify your goal;
Goals must be accepted as worthwhile, realistic and attainable;
Write your goals down. This is the basis of a contract
Set specific time-limits;
Monitor your progress regularly;
In the event of injury, or failure to achieve over-difficult
goals, reset your goals accordingly.
Singer, R, Hausenblas, H, & Janelle, C (Eds), Handbook
of Sport Psychology, Wiley, New York, 2001.
The Sport Psychologist, vol 15, pp20-47, 2001.
Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, vol 17, pp117-137,
The Sport Psychologist, vol 2, pp105-130, 1988.
Orlick, T, In Pursuit of Excellence, 4th edition, Human
Kinetics, USA, 2000.
Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, vol 11, pp230-246,
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