I commonly ask athletes through coaching sessions about their goal setting process. I ask if they set goals for their races. The majority of them actually do. My next question is, does that serve you well? While goals are great, something I believe in wholeheartedly, they can cause an undesirable amount of stress within competition. For those of you who do set competition goals, I am going to offer up a different strategy that may just help you overachieve due to a reduction in anxiety and stress. Are you ready?
Let’s get to it..
First, goals are important and are proven to not only direct action and attention, they also increase persistence. Locke and Latham reviewed 500 prior studies regarding goal setting that included 50,000 subjects and found that specific goals which were challenging lead to higher levels of performance than easier goals or even no goals at all. If you want a higher level of performance, set a more challenging goal. How much motivation you have depends upon the goals you set. To obtain achievements at a high level, you must have REAL, VIVID and LIVING goals. This helps you to keep on track and commit to the necessary work.
For your next race, speak with your coach about the goal you would like to achieve. What kind of goal do you want to accomplish? There are three kinds of goals. They are outcome, performance and process goals. An example of an outcome goal would be to win a specific race or event, perhaps a certain ranking. Outcome goals are actually not totally in your control. They depend upon your competition. You could potentially compete poorly and win or even compete at a high level and lose. It really depends upon the competition. Performance goals are about you. Performance goals involve working towards bettering your best. You compare yourself against your previous results. You can control performance goals. Process goals focus on a specific skill. This would include items like your run gate or your swim stroke. The byproduct of mastering your processes includes an increase in confidence and a reduction in anxiety. Outcome goals (Winning or Losing) are important however when looking to get better, focus on performance and process goals. As you improve your performance and your processes, your outcome goals will come as a result. Focus on the process, not the outcome.
“I was taught that if you really want to reach goals, you can’t spend any time worrying about whether you’re going to win or lose. Focus on getting better.” - Stefi Graf Spent 337 weeks at WTA #1 Ranking
So, work with your coach to develop goals in all three areas. From here, your coach will create a plan for you to work through. This plan should be set based upon YOUR goal, if you don't own the goal, you will most likely not commit to it.
Back to your training… This is where you should be focusing on meeting your goal by mastering the skills necessary to achieve it. For those who do not master their process skills, they have to consciously think about performing each task as well as everything else. This takes brainpower away from other things. You want to function almost on autopilot during your race. By functioning on autopilot, your mind is freed up to overcome any challenge or opportunity that comes along the way.
If you have completed the prescribed training your coach has developed for you, as Jeremy Brown states “The race is the victory lap to your training”. This is where you should be enjoying yourself. Smile and get excited. Trust in your training and enjoy the moment. Look around you and take it all in. You are doing what only .0001% of the people on earth have done. Look at you!!!
Without goals, one doesn't get motivated! Let's get to it!
*Note – For those who are trying to place for a specific position. There may be a time when it’s down to the last part of the run and someone is pulling on you. This is where lions roar. As once said “everyone wants to be a Lion until you have to do what Lions do!” This is where you push yourself to keep your position. Barring any risk to injury, put the pedal to the medal and leave it all out there!