Goal Achievement: How to Write & Achieve Your Sports Goals

There are thousands of people with ‘dreams’ – but only a handful ever make them into reality. How do they do it? Simply, by just:

  1. Committing to their dream – by deciding to do it
  2. Regularly and consistently imagining achieving it
  3. Turning the dream into specific, focused goals
  4. Establishing a step-wise action plan to make it happen.

In the last issue, I spoke about the importance of making a committed decision about your goals, because the only thing that will keep you going when the going gets tough – that will get you up early and working late at night – is a dream, focused into a set of specific goals and action plans. The only thing that will keep you fighting to win when it’s five games to one and match point against you, and it’s hot and you’re tired, is a dream. The only thing that will keep you out there in the cold and rain at training, when you’re soaking wet and uncomfortable, is a dream. The only thing that will get you up and pushing forward to make another tackle in the last minutes of the game when you’re body is bruised and tired, is a dream. Nothing else will.

Recently, I was invited to give a Sportsmind presentation to a group of aspiring young athletes who had just been selected as the best in their sport in their region, and were being inducted into an elite sports training academy. One of the first questions I asked them was how many of them had written down goals. The answer ….. five out of sixty! And these kids were supposedly the great sporting hopes for the region!

I then asked the question: “Well, why don’t people set goals?” They answered with the four most common reasons:

  1. The ‘couldn’t be bothered’ response; the deadly apathetic malaise.
  2. The ‘don’t want to appear different from peers’ response – a typically Australian disease.
  3. The fear of failure – if I don’t set a goal, then I can’t fail at getting it.
  4. The fear of success – how responsible/guilty/afraid I’d feel if I was incredibly successful.

I wonder if I asked you to show me your written down goals for the next six months, twelve months, and three to five years …… would you have anything to show me? If not, why not? Are any of the responses above applicable to you in your sport, career, and life?

You know, a lot of athletes train very hard in the belief that it’s hard training that leads inevitably to success. They read about how their idols train; they copy their gym routines and dietary habits; they do everything physically that they do, believing that if they train hard and do all the things that the top performers do – then they’ll also succeed.
But it doesn’t work that way! The breaks go to the people with dreams and specific goals. You want to have a dream, a goal. Somehow, the dream itself provides the motivation and the means for its own accomplishment.

Every serious sportsperson today knows of the importance of setting goals. However, achieving significant goals in sport, particularly at an elite level, involves more than just the process of setting them. Achieving big goals is a personal management process involving setting a goal, breaking it down into smaller sub-goals, determining a viable action plan, implementing this plan, evaluating progress, adjusting the plan, celebrating achievement, and finally choosing a new goal.

There is power in knowing what you want, and in committing yourself to achieve it, and this is especially true in sport. Champions in every area of life are consistent goal setters and planners. Realise that in six months, you’re going to become some one. In a year, you’ll be doing some thing. In five years, you’re going to be playing at some standard in your sport. In ten years, you’re going to be earning some level of income. Why leave these things to chance, or to the whims of the environment, or someone else’s plans? Why not decide – right now – who you’re going to be, what you’re going to be doing, and what you’re going to have – in twelve months, five years, and ten years from now?

There are two types of goals that you want to be aware of : outcome goals, and process goals. Outcome goals are the end result: winning a match; hitting a bogey free golf round; running under a specific time; being selected for the national team; etc. Process goals are the specific actions, behaviours, moods, and mental processes required to achieve the desired outcome. In recent years, many people have suggested that it is wrong to set and think abut outcome goals; that we ought focus upon and set just process goals.

However both goals are important to success, because without a clearly defined and desired outcome, motivation flags and there can be a loss of direction. What is important is knowing when to focus on outcome and when to focus on process. For instance, consider a journey. At the beginning of the journey you think of your destination – where you want to end up. Then you get in the car and pay attention to the traffic around you; stop at lights and intersections; change gears; accelerate; turn corners; refuel when necessary; and deal with delays and flat tyres along the way. Now just imagine if you didn’t have that destination in mind at the start – what would happen? You’d just hop in the car and start driving, and you might drive extremely well, but you’d end up going nowhere in particular.

Focusing on process goals alone is like that. You want to have a desired outcome and not be afraid of setting it, and going for it. However you also want to have a means by which you’re going to get your outcome – and these are your process goals.

Generally, the time to think about outcome goals is prior to and after a performance; the time to focus on process goals is during a performance. For instance, on your journey you’ll have an accident if you think too much about the hot date you’re doing to visit, but if you don’t want that hot date in the first place, you’ll probably never get the car out of the garage!

There are FOUR areas in which you will want to set goals for yourself :

  1. SPORTS TECHNIQUES (Eg. Ball skills; Stroke; Swing; the skills of your sport)
  2. PHYSICAL FITNESS (Eg. Strength; Speed; Endurance; Agility; Power; Flexibility; etc)
  3. MENTAL & EMOTIONAL FITNESS (Eg. Concentration; Positive Attitude; Confidence; Self Control; Motivation; etc.)
  4. RELATIONSHIPS (Coach; Teammates; Game Officials; Opposition; Friends; Self)

First identify your current abilities, then list the areas you want to improve:
My strengths are: ……………………………………………………………………………………
Areas I want to improve are: …………………………………………………………………..

Now ask yourself :
# How/where do I want to be in six months from now?
# How/where do I want to be in twelve months from now?
# How/where do I want to be in three to five years from now?

Now on a sheet of paper, write down your three most important 6 month, 12 month, 3-5 years, and long term outcome goals. Set goals in all areas of your life, as well as for your sport: career goals; financial goals; study goals; etc. Take fifteen minutes to do this now. As you do this now, remember is that most people over-estimate what they can practically achieve in a year, yet greatly under-estimate what they can achieve in ten years, or over their lifetime.

Also, you want to set yourself goals that are almost out of reach; goals that require great physical, emotional and mental efforts to achieve. Remember that if you aim for mediocre goals, that’s likely what you’ll achieve. If you aim for greatness, you may well reach it. But you’ll never know your true potential and untapped talents until you really test yourself.

Now write a paragraph on why you want to achieve each of these goals; what are the reasons for wanting them? How would you feel if you didn’t achieve them – what would you miss out on? And how are you going to feel when you do achieve each one? Having powerful reasons to achieve your goals can make all the difference. Finally, note the action steps, or process goals, you’re going to do today, tomorrow, next week, next month, etc. to achieve them. 

About Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc.(AES) M.Sc.(Hons)
Jeffrey Hodges is a performance consultant to elite athletes, sporting teams and corporate clients. He is the author of the widely acclaimed “Sportsmind – An Athlete’s Guide to Superperformance Through Mental & Emotional Training” and “Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings”; creator of the Sportsmind performance enhancement workshops and audio tapes; and Director of the Sportsmind Institute for Human Performance Research.

He is a NLP Master Practitioner and Associate Trainer, and his Sportsmind programs have been endorsed by the NSW Dept Sport & Recreation, and recommended by top sportsclubs and successful athletes. Jeffrey has competed in many sports, notably Volleyball, Squash, Soccer and Golf, and currently trains in Aikido, holding a black belt.

Some of his clients to date include :
Australian Rugby Union
St. Joseph’s College
Woodlands Golf Club
Financial Institutions Remuneration Group (FIRG)
Societe Generale
Qld. Swimming
Network for Fitness Professionals
North Sydney and Penrith Rugby League Clubs
Qld. Athletics Assn
NSW Netball Assn
Northern Inland Academy of Sport
Victorian Soaring Assn
Orange Agricultural College Equestrian School
Qld and NSW Departments of Sport and Recreation
Qld Academy of Sport
and the RAAF.

For more information, contact :
FLAXTON Qld. Australia. 4560.
PHONE 61 7 5445 7994
email : jh@sportsmind.com.au
website : www.sportsmind.com.au



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