Goal Setting – Process Or Outcome

So, what are your goals for this season? If you haven’t set them there is a good chance that you will be beaten by someone who has. Goal setting is a common practice among the winners. We are going to look at goal setting in this article, why it works for some and is ineffective for others.

Goal setting is not easy to do and here is why. First, there are two common methods of setting goals that most people try and neither of them work; realistic goal setting and big-sky.

Some competitors believe that you should always attain your goals so they try to set realistic goals. This means they will look at what they did last year and move up the scoring a bit and that will be their expectation for this year. Sound good? I don’t know a single Olympic Gold Medalist that used this method successfully. Why? Because there is nothing realistic about winning a Gold Medal in the Olympics or setting a world record or reaching a dominant status in your sport. Big goals are more irrational than realistic. If you want to be realistic you had better keep your goals low. Do that and you will be beaten so often that you will soon begin to doubt the system and abandon it. I see this happen all too often. Another variant of this system is to be vague in defining your goal. “I want to perform better this year!” Really! What does BETTER mean?

OK, so let’s just do the other system. I call it big-sky. The advantage of this system is that there are no upper limits to the goals. “My goal is to win every competition this year, breaking all of the records and beating everyone.” You’ve got to admit this sounds appealing. Who wouldn’t want to have a year like that! If you try this system you are almost guaranteed to miss your goal. Most competitors who have banner years rarely, if ever, anticipate that it would happen just that way. The BEST years of the BEST performer are rarely foreseen in advance. Why? I believe it is because the best performers are not thinking about outcome. They are thinking about process.

Both of these flawed goal setting systems are outcome oriented and that is the big problem. The focus is on score or whether you win the competition. It should be on the process of getting a score that can win the competition. Once you take your mind off of your score and focus on the process of performing well, you are dealing with something you alone can control. You cannot control what score will win a competition. You cannot control what other competitors will do and often you cannot even predict with accuracy what score will win a competition. But you can predict process. Process is what you can control and only what you can control.

You can predict and control how many days a week you train. You can control the discipline of your efforts. You can control what you choose to think about and do. You can control the competitions you enter and how you choose to train for them. You can control who your teachers are and the systems you use. My advice is to only set goals on things that YOU can control. Keep your focus on you, not your competitors. Rehearse in your mind the process of executing a combination of mental feelings and technical moves that get you where you want to be.

Most books on goal setting are outcome oriented and I have a problem with that. I have no problem with setting a goal to win a tournament, move up in a class or to make a team if you are setting the goal to identify the process of attaining the goal. Perhaps we should define attainment because attainment and accomplishment are not the same thing. Accomplishment is all about outcome and it is important. We determine who wins by accomplishment. It is the score or the color of medal. What it does not measure is what you’ve learned or your growth as a competitor. It does not measure who you have BECOME.

Attainment is the total of accomplishment and becoming. Accomplishment is how you measure the EXTERNAL and becoming is how you measure the INTERNAL. Attainment is more than just a way to measure the outcome. It also reflects who the person has become. It is a mirror to life; a snapshot of who this competitor is as well as how high she can score. We compete on the field as we compete in life. We become competitors. We become champions. We don’t just obtain champion scores. Attainment, consisting of becoming something, should be our goal not simply accomplishment.

You do this by goal setting for both what you want to accomplish AND who you wish to become in the process. There’s that word again; PROCESS. If you goal set to win a certain event this year also ask yourself “Who do I need to become along with what I need to accomplish for this to happen?” This will help you to look at more than score and to determine the things you need to change about you to reach your goals. Perhaps you need to develop the confidence that you can perform well and not just the skills needed to perform well. Do you need greater control over your attitude in adversity? Winning is the total package. It is control over both the mental and physical processes. We become skilled. We become confident. We become champions!

Setting goals helps you to plan and that’s beneficial but there are dangers to avoid as well. One mistake that many make is to equate their worth as a person with whether they reach their goals or not. If the goal is reached then I am a successful person but if I miss the goal then I’m no good!

Secondly, if you are going to goal set remember to always have another goal to attempt once you’ve attained the one you are presently seeking. If not, you might feel a bit lost when you reach the current goal. That happened to me after winning the Olympics. I was depressed for a while and did not know why. I felt much better when I identified a new goal to work toward.

Finally, it is best to set goals for more than one year. For example, you want to win the Nationals. Goal set to win the Nationals within the next two years. This takes just a bit of pressure off of having to do it ONLY this year. Think about it. Who cares what year you did it. What is important is that you did it. By giving yourself two years you just might avoid trying too hard this year at the event and that might be just enough of an advantage to give you the title.

Goal setting is important but you must be careful to avoid the pitfalls that await you in the process. (There is that word again.)

Author of the books “With Winning in Mind” and “Freedom Flight – The Origins of Mental Power”, Olympic Gold Medalist, Lanny Bassham has been teaching mental training to athletes, business professionals and performers for three decades. His Mental Management® System has been used and endorsed by Olympians, World Champions and PGA Tour Players. Lanny is an Olympic Coach, member of the Olympic Shooting Hall of Fame and ranks third among all shooters in total international medal count for the USA. To learn more about Lanny Bassham or his company Mental Management Systems check out his website at http://www.mentalmanagement.com