Words: Andrea Kellerman, Educational Psychologist
A successful athlete is someone who is totally driven, committed and passionate about what they do and achieving their goals. They are also aware that to be successful, they need to set smart goals.
Setting smart goals is very important as it not only gives you something to work towards but also improves the likelihood of success. Although this may sound obvious, many athletes start training before they have established what their goals are and all too often don't achieve the success they were looking for. Then there's the reverse situation where athletes have set their goals, but find them too difficult to achieve. So here are some of the reasons why we fail to achieve our goals and how to set SMART goals instead.
First, you need to ask yourself if you want to achieve these goals as a result of your own wishes or the wishes of others? It is vital that your mind and emotions are in tune with the goals you are setting because if you are not passionate about achieving certain goals, you will most likely not achieve them. For your goal setting to be smart, your goals must be:
S - Specific
Create a specific plan of how you can achieve your goal. It is too vague to say, “I want to perform better.”" Create a detailed and clear plan of exactly how you want to achieve this goal. To help you do this, a specific goal will usually answer the five 'W' questions:
• What: What do I want to accomplish?
• Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
• Who: Who is involved?
• Where: Identify a location.
• Which: Identify requirements and constraints.
M - Meaningful
The goal must be meaningful to YOU and something you want to achieve.
It doesn’t help to train for something simply because your coach tells you that you have the talent and ability to win the competition or race when you don't really enjoy the sport.
A - Attainable
You must be able to reach your goal. Start with small steps and consider all the negatives and positives. Ask yourself what obstacles could be in your way and try to find a way around them. When training, think of your next training session and try to better yourself in the now, instead of thinking of the entire path you still have to follow to get to your goal. Only looking at the end result can be too overwhelming and might make you feel like giving up.
R - Realistic
Your goals must be realistic. Many people set unrealistic goals, for example, losing 20 kg in three weeks. Unrealistic goals will only serve to discourage you, making you feel like you have no will power and that you have failed. Be realistic with your training programme, for example, training too much can make you feel exhausted and lower your immune system. On the other hand, too little will hinder your progress. Also keep in mind how much time you have available, family and work obligations, and other responsibilities.
T - Time limit
Set time limits for your goals. If you do not have a time limit, you may forget about your goals and won’t feel the need to work on them every day.
Now that you know how to set SMART goals, it is important to write them down. Goals that are written down have more meaning, as we are making them a reality. Make sure that you write down short- and long-term goals. The short-term goals can be goals for the next few weeks and months, and the long-term goals can be goals for the next three years. Those goals need to be broken down into smaller milestones so that you can measure if you are still on track. Don’t be too rigid, you can make changes if necessary. Also, have a plan B if your steps can't be completed by a certain time. Athletes who get injured and are unable to train for a period of time should not give up because they can't stay on track. Rather work out a different training programme that will still allow you to achieve your goal. It might be better to see the break as a rest period, which can also make you feel stronger and allow you to grow as a competitor.
Don’t write down too many goals otherwise you might feel overwhelmed. Write your goals down in the form of a list and look at which goals are most important and which ones can be achieved a bit later. Rearrange them accordingly!
When prioritising your goals, it also helps to start with a goal you feel most passionate about, as this will motivate you to work harder to achieve it. Always try to understand the reasons for wanting to achieve a certain goal because this knowledge will make you feel more positive about the goal.
Hang your list of goals in a place where you spend a lot of time, to remain focused and on track. Visualise yourself having achieved what you wanted to and be persistent because motivation alone is not always enough. Tick off each milestone you have achieved every day or week. Reflect on your training sessions and races, and identify where you have improved compared to the last session or race. This is an amazing feeling; celebrate all your achievements - no matter how small they are! You will be astonished by how quickly you can make your goals become reality.
Once you make this type of goal setting part of your everyday life, you will not only be more likely to achieve your sporting goals but also your personal and work-related goals.
If you need help with setting SMART goals for yourself,
visit Andrea Kellerman’s website www.eq-advantedge.co.za to learn more about this topic.