by Maren Oslac
Recently I read an article by US Olympian, Lanny Basham, that made me rethink my 2018 goals. Yes, I have goals… and if you are anything like me, you’ve probably fallen victim to the completely untrue, and very self destructive thought, “if the goal is reached then I am a successful person, but if I miss the goal then I’m no good!”
Although it is not reality, it can still worm it’s way in… and we suddenly find ourselves a bit unsure and a bit ‘goal gun-shy’. The good news is, there’s a solution!
So let’s talk goals! Most people set goals in one of two ways; ‘go-big’ or ‘be realistic’. There are benefits and pitfalls of each… AND a third possibility.
Many experts recommend setting ‘realistic’ goals that are attainable. This builds self-esteem and avoids the ‘not good enough’ demon mentioned above. Incremental improvement… is all well and good, and may stave off a bit of negative self talk, but in the end, realistic goals just don’t motivate us.
Not one champion, in any discipline, has used setting realistic goals, successfully, to get to the top.
Why? To quote our Olympic medal winner, Lanny Basham, “There is nothing realistic about winning a Gold Medal in the Olympics, setting a world record, or reaching a dominant status in your sport.”
So, that brings us to the ‘go big’ goals. If ‘realistic’ or ‘incremental’ goals are not the path of the champion, surely ‘big’ goals are the answer, right? Yes, and… there has to be more. While this is the place for these goals, they are best supported by, or in conjunction with, a third type of goal (that we’ll get to in a moment-cliffhanger!)
First, let’s talk about the two foundational principles for a ‘go big’ or ‘rock star’ goal, since this is where we want to start.
- It has to be specific.
- It has to have a component of time.
“My goal is to win every competition and beat everyone” – while it has potential, it’s way too vague and has no urgency to motivate the actions necessary to become the person who could reach that goal. “My goal is to get first place at x, y & z competitions this year and beat my personal best at each event”. This version has specific components that can be understood and visualized, within a clear time frame.
Ok, now here’s the hard part, goal is set, it’s big, it’s clear, and it’s still not enough. Yep, you are going to come up short.
Why? It’s an outcome goal, and we have no control over outcomes.
Seeing ourselves as Champions can motivate us, but to really own our greatness, we can’t be focused on the outcome of the event, we have to focus on the process of performing well enough to win.
Putting your attention on what it takes to become the person that can win is what will allow you to become that very person. Allowing the placement or score to be the center of your focus leaves you without any control. To achieve any goal, at some point there needs to be a plan, a process to get there, focusing on, and surrendering to, that process will give you the tools to become the person that can win.
You are now focused on something you, and you alone, can control… your process.
To quote Lanny again, “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.”
So how do we use this information? Personally, I set my goals BIG, I see myself as that person, and then I use that BIG vision to create clear process goals, things over which I have control… scheduled coaching sessions, execution of technical moves, rehearsal of my state of mind and attitude… all the internal, and ecternal means to the ends I desire.
This way, regardless of outcome (the outer measurement over which I have no control) I have a means to measure the person I’ve become in the process; the progress that is guaranteed to happen when action is put into process goals. My own internal (and external) growth.
This past year I decided to compete in Line Dance for the first time ever. We had implemented a line program to help our students better their couples dancing, and it was super successful. I joined our students and began my own journey. Line Dance was completely outside of my comfort zone and would challenge every aspect of my dancing, and my own personal self-image.
My ‘go-big’ goal was to win at the World Championships in both my divisions. (This is no small feat… because I teach dance for a living, I was required to enter the Advanced division – putting me up against people who have been doing this discipline for years!)
My process goals included carving out daily practice and visualization routines, finding the best coaches for myself, and changing the image that I have of myself as a couples dancer – to include being a champion line dancer.
I did not achieve my ‘go big’ goal this year (although, I did get on the podium in one of my divisions!) I did, however, accomplish my process goals.
I now have time in my schedule for my own practice and visualization, I have a new coach and my self image includes that of a champion line dancer. In addition, my personal dancing improved, I learned more to help my students, and I know that I have what it takes to stand at the top of that podium, in both my divisions, at this year’s World Championships.
Have you set your goals for this year?
If not, likely you will find yourself, in sport, and life, behind someone who does …so get going!
If so, add the support of process goals. Start by asking yourself, “Who do I need to become to accomplish this? What will I need to do, (add, subtract, change) for this to happen?” Maybe you need to work on your confidence and mental attitude in addition to your technical skills. No matter who you are, winning requires both internal and external, both mental and physical skills and growth.
Setting process goals helps not only going forward, but when you look back over the year, a placement won’t be all that you see, and won’t define you (good-bye negative self-talk, hello self-esteem!) You’ll be celebrating all your internal an external developments, and thinking about where your next set of ‘go-big’ goals could take you!
Finally, be sure to think beyond your ‘go-big’ goal for when you do achieve what you’ve set, and give some consideration to setting goals SO BIG that they become multi year goals! Those are just outright fun, why not go for it!