GOAL SETTING: THE BEGINNING OF THE FOUNDATION
"An intelligent plan is the first step to success. The man who knows where he is going and who knows what progress he is making, has a pretty good idea when he will arrive. Planning is the open road to your destination. If you don't know where you are going, how can you expect to get there?"
Basil S. Walsh
Setting goals? For many of us, it is a fleeting thought, but never followed through. Although you are fairly disciplined as evidenced by reading this magazine and going to RallySport to exercise, how many of you have a goal associated with exercising? Oh yes, that New Year's Resolution. You are motivated now to lose some of those pounds or to run faster, but how are you going to sustain that motivation two or six months from now? Having goals will help you stay motivated and give you a sense of purpose for what you are doing.
Dream vs. Goal. A dream is what you want. Of the many definitions of a dream, the most profound for this article is that it is "a vision voluntarily indulged in while awake," an aspiration. Goals are the action steps to achieve your dream.
The purpose of goal setting is to:
1. Keep you on track. I relate this to guard rails while driving on mountain roads. The rails keep you from straying.
2. Give you direction in both your athletic, personal and professional life.
3. Give you a chance to reach your potential. If you have no goals, then how do you know if you have been successful? Goals help determine when and what is success. Reaching a goal allows you to congratulate yourself for the effort you have put in to reach the goal.
4. Maximize your activity and energy. If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there. I am sure you know people who work all the time and get no where. They are like a ship without a rudder, going in circles. Goals give you the rudder to go in the direction of your dream.
5. Measure your results. You will have concrete and tangible evidence when you have reached your goal.
There are two types of goals. A long term goal may be two or three years away. I liken this in the athletic arena such as competing an Ironman distance triathlon or marathon. To reach the long term goal, you need short term goals such as first doing an Olympic distance triathlon or 10K run, then competing in a half Ironman distance triathlon or half marathon; thus building your training and racing through experiences to prepare you for the longer distance event.
To help achieve your short term goals consider the following:
1. Share your goals with others. Peer pressure can be fun. It also makes you more accountable to follow through with your goals. Friends can help remind you of your goals when you lack motivation.
2. Make your short-term goals compatible with your long-term goals. As you strive to achieve your short term goals, make sure you are training with the focus of your long term objective. Doing track workouts of 100s and 200s is not the best way to prepare for a half marathon. If you are successful with short-term goals, your long-term goals will fall into place.
Goals are not only athletic, but also beneficial with other areas of your life such as family and work. Aside from being a triathlon coach, I am a realtor and I came across an interesting survey. A group of realtors were asked if they had goals for their profession. 83% of the realtors said they had no goals! 14% of the respondents had unwritten goals. 3% of the people had written their goals down. The 14% who had unwritten goals earned 300% more than those who had no specific goals. Those realtors that wrote specific goals earned 1000% more than those who had no specific goals. By having goals in work, you can accomplish financial success more quickly; creating more time to achieve your athletic goals.
For racing, what should you consider when setting up goals?
1. What distance? In triathlon, having a long term goal such as in the same season being the top amateur in your age group at both the Olympic distance and the Ironman distance will be difficult as well as take a superior genetic composition. Training for both of these distances is equivalent to training for the mile and the marathon at the same time.
2. How many races do you want to do? If your goal is to have a successful Ironman, then racing eight triathlons before it in the same season might be a detriment to your success.
3. What destinations? This is one point where your spouse/family can have input. One of my athletes determines his race season through his wife as she decides what races to attend. This allows her to have input and also gives here something to look forward to since they sacrifice time spent together so he can train.
Goals must be important to you:
Early motivation often fades without a goal. You need to have an inner drive to maintain what you have set. Hypothetically, if one day I decide to excel in bowling because I want to impress my girlfriend, that desire might fade if we broke up. Thus, my desire to achieve wasn't any inner desire. In an initial questionnaire to athletes I coach, I ask them on a scale of 1-15, with 15 being the highest priority, and taking into account all aspects of life, what number is triathlon? Their response determines how hard I push them in reaching their triathlon goals.
Goals must have a time allocated to it.
How much time do you have to train per day, per week, per month and per year? Your goals should take into account if you are only able to train thirty minutes a day compared to having the ability to train three hours a day. You have to determine your goals based on reality.
Goals must be measurable - clearly defined.
You need to know if you are getting closer to your goal. Just as you might have financial goals in your work life such as salary levels one and three years from now, you want to have definitive goal times.
Goals must be under your control.
You must be able to control your goal, trying to have the least amount of outside influences effect it. For example, qualifying to make the Hawaii Ironman might be considered a goal, but on the other hand, you don't know who will be racing at that specific race since there are several Ironman qualifying races. The depth of field may vary widely between races. This is where a time goal is a definite benefit. However, there are always ifs in sports where the environment can't be controlled. For instance, you may have a goal of beating your previous year's Boulder Peak Triathlon time; however, this year's race was hotter and windier. Although your time was slower than the previous year, you may have accomplished more at this year's race, not reflected by your time. In addition, your time goal must be realistic; a hilly course will not be the same as a flat course. There is also the question of accuracy. You cannot get caught up in this. Although I play the devil's advocate, you need to have a way to determine goals and time is a great indicator.
Goals must be a challenge, yet be achievable. If the "bar" of the goal is set too low, then you will quickly lose motivation. If the "bar" is too high, then you will deem the goal as futile and most likely give up. For instance a goal to swim 1500 meters in 14:34, which is the world record, is not realistic as last year you swam 24 minutes for that distance. Have realistic targets that you and others, such as your family, can live with. Be conservative if just getting started.
Goals must be in the positive, not the negative. Do not say don't, say do.
Have goals where you can visually see them. These will be constant reminders. Favorite places to place goals are on a bedpost, as a bookmark, placed on the mirror in the bathroom, attached below the car rearview mirror, on the desk, placed on the edge of the computer screen or even on bike handle bars.
Goals are not written in stone and you can adjust them. Take a moment and write down two dreams. Then write down ten goals to have your dream come true.
Wes coaches masters swimming on Fridays. He also coaches triathletes and is a realtor. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.