We all have goals, whether we realize it or not. Some simply act to avoid pain. Others move towards pleasure. A select few systematically set and use their goals to navigate themselves towards exactly what they want in life. Well-stated, monitored, and adjusted goals will help direct attention appropriately, provoke physical action on this focus, improve time management skills, and increase persistence. These goal directed behaviors are not always normal, so if where you’re headed isn’t normal or average either, actually writing down well-formed goals will help you achieve the EXTRAordinary.
Short-term (under a year) goals should have six characteristics. They should be SMART and controllable. That is, they should be [S]pecific, [M]easureable, [A]ttractive, [R]ealistic, [T]imed, and Controllable. It will not, in and of itself, help me to say that I want to be great. I need to define greatness specifically, in controllable and measurable terms. Then I must choose a level that is both attractive and realistic, and a date by which I will reach this level. For example, a softball hitter may commit to having quality at-bats two-thirds of the time by April 1– where a quality at-bat is one where she sees each pitch well, makes all good decisions about whether or not to swing, and then either gets a base hit, advances a runner (when trying more to advance the runner than get a base hit), or hit the ball very hard.
Short-term goals must be monitored and adjusted. This is what separates the goal setting process from setting New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions are usually set on January 1 and forgotten about by January 15. Adjusting goals so that they remain both attractive and realistic is critical to maintain motivation and prevent frustration. This monitoring process will also keep goals relevant and help increase awareness of what controllable factors (behaviors) are working and should be repeated, and which are not and should be changed. Key point: goal setting is an ongoing process, not a one-time thing.
Formal daily and/or weekly goal setting as described has been consistently shown to increase the quality of a person’s behavior and outcomes. This is true across the board, plus this process is particularly powerful for people who have or had Attention Deficit Disorder. Despite this, following this procedure is rare. If you decide to invest the time into goal setting and commit to your goals (rather than just being interested in them), give yourself a pat on the back. If you want some forms to make this monitoring process easier, email Coach Traub at aaron@CoachTraub.com and he’ll send them to you – free (or buy his book – it’s in there).
Aaron Weintraub has been coaching athletes for 19 years, 13 of which he spent as a college baseball coach. He is a disciple of the late, great Harvey Dorfman, who wrote The Mental Game of Baseball and other books.
Weintraub published his own book, Coaches Guide to Winning the Mental Game, in 2009 and added An Elite Athlete’s Manual for Training Mental Skills in 2011.