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Everything You Never Knew You Needed to Know About Goal Setting... and Then Some!

Hello 2024! Welcome to goal setting season!


While there is nothing wrong with setting the simple goal of ‘running faster’ or ‘lifting heavier’, it can be difficult to achieve. How much faster are you looking to run!?! How heavy do you want to lift!?! Be SMART with your goal setting! You may or may not have heard of SMART goals, so here’s to the art of setting SMART goals.

Goal Setting - Smart Goals

Specific


A goal should be specific in nature, so you can understand what you are trying to achieve. Just saying I would like to improve my 5k time is vague, unmotivating and does not evoke inspiration. Remember, you want to do more than just ‘run faster’! A perfect example of a specific goal would be I want to improve my 5k from 29:00 to 28:00. We’re going to reference Goal-Setting Theory here… “specific hard goals result in a higher level of performance than no goals or [the] generalized goal of ‘do your best’”. [1] So, set specific goals that are challenging, but not so difficult that they’re impossible to achieve – more on this later!


Measurable


A goal should be measurable, so you can see the progress you are making toward achieving the goal. Our perfect example above, I want to improve my 5k from 29:00 to 28:00, is measurable in many ways: you could enter a local 5k race (hello, #MedalMonday) or you could run a 5k at the local track using your smart watch to test your current fitness. This next thought is important… seeing progress is crucial to goal attainment. If you cannot measure your progress, how do you know you are taking steps to achieving your goal? So, make sure your goals are measurable!


Achievable


A goal is meant to inspire and motivate you, not be so challenging that is it unattainable. More Goal-Setting Theory here… when a goal is too difficult, “individuals will have a tendency to lose motivation and possibly give up when they fall short of the goal. Conversely, goals that are too easy do not present a challenge to individuals, which leads to becoming complacent and exerting less than minimal effort”. [1] We’re all for shooting for the stars, but just make sure you set goals that are within reach with a bit of hard work.


Relevant


A goal should be relevant to what you are trying to achieve. In goal setting, you must ensure there are benefits to the goals you create. An endurance athlete creating a goal to better their 100m sprint time does not necessarily align with other endurance goals. The athlete in our perfect example, I want to improve my 5k from 29:00 to 28:00, should focus on setting goals that will benefit their 5k training. Let’s just clear one thing up here – we are in no way suggesting endurance athletes should not work on their speed (we are 2fast twins® after all!), merely that goals need to be relevant.


Time


All goals should include a time element, as excluding a time element detracts from the specificity of the goal. Let’s add to our perfect example, I want to improve my 5k from 29:00 to 28:00 within three months. While we are sure you understand this, we feel the need to point out that time relates to a duration of time (i.e., three months). Adding a time element to your goals gives you feedback on your progress. Without a deadline, there is no motivation to attain the goal by a certain date. The time element is one of the most critical parts of creating SMART goals, so make sure to include it when goals setting!


Focus On Your Goals


One Step Further


Want to take your SMART goals to the next level? Yes, please! Then add more specificity to them! Explain how you are going to achieve your goals and what actions you might take to achieve them. Let’s bring back our perfect example and spice it up even further: I want to improve my 5k time from 29:00 to 28:00 within three months by running four days a week and including a day of strength training. The more specific the goal, the more you can account for how you are going to achieve it!

 

We promised you an epic short series on types of goals, the goal setting process, and how goals influence performance and while we knocked the SMART goals section out of the park, we still must discuss the different types of goals – outcome goals, performance goals, and process goals – to better understand the goals setting process.


Reach Your Goals in Alphabet Letters

Outcome Goals


Outcome goals are long-term and are usually the culmination of a season, career, or event. Outcome goals are characterized as being driven by purpose and emotion. Athletes do not have as much control over the outcome of these goals, and they are less adaptable or more concrete in nature. Let’s look at an example: I want to break 4 hours in the marathon. This goal is defined by a concrete time standard, gives the athlete purpose, and creates an emotional connection between the athlete and the goal.


Performance Goals


Performance goals are aimed at a specific and measurable standard of performance. Athletes have more control over the outcome of these goals, and they are more adaptable than the aforementioned outcome goals. Performance goals are characterized as being driven by purpose and focus, as well as emotion and data. Example time: I want to consistently run 5 x 1000m repeats in 4:00. This goal is defined by the performance of the athlete, not a win/lost outcome, giving the athlete both an emotional response and the statistical data to interpret.


Process Goals


Process goals are skill-based and have the most controllability and adaptability of the three types of goals. Athletes use these goals to derive data and guide focus and attention to improve critical movement tasks. Finally, our last example: I want to improve my arm swing motion during speedwork sessions to improve efficiency. This goal is defined by correcting functional tasks and creating data to improve performance. Additionally, it allows the athlete to take emotion out of equation and focus solely on data and attention to movement.


Just a Bit More on Types of Goals


365 New Days 365 New Chances Blackboard Sign

Performance and process goals can be thought of as short-term goals. Outcome goals can be thought of as long-term goals. “Research has revealed that both short- and long-term goals are needed to maintain motivation and performance over time”. [1] Yes, Goal-Setting Theory, we love this! Short-term goals help you to focus on smaller improvements that lead to the attainment of the long-term goal. Short-term goals can be more manageable and provide the necessary feedback towards your progress on the long-term goal. Let’s do a bit of visualization here: imagine the interaction of short-term and long-term goals as a staircase. Your current level resides at the bottom. The long-term goal resides at the top. Each step represents a short-term goal on the journey to achieve your long-term goal. As you continuously improve and achieve your short-term goals, you progress (up the stairs!) towards the achievement of your long-term goal.


Research in goal setting has shown that athletes who use “process and performance goals rather than [just] outcome goals exhibit less anxiety, greater levels of confidence, enhanced concentration, greater satisfaction and improved performance". [1] Who doesn’t want a bit of all of that!?! Harness the power of the goal setting process by implementing the optimal blend of goal types. It is ideal to have the most process goals, a few performance goals, and one outcome goal to set goals most effectively. The process goals allow you to focus on improving movement tasks (i.e., the arm swing motion improvement we mentioned earlier), which in turn help to achieve your performance goals. Incorporating a few performance goals helps to take the pressure and anxiety off the outcome goal and allows for better performance. Focusing on the process and performance goals allows you to be the most prepared to achieve the all-important outcome goal.

Journal with Goals 2024
 

Wow! Bet you’re feeling like having a bit of a goal setting session, right!?! Yeah, us too! Stay tuned for the second part of our short series where we will discuss effective goal setting strategies and how goals influence performance. We can’t wait either!


Happy Sunday and all our love! ❤️ Kelly and Alayna



References:

[1] Weinberg, R. S. (2013). Goal Setting in Sport and Exercise: Research and Practical Applications. Revista da Educação Física / UEM, 24(2), 171-179. doi: 10.4025/reveducfis.v24.2.17524

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