Reasons Why We Should set Goals
Setting goals are fundamental to success regardless of what walk of life we come from. They are positive affirmations of targets we wish to aim towards. Targets that if we reach will help us grow and expand in directions we want to. Want to be the best footballer in the world? You’ll need a plan! Want to climb Everest? Likewise, time to break it down into achievable steps.
Goals allow us to measure progress
because there is always a fixed endpoint or benchmark to advance towards or measure ourselves against. Are we on target or does something need to change?
Keep us focused
You may have all the talent in the world but without focus, you may be in for a bumpy ride. Having goals keep us on track so we are where we need to be. Goals give us drive. They are tools to help us direct our energies in positive directions. An endpoint to push us forward.
Help us overcome procrastination
Goals make us accountable to finish what we need to do. If we have not undertaken our objectives the feeling of letting ourselves down can be a powerful motivator.
Create positive habits/behaviour changes
Whenever you are ‘ In the zone’ or ’On a roll’. That is momentum. The dopamine effect of the reward of achieving your goals is incredibly addictive and spurs you on to keep going. It helps create an optimal state of mental performance.
Goals are character building. They promote self-efficacy, and help us develop as ‘goal achievers’.
Ultimately, goal setting provides us with the foundation for our drive. By making goals we provide ourselves with a line on the horizon to set a course for; an endpoint to progress towards and to feel a sense of achievement once we have reached. Goal setting triggers positive behaviour and creates momentum. The more we put into achieving our efforts, the bigger the return we get. Setting and sticking to our goal is essentially the law of attraction ‘the ability to attract into our lives whatever we are focusing on’.
You’re much more likely to put time and energy into something that excites you, so your goals should reflect that same level of momentum. You need to create goals that have you leaping out of bed in the morning with the one track mind focus of a zealot.
Common Problems with Goal Setting
Before we move on, let us address the issue of unrealistic goal setting or goal short-sightedness. Its very common for people set lofty goals and sadly give up through lack of progress. After only a few months of struggling to make progress, they fall off the bandwagon and never quite achieve what they were after. Prime examples of this are Post-Christmas weight loss plans.
Example Post-Christmas goals
- Wanting to fit into a pair of trousers by summer.
- Signing up to run the London Marathon.
- To begin into weightlifting and bulk up.
These seem fairly straightforward enough right? Which is where the problems lie…
Often the problem is that the goals they have made are not measurable or specific enough. The fat doesn’t fall off quick enough or the marathon they want to run seems too great a distance. It becomes all too easy to concentrate on the finish line rather than the shorter steps you need to take to get you gradually from A to B.
As a result, things become frustrating and overwhelming, they become distracted by irrelevant details and begin to perceive themselves as not making progress. Sadly, after a few weeks of failing to see any significant results materialising, people return to their pre-Christmas lifestyles.
Knowing how to set clear, precise training goals is an effective and efficient way to measure your success and identify obstacles. When time is taken to set goals up properly, you’ll have a clear and defined blueprint or plan of attack. You’ll know exactly step by step each stage you are going to undertake en route towards your individual goals.
You will possess a clear and measured time frame, an effective strategy with seamless stages that flow from one to the other. This will ultimately empower you and motivate you towards those goals. In time, these methods of goal setting will become habits and an automatic part of your routine.
Having a Vision – Setting Long-Term Goals
Now that we have assessed where things can go wrong. Identifying worthwhile Long Term goals to go after is the logical next step.
Reach for the stars
The goals you create are your long-term vision. It might be something such as to participate in the Crossfit Games, but aim high!! As high as you think you can push yourself!! Decide on what is achievable for you and write them down.
…but keep your feet on the ground!
Most of us will never be world class athletes, however, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push yourself!! Think about your time, your resources and ability, any obstacles, finances and commitments. Take all the above into account and then plan away
Personalise your goal
Choose a goal that is meaningful and important to you. Not to anybody else. For example, if your partner wants you to lose weight, but you’re happy as you are. You may find it difficult to commit to your exercise routine in the long term based on using this as a prime motivator. What do you want to do? Develop or learn a new skill? Improve your game in a certain area?
Do your homework
Now you have to sit down and do your research about how you are going to progress from A to B. Do you need to join a group or club? What equipment and resources will you need? Any further costs? Consider budgets and time available. You have the internet at your disposal to get your homework done!
Develop your Vision
Where is your goal going to take you?
Setting up the ‘Right kind of Goals’
It is important that the goals that you set avoid leaving you overwhelmed so that you
- Stay committed.
- Keep inspired and motivated enough to push yourself forward and challenge yourself.
- Are your actual goals rather than ones that other people have set for you (goals should have personal meaning).
- Empower you to take charge of your own life.
- Will improve your life in some way.
- Are attainable (Competing at the Olympics after not having swum for ten years is a bit of a jump).
- Can be broken down or ‘Chunked’ into specific time periods to make them realistic and quantifiable.
- Place emphasis on you the individual as the sole person responsible for achieving the goals. You must be responsible and accountable for your actions.
We shall cover three areas with regards to goal setting:
- Goal setting strategies. Types of goals (Below – Scroll down).
- Setting SMART goals. Breaking down those goals to make them SMART and obtainable (See Part 2).
- Strategies to Fine Tune your Goal Setting (See Part 3).
Types of Goals
Why is it important to define the type of Goal we after? Personality types differ and one size does not fit all. A specific goal might be right for one person may not be good for another. It’s important to find for the individual to identify what type of goals will motivate them the most.
Below is listed some of the accepted theories on goal types, as well as some of the positives and negatives of each. Again, goal types are down to the individual, there is no right or wrong. Find the best way to motivate yourself and work with it. If somewhere down the line you find this is not working, it can easily be changed once you sit down and evaluate your progress.
- Outcome Goals.
- Behaviour Goals.
- Avoidance Goals.
- Approach Goals.
- Performance Goals.
- Mastery Goals.
Generally, whenever someone asks about their fitness goals, most people start with the outcome(s) they want:
- Losing 10 kgs.
- Beach body in time for summer.
- Cutting out bad habits, drinking and eating.
- Wanting to deadlift double their body weight.
An outcome goal is when you focus on the results. For example, someone undertaking strength training may have an outcome goal of putting on 2.5kgs of muscle each month. Alternatively, someone on a diet may equally want to lose those 2.5kgs. While these outcome goals are often set first to address how you want to approach your plan, they represent the finish line and the final result. These goals should be set first. This will allow you to set smaller goals leading to your desired outcome.
Outcome goals describe how we want things to be at the end of the process.
Problems with Outcome Goals
The problem with an outcome goal is that they are, at least to some degree, outside of our control. Wanting things isn’t enough, purely because we often can’t control outcomes. The sales professional trying to get in shape may have work pressures and so might be unable to attend the gym as much as they would like; A person trying to diet to lose weight may be retaining water or gaining muscle thus skewering their results. Setbacks due to external forces often lead to a cycle of frustration, negative thinking, and defeat.
Other external factors, outside of our control that might affect our outcome goals:
- Unforeseen work pressures.
- Family commitments.
- Social engagements.
- Environmental factors
- Poor sleep
A behavioural goal is solely focused on where you as an individual want to go. And also the changes you’ll need to make to get there. You can’t always make your body do what you want it to. However, you can control what you do every day. Behaviour goals focus on the things we do have control over and are free from outside influence. They are about commitment to practice new habits and behaviours every day, as consistently and regularly as possible. The pursuit of these gradually pushes you towards the changes needed to reach your goal.
Outcome Vs Behaviour Goals
A. Squat 140kgs
B. Sleep at least 8 hours per night.
C. Lose 2 stone in 3 months.
A. Continually add 2.5Kgs per session and work till failure.
B. Adopt pre-sleep relaxation, avoid social media, phones and TV pre-bedtime. Set wind down behaviour.
C. Use an intermittent fasting system for the next three months, to encourage less eating and weight loss.
Using the above examples, we shall examine how both theories would set goals to reach your targets.
Remember the outcome goal is when you put a specific number or target on your goal. So saying that you want to add 20kgs to your back squat is an example of an outcome goal. Or you want to lose 2 stone in time for the beach in summer (Let us say 3 months). There is a target there, however, the problem is there is no logical plan for how to reach that destination.
The behaviour goals approach, on the other hand. Helps develop the mindset and to create proper habits to get you to a specific outcome. So the behaviour alternative of the above outcome weight loss goal might be to say… “I will stick to my intermittent fasting plan throughout the week, allowing one cheat meal at weekends. I will also get to the gym 4 days a week”.
The behaviour version of the outcome goal to add volume to an individuals squat so they can lift 140kg. Might be to say “I will gradually increase weight by 2.5kgs every week. I will work to failure and try different variations of the squat .”
Perhaps using behavioural goals you might never reach the goals you have outlined, or you very well may do. However, the point is to develop good habits that you can stick to. The aim is to eventually surpass the original target you set. The behaviour change IS the goal.
Personally, I do like to set both. I tend to keep outcome goals in the back of my mind and enjoy having a standard for measuring progress. However, reaching that target should never be the ultimate goal. For that reason, I tend to use more behavioural goals which I believe are a more powerful tool for long-term change. That said, it is entirely up to you, nothing wrong with combining the two to help push you towards success.
Avoidance Goals and Approach Goals
An avoidance goal is when you seek to avoid a negative outcome. It is a powerful tool that can mentally reinforce that which you want the least. Nobody wants to look like a failure. So working hard to avoid this can be a more powerful motivator than working hard solely to do well. As a result, many goals are created as a way to avoid failure.
Examples of avoidance goals: “I will not…
A. fail my martial arts grading.
B. get dropped from the football team.
C. eat junk food.
On the other hand, an approach goal is when you seek to attain a desirable or positive outcome. The approach goal lifts your mood.
Examples of approach goals:
A. Passing that martial arts grading!
B. Being on top of my game in football this season!
C. Aiming to eat only nutritious and healthy food.
Both goal types are a reflection of the other. One goal is a focus on the positive, and one goal focussed on the negative.
Although there is nothing wrong with an occasional focus on the negative. One issue with avoidance goals is that they can be very emotionally charged. They often produce negative emotions that can instil certain individuals with inaction if they are not careful! They have been associated with a number of negative outcomes, including procrastination, anxiety and lacking meaning for the individual. The stress associated with avoidance goals can be too overwhelming for some people in their bid to succeed. For the above reasons, those goals could become more effective and less stressful by being rewritten as approach goals,
Avoidance Goal: “I will avoid letting my team down. I will avoid competing against a certain opponent because he makes me look bad.”
Approach Goal: “I will impress the coach”, “I will perform to the best of my abilities.”
In defence of avoidance goals, despite the emotional cost, people feel happy after completing their goals. Regardless of whether they were motivated by excitement or anxiety, and for that reason, many do opt to use them.
So is adding even more stress worth it? Depends on your mental toughness I would say. Again there is no right or wrong here. Perhaps you may even choose to have a number of both approach and avoidance goals? The choice is yours.
- Avoidance-oriented. These are goals in which individuals can be negatively motivated to try to avoid failure and to avoid looking incompetent.
- Avoidance Goals Are Stressful.
- Approach-oriented goals are goals in which individuals are positively motivated to look good and receive a favourable judgment from others.
- Approach Goals Are Enjoyable.
Performance and Mastery Goals
Performance-oriented goals represent a focus on demonstrating competence or ability and how that ability will be judged compared to others. For example, trying to exceed average performance standards; attempting to beat rivals; using comparative standards and striving to be the best in a group are examples of performance goals.
Mastery-oriented goals are defined in terms of a focus on learning, mastering the task according to self-defined standards of self-improvement. It also encompasses developing new skills; improving or developing competence; trying to accomplish something challenging and trying to gain understanding and insight.
A. Aiming to beat everyone in your running club in the upcoming race.
B. To look sexy by losing 5 pounds.
C. Training to lift heavier than anyone on your team.
A. Aiming to improve on your personal best, by researching advice from experts and developing an effective running plan.
B. Undertaking a fitness regime and incorporating training three times a week.
C. Learning to lift more efficiently and with better technique.
Performance goals are directly correlated to an outcome (For example, coming first in an upcoming tournament or hitting your goal scoring quota) in this respect they are similar to an outcome goal (see above) in that they are inflexible and absolute.
These goals can be great in the short term for drive and motivation. However, it could be argued that they undermine long-term performance. For example, if you complete your goals in less time than you had anticipated, what happens then? Or What if you don’t hit your initial goal? Will you become discouraged and de-motivated? Furthermore, if you cheated to reach your performance goals, what does it matter? You have achieved your aims but have you cheated yourself in the process? Much of this depends on the individual, but for these reasons performance goals may not be ideal for all.
A mastery goal involves setting out to become the best you can be at a single task. For example, instead of trying to lift heavier weights on a barbell, you begin Olympic lifting sessions. It has been argued that they are more effective because your gratification isn’t related to external indicators so you are less likely to give up when things get tough and persevere through setbacks.
Performance or mastery? A simple change in perspective can be the difference between success and failure. Again, much of it comes down to personality and drive, which goal type do you think better suits your aims? Do you think of your goal in terms of doing better than others, or in terms of learning? With performance goals, the thought of doing better than others can be exciting and motivating, but the thought of doing worse can be unsettling. With mastery goals, The thought of improving and learning can also be exciting and motivating.
So which type of goal works better for you? No right or wrong answer, its whatever motivates you and gets you where you want to be. Experiment, mix and match the different types, find what works best for you and stick with it.
‘Setting Goals is the first step for turning the invisible into the visible.’