How to Properly Set Goals

When we set goals, we want them to be challenging but attainable. We want to be motivated to accomplish them, without being consumed by them. It should be important and difficult, but possible. Each goal should have big picture implications that move us towards the athlete, coach, or person we want to be.

There are two types of goals: Process Goals, and Outcome Goals. Several process goals need to be met in order to achieve an outcome goal. For example, a team’s outcome goal might be winning a state championship. The process goals they have to get there might be: 1) Having a winning record; 2) Winning the conference; 3) Winning a playoff game.

Goals that we set, whether they’re process or outcome oriented, should follow the acronym S.M.A.R.T.

Specific - The goal should be rigidly defined. Instead of “I want to improve,” what specifically are you working on? A specific process-oriented goal could be “I want to improve my speed.”

Measurable - A goal must be able to be measured so you know how you’re doing. Always consider how you’re going to track your progress. If the specific goal was "I want to improve my speed,” then maybe the measure of that would be to shave seconds off your 40-yard dash time. The 40 yard dash becomes the measurement tool for the specific goal.

Attainable - We want to make a goal that is within our control to achieve. An example of a goal that’s not entirely in our power is, “I want to be the fastest person on the team.” We can’t control what others do. The goal you set should also be challenging enough that you have to work hard and push yourself to accomplish it, but not so challenging that you feel that you can’t obtain it, and will therefore have lapses in motivation.

Relevant - Your process goal should be related to an outcome goal. A goal you have in your life might be to drive slower or to read more, but in this context we’re looking for a sport-specific process goal that is working towards achieving an overall outcome goal, whether that’s a championship, winning a game, getting a starting position, earning playing time, etc. For example, improving your speed will make you a better athlete, so it’s a relevant goal to your athletics.

Time-Oriented - Your goal must have a specific time that you must accomplish it by. If you want to improve your speed, how much time (Specific) do you want to cut off your 40 yard dash (Measured), and by when? If you don’t have a time in which you have to accomplish something by, there’s no motivation to get going.

Original goal: I want to be a better athlete.

SMART goal: I want to improve my speed. I’ll measure my progress using my 40 yard dash time. I’m going to lift weights, run, and practice until I shave 0.2 seconds off the time. If I get faster, then I’ll be able to compete at a higher level and make the starting lineup. I want to accomplish this goal in the next 8 weeks.