Heading Towards Accomplishment?

Let’s say you want to drive to Rehoboth Beach or somewhere else for a fun weekend get-away.  Without finding Rehoboth on a map or with GPS, most of us would not know the best route. The sheer desire to go to the beach will not take us there; but the map or GPS that helps us with step-by-step guidance.

The map or GPS, in the context of our daily lives, mirrors the practice of goal-setting. It is human nature to want to be further along your path, and many of us lack the necessary foresight plan the steps toward our big goals; we mistakenly think that wishing for big things or imagery of big things will magically make those big things happen The Reaching Ahead Mental Performance model explains that we are in direct control of our behaviors; goal-setting allows us to map a direction for our behaviors, providing a specific path and laying out specific, measurable, action-oriented, relevant and time-phased steps toward achieving our goals.

Vadim’s Story

To illustrate, here’s a personal experience. Going into my junior year of college, I was coming off a down year. Determined not to suffer a repeat of the year before, I charted a road map for my season goals, with big picture goals in the first tier, some benchmark goals in the second tier, and process goals in the third tier.

Process goals guided my attention in and out of the pool. Performance goals or “benchmark goals” would be mid-season indicators of my progress. Here is a condensed outline of the goals I had set for myself:

  • End of season goal times: 1:37.99 in the 200 free, 4:24.99 in the 500 free, and 15:39.99 in the 1650 free.
    • End of season goal splits: 23.50/24.80/24.80/24.80 in the 200; 50.50/53.75/53.75/53.75/53.25 in the 500; and hold a 57.0 per 100 average in the 1650.
    • Mid-season goal times (Benchmark goals): 1:39.99 in the 200, 4:29.99 in the 500, and 15:59.99 in the 1650.
      • I am able to kick under 1:00 in a 100 yard flutter kick.
        • I am keeping the kick within the body line (high, tight and fast).
        • I am keeping the core engaged and not letting my hips sink when I kick.
      • I am getting at least 7.5 hours of sleep every night.
        • I am going to bed no later than 10 pm on nights that I have practice the next morning.
        • I am leaving my cell phone across the room from my bed.
      • I am training at correct paces
        • My 200 pace 50’s in practice are done at 24.80 seconds
        • My 500 pace 50’s in practice are done at 26.80 seconds
        • My 500 pace 100’s in practice are done at 53.75 seconds
        • My 1650 pace 50’s in practice are done at 28.50 seconds
        • My 1650 pace 50’s in practice are done at 57.0 seconds

I had my season mapped out, and all I had to do was follow the directions. At the midseason meet, I was 1:40.02/4:30.43/16:04.93. Right on track. Fast forward to the conference championships, I was 1:37.57/4:24.33/15:36.71. My middle 3 100 splits in my 500? 53.72/53.76/53.78. My 200 splits were 23.43/24.69/24.83/24.62. I placed no lower than second in all of my events and won my first individual conference title in the 1650 free, en route to the Seton Hall Men’s Swimming and Diving team winning their first conference championship in program history.

My swims that season were a direct result of the goals that I had set for myself 6 months prior. This is no coincidence. There are thousands of anecdotes, just like mine, from people in all realms that set SMART goals and achieve them.

How do I start setting goals?

There are some very useful tools available online that assist people in getting started with goal-setting. My favorite is Goalscape, which allows users to divide their goal into as many layers of sub-goals as needed, prioritize certain sub-goals over others, and quantify progress all with a creative visual component. Here is what my flowchart would look like on the Goalscape software:

goals in goalscape

For many, the most difficult part of their performance journey is getting started. Taking the time to sit down and map out your goals will provide clarity about your process. Having a tangible direction for your actions will allow for yourself to engage not in mindless repetitions but in deliberate practice, which research has shown to lead to higher performance. So, don’t wait until tomorrow to set your goals, take the time today to map your path!