It’s good to think big. Whether or not you fully achieve long-term dream goals, chasing after them can allow you to accomplish other big things along the way. Your goals should be relevant to you with your own unique path. Understanding the different types of goals and how they affect you can be one key to success.
Dream goals are one form of “outcome goals”—a kind of goal that revolves around how you perform compared to other people, such as your place in a race. Outcome goals can be great motivators, or “carrots,” to chase while you put in hard training, to fuel your drive when you may feel tired, bored, or unenthusiastic. But during times when performance (not just repetitions or hours of training) matters most, focusing on the end result also might create some unneeded pressure and distract you from what’s most relevant in that moment. Outcomes are partially driven by factors that are out of your control (such as weather or other people’s actions). Focusing on these outside factors can be a distraction.
When your immediate performance matters, a better use of brainpower is to focus on what is within your control. Set “performance goals”: Compare your own performances against each other. With the APFT, for example, you can set goals centered on your running time. Concrete measurements such as time can help you monitor progress, but be flexible with this. Sometimes it’s important to (temporarily) be slower depending on where you are in a training cycle. Likewise, your numbers might (temporarily) look “worse” because you are making important changes to your technique.
Another type of goal—the “process goal”—is even more within your control than outcome or performance goals. These are the little things that add up to big things. These pieces of success include the number of hours you put into training (easy to measure) and can include nuances of tasks such as how you do a push-up or aim a weapon. They are somewhat subjective, but you can actually rate yourself with numbers (for example, on a scale of one to five). Whether you give yourself a three or a four for how you aim your weapon is somewhat irrelevant; just by trying to measure nuance differences, you manage to tune in your attention to the most controllable and important parts of performance, rather than waste that attention elsewhere. Even if the numbers are inexact, they enable you to monitor and track your progress. And tracking your progress can give you a boost of needed encouragement on days when you feel less solid about what you’ve accomplished.
Outcome goals don’t have to be the only things that serve as carrots. One thing within your control is your attitude. Your values can drive your attitude. This is what Warrior Ethos is all about. Whether it’s your company’s ethos or your own, consider what you want to strive for and find ways to remind yourself of this. Maybe it’s a phrase (such as “Mission first”) or an image (such as a seal/insignia). If or when you get off track with your goals, use these reminders to remember what’s really important to you and recall the little things that lead to success.
Keep in mind your outcome goal of chasing a top 10 APFT score, and use it as a motivator. If you find it’s getting in the way, adjust to something more within reach. Either way, break down your outcome goal into smaller pieces, setting performance and/or process goals each week and even each day. Set daily time goals for your run, and set goals on little things such as your stride. Use these goals to guide your attention and as a source of inspiration. For more on the ins and outs of goal setting, check out what HPRC has to say about setting SMART goals.
Written by Tim Herzog and first published by the Human Performance Resource Center.