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Goal Setting Helps Athletes to Stay in the Moment

Goal setting is the most proven technique in sport psychology. It helps to motivate athletes and improve performance by enhancing confidence. Without goals, how can athletes know what to focus on? It’s like a road trip; if you don’t know where you are going how are you going to get there? Goals are the stepping-stones to dreams; they are the action plans; they are what you can do right now. Goals bring the future into the present.

In sport psychology there are three types of goals: process goals, performance goals and outcome goals. Process goals are those that focus on “how”; the process of how to execute a skill. For instance, keeping your head down on a ground ball or having a good follow through on a free throw.

Performance goals are those that focus on an individual’s performance. For instance, hitting the ball solidly on a line at every at bat, or hitting 90% of your spots as a pitcher.

Outcome goals, are the goals that all of us commonly set; I want to come in first place at the tournament. I want to get 4 hits today. They rely on other factors in order to achieve them.

Every type of goal is important. They motivate and focus us in various ways.

It’s important for athletes to set process goals; these are goals that keep athletes focused in the moment. In order to set motivating process goals, have your athletes focus on making their goals action based rather than outcome based. Their process goals should be things that they are 100% in control of, that way, when they do succeed they can take 100% of the credit. Athletes can strive for having four quality at bats rather than getting four hits. Meaning, athletes should focus on swinging at the correct pitches and putting good swings on those pitches. Focusing on the process will allow the outcome to take care of itself. Setting smaller goals, like this one, gives the athlete more feedback so they can see their results and let their confidence grow.

Outcome goals are what we all play for. They keep you motivated during the mundane practices. Those memorable championship moments keep people motivated in sport, so these goals are important too, as long as you have the steps to get there. For instant a good outcome goal could be to win the championship, but in order to get there athletes need to set and achieve process goals, like putting in 100% effort at every practice.

Goal setting reminds me of a quote by John Lennon; “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”. If athletes focus too much on outcome goals, and how successful they are in reaching those, they miss the process of getting there. In my experiences, most of my peers in college were so ready to graduate college and couldn’t wait to enter the real world. They forgot to realize how amazing the experience was along the way.

By focusing on process goals you can celebrate the little victories all game or all season long. After all life IS the little moments. It’s about compiling millions of happy moments to create a happy life. It’s not about the 3 or 4 major successes you have in your life; it’s about the life that happened on the pursuit to those major successes.

In life and in sport, enjoy the process of attaining the big goals, by setting some process and performance goals along the way. Sport psychology states that goals work by increasing, attention, persistence, effort and strategy. I’m pretty sure it has the same effect in everyday life.

Quote of the day: “Success is how you collect your minutes. You spend millions of minutes to reach one triumph, one moment, then you spend maybe a thousand minutes enjoying it. If you were unhappy through those millions of minutes, what good is the thousand minutes of triumph? It doesn’t equate… Life is made of small pleasures. Good eye contact over the breakfast table with your wife. A moment of touching a friend. Happiness is made of those tiny successes. The big ones come too infrequently. If you don’t have all those zillions of tiny successes, the big ones don’t mean anything.” — Norman Lear

About smarcia12

I am a special education teacher who also holds a MA in Sport Psychology.

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