A trivia question: What is the number one performance strategy used by Olympic Athletes?
And another: What psychological intervention has the highest replicability across populations and contexts?
Answer (for both): GOAL SETTING!
Goal Setting is a strategy widely used by Olympic athletes; however, it is something that we, too, can easily put into action in our own lives!
There is not much else that screams Personal Power louder than our ability to choose our short term and long term goals, from a place of our inner wisdom.
However, not all goals are created equal
Not all goals are created equal. Out of the various types of goals identified by sport psychology research: performance goals, outcome goals, short term goals, long term goals, process goals, short term process goals, etc., not all are equally effective in enhancing performance; and some may even decrease our productivity and confidence!
Most of us begin our goal setting journey with grand visions of bold dreams. Such long term outcome goals (e.g. buying a house, winning Mrs Universe Crown, taking a trip around the world, or becoming a successful author) can be helpful in giving us an initial boost of motivation.
However, if we stop short on relying on only them for guidance, our confidence may suffer as we come across obstacles that point out how wide the gap between reality and what we hope to achieve really is...
We may end up giving up in frustration, telling our goal where to go... Our motivation can waver like a depleted balloon, and disappointment can set in.
Hence, we need Process Goals. If the end goal is a top of a ladder, and where we are at is at the bottom, process goals outline the steps that we need to take, one by one, to advance towards our goal. Or, we can imagine them as road signs that we are expected to come across as we journey towards our long term goals.
Performance goals are ones that center around advancing our own performance, their point of reference is ourselves gradually beating our previous limits and records...
What is goal setting best practice?
According to research, the following strategies maximize the effectiveness of goal setting:
1. Setting goals within a time boundary
An example of a time boundary is allocating 20 minutes per day for writing, if your goal is to write a book. Or, allocating 30 minutes for walking, if your goal is to increase your level of fitness
2. Making your goals challenging, but not impossibly so...
Challenging goals build confidence, as you're experiencing yourself making behavioral advances beyond your comfort zone.
3. Setting Positive Goals
Positive goals describe the behaviors that you want to initiate and engage with, as opposed to focusing on ones you want to stop.
4. Writing goals down
My six-year-old Nicholas will do anything for a star on his rewards chart! So, I naturally appreciate first hand the power of seeing progress and celebrating your achievements! Our brain naturally prioritizes negative emotions, fear can visit anytime we are venturing into the unknown. Writing goals down and seeing our achievements can give us a welcome confidence boost, helping us to keep the fire of our motivation strong! And, our focus on track!
5. Finding support
Getting your significant others on board with your goal setting journey can help to take your motivation to new heights. Making your loved ones aware of what you are currently focusing on and prioritizing will also help them to celebrate your progress!
6. Evaluating your goals
Making a weekly time to glance over your day-to-day goals to see if your strategies require tweaking, is a sure-fire strategy for aiding your productivity.
7. However, don't go goal-crazy!
Setting too many goals at once can dissipate your focus and cause overwhelm. Try prioritizing what is of most importance, perhaps starting out with one to a few goals!
Why are goals effective?
No one, yet, knows for sure. More research is still needed to give us answers about what makes goals so effective! However, here are some smart educative guesses:
Goals help to direct our attention to things that matter and are within our control
Goals help to nourish our confidence, as we experience ourselves improving our competence or following through on the behaviors we chose on purpose
Goals help to direct our attention to strategies, and help us to think flexibly about how to adjust them
So, dream big! Then, break up your dreams into doable steps. Then, take out your daily planner and take control over how you would love to invest your most previous asset - time! Be sure to celebrate feeling your personal power grow!
Happy goal setting everyone!