Goal setting provides direction, requires accountability, provide incentives, and improve performance by revealing strengths and areas that need improvement.
But when is it time to let go of those goals? When should an athlete back up and take a very critical look at his or her training and/or performance goals and consider a revised set of standards.
Regularly, says sports psychologist John Heil: “Goal assessment should ideally occur on a regular basis or anytime a situation calls for it. Modification and revision are part of the goal-setting process. Sometimes goals are unrealistic. Several failures in a row can prompt re-thinking. Other legitimate reasons to scale back goals include unforeseen circumstances such as injuries to key players, changes in the coaching staff, or other academic responsibilities that go against competitive aspirations. Monitor, evaluate and adjust as needed. Previously established goals should be altered according to skill level, current conditioning, and progress being made.”
Re-setting goals does not always mean going a step down. If originally set goals are not challenging, they need to up-graded to match new levels of skill or conditioning.
Heil says it is also possible to overdo the goal-setting process by setting so many goals that they become a hindrance instead of a help to performance. This is the time to un-set them. A common problem athletes face is “analysis by paralysis”, or trying to think about too many things at once while executing a particular skill. This analysis overwhelms being in the moment.
Recommendation: When re-setting goals, it is important for athletes to chart progress and establish a timeline for achievement. Performance logs and diaries can help.
Develop an action plan based on the two P’s – process and progress. Process goals are the training strategies used to achieve goals. The process by which an athlete intends to achieve his or her goals are equally important as the goals themselves.
Progress, or lack thereof, is where an athlete is at a particular moment on the continuum of reaching their goals. They must regularly monitor and adjust.