In 1949 a research study at Harvard University asked recent graduates what they would be doing ten years from now. Only two percent of responders had clear goals set – the others said they didn’t know. Ten years later the same people were interviewed again. The two percent from before were now making more money than the other 98 percent combined. Their conclusion: when people are motivated to do something, they usually do it. We can live happily without goals, floating along day by day, but when we set ourselves challenges, we can achieve so much more.

What Are Goals?

Goals need to be simple. Usually they are a short statement that deals with one specific action. This way it is clear to you exactly what you have to do and there is no way to argue your way out of what you meant. Secondly the goal must make sense (it must be realistic). Setting yourself a goal of growing wings and learning to fly is probably not very likely, no matter how hard you try. Goals should be possible to achieve, but also not too easy. Thirdly, goals must be ongoing. Once you achieve the goal, what is the next step? How do you take it to the next level?

 “Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and sticking with that plan” (Tom Landry)

“A realised dream ceases to be a dream.” (Valeriy Lobanovskyi)

Three Types of Goals

Although we said setting goals had to be simple, goals themselves are slightly more complicated. According to psychologists there are three types of goal. We need to understand them so that we set the right one for what we are trying to achieve: –

  • Outcome Goals – In soccer they refer to the result of the game: what the score was, who won. You cannot control Outcome Goals on your own as there are several factors that affect them (the other team, your team, the weather, the referee, the playing field, parents etc).  Parents often prioritize outcome goals. Basing your confidence on them is a mistake because one week you feel good and the next week you think you are terrible.goals1
  • Performance Goals – Actions you can control entirely on your own. Performance Goals set how you will go about giving yourself the best possible chance of achieving the Outcome Goals. In soccer that could mean focusing on making sure your passes are accurate, you get the ball on 75% of your tackles, that you play harder in the last five minutes of the game etc..
  • Process Goals – When you are actually in the game you need to think about specific instructions and ideas to remind you of what you are trying to achieve. Process Goals help you reach your Performance Goals. Examples might be “I am going to win this tackle” or “this shot is going in the bottom corner of the goal.”
Process —-> Performance —-> Outcome
“I will score” “I had 5 out of 9 shots on target” “We won 3-0”

Setting Goals

This is often the difficult part because it is not as fun as playing the game itself. It takes some thinking to find goals that are right for you. As we mentioned earlier, it is important to be realistic so you should only have 3-4 goals at any one time that you are working towards. They should also be your own goal. No point in copying someone else’s if they don’t apply to you. Also, you should set goals that apply to different timescales. Maybe one is a goal for this week in training, another could be what you want to have achieved by the end of the season, and so on.

There is one more thing you should consider when setting goals and that is how exciting are they? If your goals are boring, are you going to be inspired or motivated to want to achieve them? Probably not. We encourage you to set goals that are exciting, or shocking even. Something you can look back on and be proud of. At the same time, they have to be physically possible, so the challenge is to try to balance excitment with reality.

Finally, goals shouldn’t be black and white. Don’t set goals that have yes/no or pass/fail outcomes. Set yourself goals that have grades of success. That way if you don’t fully achieve them you have still achieved something. Also along the way you can reevaluate them and see whether you need to make them easier or harder.

Achieving Your Goals

An approach we took from Soccer – The Mind Game is what is called the Set-Do-Review approach. First you set your goals (as we talked about in the previous section). Write them down somewhere that you check frequently (on your computer desktop, or a note on your mirror maybe). Second is to actually work at achieving your goals. Spend five minutes per day working on moves in your back yard, or whatever it is that will help you get to what you are trying to improve. Maybe the Doing part happens during practices or games, maybe it happens at home. You are responsible for making sure you do it though.

Finally, it is vital that you review your progress. For too many people, when the game is over we move on to something else. Spending a few minutes thinking about what happened and where you go from here can really improve your game. Be fair in your assessment. It is important that you are not too down on yourself (damaging your confidence) or unfairly positive (blinding yourself to the truth!).

From reviewing your goals you can set new ones that are more challenging. This process becomes a cycle which never finishes… Set-Do-Review-Set-Do-Review-Set…. and so on.

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