Do you know how to set a goal that will help you achieve what you want?
“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”
– Rabindranath Tagore
Goal setting may be one of the most important skills you can learn.
In fitness, knowing what you want means you and your trainer can put together a plan to work towards your goals. Whether you want to lose ‘weight’, improve your strength, get leaner, improve your core strength, get more flexible/improve mobility, increase your cardiovascular or muscular endurance or have sport-specific goals has a huge impact on the programming – exercise selection, timing, rest, sets, reps and loads.
In martial arts, knowing whether your true interest lies in MMA, fitness, kata (patterns), tournaments or street-realistic self defence can have a huge impact on the style you choose or the emphasis you want to put on different aspects of your training.
Start the process by choosing 1-3 targets. Limiting the number means you won’t get discouraged if you have lots of things you’d like to improve. Map them out – making sure they are SMART:
This means the goal is clear and unambiguous; without vagaries and platitudes. To make goals specific they must say exactly what is expected and why is it important.
A specific goal will usually answer five “W” questions:
What: What do I want to accomplish?
Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
Who: Who is involved?
Where: Identify a location.
Which: Identify requirements and constraints.
This stresses the need for concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of the goal. The thought behind this is that if it is not measurable, it is not possible to know whether progress is being made toward successful completion. Measuring progress is supposed to you stay on track, reach target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs on to continued effort required to reach the ultimate goal.
A measurable goal will usually answer questions such as:
How will I know when it is accomplished?
This stresses the importance of realism and attainability. While an attainable goal may be a stretch to achieve, the goal is not extreme. That is, it is neither out of reach nor below standard performance, as these may be considered meaningless. When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and capacity to reach them.
An attainable goal will usually answer the question:
How: How can the goal be accomplished?
This stresses the importance of choosing goals that matter. A bank manager’s goal to “Make 50 peanut butter sandwiches by 2:00pm” may be specific, measurable, attainable, and time-based, but lacks relevance. Many times you will need support to accomplish it. A goal that supports or is in alignment with other goals would be considered relevant.
A relevant goal can answer yes to these questions:
Does this seem worthwhile?
Is this the right time?
Does this match my other efforts/needs?
This emphasizes the importance of grounding goals within a time frame, giving them a target date. A commitment to a deadline helps efforts to be focussed on completion on or before the due date. This part of the SMART goal criteria is intended to prevent goals from being overtaken by the day-to-day crises that invariably arise in life. A time-bound goal is intended to establish a sense of urgency.
A time-bound goal will usually answer the question:
What can I do six months from now?
What can I do six weeks from now?
What can I do today?
Using these criteria – think hard about what you really want. Write it down. Start planning. Start achieving your goals!