Six Tips for Effective Goal Setting

Six Tips for Effective Goal Setting

Hi, everyone.  I’m Coach Suzanne with Complete Performance Coaching.  Today I’m going to go over effective goal setting with you.

Whether you’ve created a vision board, made a to-do list, or imagined where you want to be in five years, most of you have set a goal at some point in your life.  It seems to be a natural behavior for many, even if you’re not consciously aware you’re doing it.

Setting goals is important for athletes because they can help keep you on track, motivated, and increase your confidence.  Unfortunately, it’s common to set ineffective goas or forget to take into consideration some of the hurdles that could prevent you from reaching your goals.

Six Things to Keep in Mind for Goal Setting:

  1. Identify your strengths.  Before you start setting any goals, take a few minutes to think about your strengths.  What are you already good at?  Come up with at least three physical strengths (skill, drill, routine, event, exercise, etc.) and three mental strengths (confidence, work ethic, positive attitude, leadership, good teammate, communicating, etc.).  The reason I have you identify your strengths before setting goals is that it puts you into a confident mindset and also reminds you of what you’ve already accomplished.
  2. Identify areas for improvement.  Now that you’ve identified some of your strengths, it’s time to come up with some things you need to work on to make you a better athlete in your sport.  Most athletes are pretty good at this one, but if you aren’t sure what you need to improve on, think about some of the corrections you get from your coaches.  Do you get the same ones over and over?  If so, that would be a great place to start.  Again, try coming up with three physical and three mental areas for improvement.
  3. Types of goals.  There are three types of goals: outcome, performance, and process.
    • Outcome goals focus on the result of a game/competition in relation to others, such as winning or beating a specific opponent.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to win, but be careful as that often involves aspects outside of your control.  Take a swimmer, for example.  They might set an outcome goal of winning a race, but then they might have the best performance of their career and still not win because someone else swam just one-tenth of a second faster.  So now, even though they had a great performance, they didn’t meet their goal which can feel defeating.
    • Performance goals focus on improvements relative to your own past performances.  Back to the swimmer, it may be to get a specific time or to get a personal best.  Performance goals keep the focus on you (which you control!) instead of your opponents.
    • Process goals focus on the specific behaviors in which you need to engage in order to reach your performance goals.  An example of a process goal for our swimmer could be to take a certain number of dolphin kicks off the wall.  For a gymnast, it may be to stick five vaults at their next practice.  Process goals are the important daily or weekly goals that will get you to your bigger performance and outcome goals.
  4. Set long-term and short-term goals.  Now you can start setting some goals!  I like to start with long-term goals because they tend to be more “big picture”.  Ask yourself, “What do I want to accomplish this year/season?”  These are usually going to consist primarily of outcome and performance goals.  Then, you can start to identify the short-term goals that you need to achieve on your way to the long-term goals.  These will consist of primarily process goals, but you may also have performance goals.  The key to any goal is to make it as specific as possible.  Instead of setting a goal of “I want to get stronger”, make it measurable.  If you can do 10 pushups in a row or run a mile in eight minutes, make your goal to be able to do 20 pushups without stopping or to run a mile in seven minutes.
  5. Identify obstacles.  Even if you set goals using these steps, you WILL encounter setbacks.  You’re not alone – it happens to everyone!  The key is to prepare yourself for them.  So as you’re coming up with your goals, you should also identify some of the potential obstacles that could get in the way of you reaching them.  How will you respond when a setback takes place?  Have a plan in place so you are ready to overcome anything that gets in your way.
  6. Write it all down.  Finally, make sure you write them down!  Whether that’s in the form of a vision board, on your bathroom mirror, a list you keep by your bed, or in your gym bag, it doesn’t matter.  Just make sure your goals are somewhere that you will see them every day.  It’s not enough just to think about what you want to accomplish, writing them down makes them more real and serves as a constant reminder of what you are working so hard to achieve.

With many of you returning to your sport, now is a great time to start setting goals!  Please reach out to me at if you have any questions.

Good luck!

Is your gymnast struggling with mental blocks or fear?  Check out my FREE resource for parents.