Sports Psychology: Performance Goals: The Secret to Motivation

Performance Sports Psychology Tips: Mental Training Tools for 2011

Goals provide direction to your training and your life

Have you set your goals for 2011 yet? I’ll give you some tips and principles to follow in setting your path for the New Year.

The resources of the human body and mind are enormous, often beyond our comprehension. We can tap into these hidden resources by setting goals for ourselves, and passionately pursuing them. Goals are essential for making consistent progress in any training program. They provide direction, reminding us where we are going and how we plan to get there.

Goals give shape to our dreams and aspirations. They help us set priorities and work within a time frame. Once we have our goals, the mind can focus on achieving them despite any obstacles that might arise.

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Goals: Your  Motivation Machine

Regardless of performance level, athletes are always looking for ways to motivate themselves, meet new challenges, rise above adversity, and overcome setbacks. Goal setting is the primary mechanism for building motivation and commitment to personal excellence. It gives us a starting point for action, a purpose for our efforts, and allows us to direct our energy effectively over time.

Eileen Portz-Shovlin, former senior editor of Runner’s World magazine, knows about the value of goals. When I asked her how she stays motivated to run she told me: “The way I maintain my enthusiasm is to set goals and create variety in my training. Each day I try to think of a specific purpose for my workout. There are different paces I can run, on a variety of courses and terrains. I can get a vigorous workout on some runs while others are just for relaxation. My goal is to be creative with my training; that way I don’t slip into a rut.”

When I gave a sports psychology talk at the San Francisco Marathon I asked the runners (who were set to run 26.2 miles the next day), “How many of you have goals?” Most people raised their hands. Then I asked: “How many of you have your goals written down?” Fewer hands went up. Then I asked: “How many of you have your written goals with you right now?” Only a couple of hands crept up. Establishing objectives in written form and keeping them close at hand is an important indicator of one’s level of commitment.

What do the Champions Do?

My work with elite athletes, as well as my experience as a top-level runner and triathlete, has helped me to realize the differences between those who reach their objectives and those who fall short. It is in their ability to set goals and their level of determination.

Athletes who succeed:
1. They choose their priorities carefully
2. They consider time constraints and other responsibilities, such as family and work, when setting goals
3. They set up a plan that is in line with how much time and effort they have available.

Athletes who fall short:
1. They are often unrealistic about their goals
2. They don’t calculate the amount of time they can devote to them
3. They only set long-term goals, not short-term plans to get there

To avoid this pitfall, evaluate the importance of reaching your goals, how much time you have to pursue them, and what you are willing to give up to meet your objectives. Then you’ll be on the right path to moving forward and getting to your finish line. Next time we’ll talk about a formula for setting goals.

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