Goal setting is a powerful motivational strategy ... if utilized
properly. Research has shown that goal setting enhances performance
across a variety of situations. This month the focus is on how goals
work, the benefits they provide, and specific ways in which you can
use goal setting to reach your next "goal" in tennis.
Definition of Goals
Goals are defined as "something we consciously want to attain,
accomplish, or achieve." They are also thought of as "aims, targets,
or tracks to run on that give our energies specific direction." Goal
setting provides a sense of control over what we do in our lives and
allows us to move beyond beliefs or fears that may be preventing us
from realizing our peak performance.
Achievement: A Self-Test
Since goals are a way of maximizing achievement, let's engage in a
brief self-analysis to determine what achievement means to you. Do
you view achievement primarily as: (1) beating others and/or
demonstrating superior competence or (2) improving your level of
skill and/or getting to the next level regardless of competitive
outcome. Think about this a moment and decide whether you agree more
with statement (1) or (2).
What Did You Choose?
Which approach to achievement did you endorse? If you chose the
second approach, you are on your way toward maximizing the
effectiveness of goal setting. This approach is called "task
involvement." Task-involved athletes have been shown to display high
intrinsic motivation, produce maximal effort, and persist longer
across a variety of performance situations. They set goals to master
skills. The first approach is termed "ego-involvement." Ego-
involved athletes define their performance in comparison with others.
Their approach appears to work only when they are confident of their
abilities and not threatened by the possibility of losing.
Unfortunately, "ego-involved" athletes often avoid challenging
situations that might have otherwise taken them to the next level.
One's philosophy of achievement often directs the type of goals that
are set. Research indicates that performance goals (e.g., hitting a
higher percentage of 1st serves in) are usually superior to outcome
goals (e.g., winning the tournament). In my opinion, focusing on
"winning" is an irrelevant distraction. Attentional resources are
needed for more specific needs (See my November 1995 article). Rather
than worry about the outcome, stay interested in improving your
performance and the outcome will take care of itself.
There are distinct advantages to setting goals. Here are a few of
the benefits noted in the research on goal setting in sports:
- Improved Performance
- Enhanced Quality of Practice
- Clarified Expectations
- Greater Challenge and Boredom Relief
- Higher Intrinsic Motivation
- Pride, Satisfaction and Self-Confidence
- Decreased Anxiety
- Improved Concentration
- Greater Sense of Purpose
- Time Management
- Better Search For Strategies
Although there are no exact rules to follow in goal setting, here are
some guiding principles which have been effective in maximizing
- Set specific, measurable goals, with a target date to completion
- Set both long- and short-term goals
- Set difficult, yet attainable goals, that will push you toward
- Set performance goals rather than outcome goals
- Reevaluate goals periodically and adjust them when necessary
- Set goals for practice as well as match play
- Set goals that will lead to a steady progression of improvement
Goal setting is a marvelous tool. Add it to your arsenal of mental
equipment. See you next month ...