The Mental Skill of Goal Setting
Goal setting is a mental skill set. It is something that can always be refined and be done better. To set goals that help you accomplish things along your path and journey as an athlete, without creating pressure or expectations. I think most of you know some of the basics of goal setting, such as long term versus short term, and process versus results. There is also another aspect to goal setting and that is external versus internal. What I mean by that is setting goals that are based on things outside of yourself, versus based on how you want to experience something.
Yesterday I was talking with one of my clients who plays professional hockey over in Europe. This is his first year over there, and some things were starting to come up for him, both at the rink as well as in his everyday life. This is a completely new experience for him. He has never really been on his own. When he played professionally in North America he always had roommates or was living with his girlfriend. He also played a different role on the teams in North America, he wasn't the goal scorer, number one line and expected to put up the points. When he first got to Europe and started practicing and playing, he didn't really have any expectations, he was focused on going out there, giving it all he had, and to be a hard worker. That's it. He focused on himself. He also set some goals. He set goals for how many points he wants every 5 games, and other stat related goals.
As things started into the season, he started getting those points, and all of a sudden he was in a new role, one he wasn't familiar with or knew how to handle. He has started to get tense and anxious at the rink, feeling a need to continue his pace, and live up to what everyone is telling him will be a good year, that will lead to a better contract next year, in a better league. While the goal setting isn't the only thing we looked at, it is one area that we talked about. As his goals are all focused on his external world. How it looks and the results he wants. By chunking down his goals to every 5 games, he is in one sense setting process goals. The issue is he hasn't set any goals to go along with the external goals about his experience and internal game. Such as how present he wants to be. He understand when he is more present, and in the moment, he not only plays better, but has more enjoyment of the game, and is relaxed. He plays his game. He is patient, and holds onto the puck longer. He plays at a completely differently level. However, with no goals focusing this part of the equation, he is left focusing on the outer world.
We get our sense of joy, creativity, sense of fulfillment and accomplishment from focusing on the quality of an experience versus focusing on the results of an experience. This is no more evident than when an athlete enters "the zone". In this place, they play each moment for the experience of that moment, there is no external part to the equation. It is merely something there to help map out things, and set markers for their journey. They find their full potential in that moment, by only being in that moment. They know that when being in "the zone" itself is enough, and the rest doesn't truly matter. It is when you can get there, that all the external things will take care of themselves. Your internal goals need to be primary, and the external goals on the peripheral. There, but not front and center. This is where you tap into who you are and all that you have to offer.
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Kate Allgood Masters Sport Psychology (with distinction) Masters General Psychology (with distinction) Sports Hypnosis Certification Mindfulness Certification
TAIS Assessment Certified