“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
There are two types of people - those who set goals, and those who don’t. As a mental performance consultant, personal trainer, and educator, I know first hand that goal setting is part of the road to success, but you have to know how to set them properly.
Now dreaming of one day standing on a podium with a gold medal seems all fine and dandy, but how do you plan on getting there exactly? Having short and long-term goals that are supported by action plans will let you focus on the process instead of the outcome, and make sure you are striving towards the tasks you need to do in order to be the champion you aspire to be.
The concept of SMART goals is something that I love, and I am sure most of you have heard about it already. Most coaches and teachers will advocate it as it stresses these 5 major points:
SMART goals put you in the mindset to think about what exactly you want to achieve, how you will track your progress, your action plan, how realistic it is, and when exactly you want to achieve the goal. I have been advocating this concept to my clients for the past few years, but what I heard during a lecture from Richard Koestner, a professor at McGill University at this year’s NASPSPA conference has changed that. I have now realized why SMART goals don’t always work for everybody. There are 3 key ingredients that are missing in order to succeed.
I am going to take SMART goals to the next level and remix the name to SMARTISS goals. That’s right, it makes no absolute sense but let me explain.
Make it Interesting
Now that you know what “SMART” stands for, let me elaborate on the extended version. You have to absolutely make sure your goal is interesting and meaningful to you. If you are only studying to be a doctor because mom and dad said so, well the next few years of your student life (and well I guess your entire life) will be unbearable if you are not enjoying what you are doing. I want you to take a second and look back at how many times someone set a goal for you - you probably didn’t even know it was happening! It is normal that the ones we love expect us to do things, and well sometimes you just have to make sure you are doing things for the right reason. If you have an interesting and meaningful goal, you are more likely to persist through times of adversity. It’s not always easy to get what you want, so make sure to strive for something that will also keep you motivated. Once you reach the top, that sense of fulfillment will be more than words can express.
Create your Support network
In general, a goal is usually challenging. It is normal to be in periods where you lose motivation and confidence, so it is important that you have someone who supports you in your journey. This could be a friend, coach, parent, mentor, teacher - anyone who is able to be there for you when you reach a setback. The problem here is that we all have a different definition of support. It was shown that most people prefer listening support. I don’t know about you, but when I am not motivated I want someone to listen to me complain when I am being a Debbie Downer. The last thing I want is Peter trying to change the subject when all I want him to do is listen to me complain! Usually we just need to get things off our chest and voice our thoughts in order to realize how ridiculous they are, followed by some encouraging words.
In addition to listening, having support from someone you trust and can communicate easily with is important. It is unfortunate, but there are athletes out there that do not receive the individual support needed for their performance success - whether it be from a coach, parent, friend or even a teammate. Communication is key, and if for example an athlete and coach are not on the same page about goals, it will be hard for the athlete to develop and grow both on and off the field.
Support also means giving feedback, checking-in, and following up. Yes, a lot of us tend to prefer Iistening support (especially when things go wrong), but when it comes to strengthening weaknesses and improving certain skills, a different approach is needed. It is hard to work on certain skills if you are unsure of how to go about it. Having that someone on the outside (such as a coach or teammate) can make sure that they shine the light on a situation a little differently, as well as help spark new ideas. When you lose motivation because you are not improving, or run off course, it is a lot more easier when you have support to check-in and see what’s going on to help you get back on track.
Secede from past failed goals
Are you one of those people who sets the same New Year’s resolution time and time again but is unable to achieve it? That’s okay - you are not alone. If you are one of these people, you probably set the same goals throughout the year over and over again with zero success. The good news is that you can change that! It is important to let go and secede of goals that you never achieve and start setting goals that you will be able to succeed in.
One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions that I hear at the gym is,
“I am going to get active and train at the gym all year!”
People who have never stepped in a gym before tend to buy a year membership and think that they are magically going to get the motivation to train three to five times a week - for 12 months! As a personal trainer it is great to see such seemingly motivated people, but it is not that easy. It involves adding this new behavior to your weekly schedule, finding the motivation, and changing your habits and routine. Now, there are few that are able to do this - hats off to them, but setting a goal without giving much thought to an action plan will usually lead to failure.
It is important to reflect on why you were never successful in the past, and realize what you can do to make a more realistic goal in the future. Perhaps you never trained for more than 3 months at a time because your program was boring, or you weren’t seeing results. Maybe this year you need a personal trainer, a gym buddy, or maybe lifting weights is not for you and you’d rather begin by attending group classes.
What I am trying to get at here is that you need to realize why you did not achieve success in the past, and make the right changes to make sure it works in the future when you decide to try again for the 10th time. Maybe this means taking baby steps (start training at home first), or perhaps it means to throw the whole idea out the window. Perhaps training for marathons may be more exciting and motivating than lifting weights at the gym all year round!
Now that you know how to be a “Smart-iss”, I challenge you to write your own SMARTISS goals. It could be for your career, the sport you play, school, or even a more personal one like being more friendly to those you dislike! Remember that you should always revisit your goals. What you write down is not set in stone. If your action plan doesn’t seem to be realistic or something in life makes it hard for you to take that next step towards the top, don’t be afraid to re-evaluate and change things around - just make sure it’s SMART....ISS!
Camille Charbonneau is the founder and lead Mental Performance Consultant at Peak Perform. As a health and fitness enthusiast, she teaches her clients how to develop mental toughness through what she likes to call “brain training”, and believes that mindfulness is a key factor in improving overall performance.