The Synergy of Goals and Process: How Athletes Can Achieve Their Goals
As we ring in the new year, many of us are thinking about the goals we want to achieve in the coming months. But have you ever stopped to consider that it’s not just the end result that matters but the process of getting there as well? I love New Years because at least for one day everyone is optimistic about becoming a better version of who they want to be. Spirits are high. We set lofty goals as we shoot for the stars. However, for most of us, those lofty goals fall by the wayside shortly after we make them, and our high spirits come crashing down to extreme disappointment. The fact of the matter is, if not prepared for properly, New Year’s resolutions can do more harm to our psyche than good.
For the entirety of my life, I set New Year’s resolutions and failed sharply. The sting of failure cut a little bit deeper each time. I played five years of college football. For five years I made it my New Year’s resolution to be an All-American. Spoiler alert, I went 0–5. Never even came close. Looking back, I could have told you by the start of February I wouldn’t have been an All American. I wish I knew then what I know now.
I know the new trend is to criticize goals and highly emphasize the process. There’s a reason for that. However, I think goals are still extremely important. It’s the combination of goals and process together that lead to progress.
As athletes, we need to be aware of the effect that failure has on our mental health. Athletics comes with a ton of built-in failure. There’s no reason for us to unnecessarily add to it by picking an arbitrary goal with no action plan. When we do this, it can cause a spiral effect of self-doubt that is hard to stop. The truth is, we can only handle so much failure before we give up. That threshold is different for everyone, but eventually the result is the same. We need to learn to build mental fortitude. There’s a misconception that resiliency is only built through experiencing failure. While failure is 100% necessary, the ability to handle failure is more easily accomplished when you experience sustained success.
Let me emphasize this again. Goals are still extremely important. Goals become meaningless only when we fail to plan and act accordingly. It’s important to have a plan that allows small actions to compound over time. State the goal, form a process, track progress, and adjust the process appropriately. I have found it super helpful to set macro goals with micro goals along the way to track improvement. What I mean by this, is to set a long-term target that would seem nearly impossible to most. Then, set smaller 30-day goals that are attainable. When the long- and short-term goals are clearly defined, it becomes simpler to put together a daily action plan. Aim big, start small, compound over time. That’s how we win and build confidence in ourselves.
Across the sports world, competitors at all levels will set championship level goals with pedestrian level action plans. I encourage everyone to set those super high expectations. However, I routinely remind those same people to keep the emphasis on the journey of getting there. Your first process will not be your last. It will constantly change and evolve. That’s the exciting part. We constantly grow and develop. We are never a finished product. That’s the mentality I choose.
The most exciting part of being goal oriented but process driven is not achieving success but actively learning more about yourself than you ever thought possible. Use this New Years as the opportunity to finally take action toward being the best version of yourself. Goals, process, progress, adapt, and overcome.