I am a goal junkie. I am completely obsessed with goal setting. I set goals every day for every aspect of life. While I may take it a bit overboard, I do believe that goal setting is a very beneficial technique for accomplishing anything in life.
Most of us have been taught to use the SMART (specific, measurable, adjustable, realistic, time-bound) acronym for goal setting. I think this is definitely an important step, as it helps to create optimal goals. Because this is a commonly covered subject, I am going to skip it and instead talk about a couple crucial parts of goal setting that I find are often ignored or forgotten.
Short-Term vs. Long-Term Goals
I’d loosely define a long-term goal as one that takes 6 months or more to accomplish, and a short-term goal as anything shorter than that. Where we go wrong here is using one without the other. Having both short and long term goals is so important. A long-term goal is the destination, and a short-term goal is the map to get there. If we are missing either one of these we will end up lost.
First, set your big exciting long-term goal (make sure it’s S.M.A.R.T.). Once you have that, fill in the time it will take to get there with smaller short-term goals. There are two techniques I use to fill in short-term goals. One is to divide your goal by the months you have to get there. For example, if you want to lose 100 pounds in a year you would divide 100 by 12 months. Your short-term goals would then be to lose 8.33 pounds each month. The other is to work backwards from your goal date and set milestones. For example, my goal is to lift a 900 pound total at USAPL nationals. My current total is 766. I found a qualifying meet that gave me 6 months before nationals, so I set my goal for that meet at 830 pounds, or about half way between my current total and goal total.
Long-term goals are important so we know where we are going, but short-term goals provide the necessary steps and keep us on track to get there.
Process vs. Performance Goals
The other distinction we often fail to make is between process and performance goals. Process goals are focused on the specific practices you will engage in, and do not take outcome into account. Examples would be things like “I will lift weights 5 times a week for at least 30 minutes,” or “I will run 3 times a week for at least 1 mile.” It is important to include process goals in your plan, because it will enforce the behaviors necessary to accomplish your long-term goal.
Performance goals, on the other hand, are focused on improving your performance in a certain area. “Improve my mile time by 5 seconds,” and “do 5 more pushups,” would be examples of performance goals. The benefit of this type of goal is that it pushes you to be better. It is important, though, that these goals be focused on improving your own performance, and are not a comparison to anyone else.
I highly recommend including both process and performance goals in your plan. I think it is more common to use performance goals, but process goals are often forgotten. Process goals will ensure that you are creating the habits and building the consistency needed to accomplish bigger goals. Performance goals will motivate you to work hard during the process rather than just go through the motions.
Goal-setting is much more than coming up with a SMART goal. Ultimately, you should have daily process goals that get you to your short-term performance goals, which are stepping-stones to your big long-term goal. These are all pieces to the puzzle, and without all the pieces the picture won’t come together as planned.