4 Steps to Master Goal Setting

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I frequently suffer from something that currently has no official medical name, and I guarantee that you have suffered from it too.

Maybe even frequently at some point in your life. What is this mystery condition that is so common yet still unnamed? Well, it is something I so crudely refer to as “Head-Up-My-Own-Butt Syndrome”.

I know, I really have a way with words.

Unfortunately, this can be a situational problem and there is no ONE cause. However, it is commonly caused by the setting of unattainable personal goals and, later,  the inability to achieve them. Symptoms can be anger, frustration, sadness, anxiety, and the inability to enjoy the journey.

Starting to sound familiar?

Here’s an example:

About 6-8 weeks ago in class at CrossFit Roux we were maxing out our squat snatch (essentially the maximum pounds or kilos you can lift in one repetition of that movement). My previous max had been 105 pounds. I struggle with this lift because I know I am so much stronger, but can’t seem to get past the mental barrier with it. I started looking at what all of the other women were hitting that day and decided 120 was my goal. WHAT? A 15 pound jump on a lift that gives me nightmares. What was I thinking? Fast forward and I hit 115. Which is amazing. Any new personal record is great, especially one where you jump by double-digits. But, y’all, I almost CRIED. And not tears of joy.

How crazy is that? Not only did I hit my previous max, but I surpassed it by 10 pounds. But I had gotten so wrapped up in what everyone else was doing that I didn’t allow myself to enjoy the accomplishment.

Now, look, I’m not saying that setting lofty goals for yourself is a bad thing. Do it. You need them. But what I often fail to do is recognize that they are long-term goals. Then more of what happened a few weeks ago happens; I get disappointed in my progress and that is not just unhelpful, but can be detrimental and totally derail you.

Let’s be real, trying to keep this from happening ever again is in and of itself a lofty goal, but we can start to look at our habits and implement tools to make this happen less frequently and also minimize the damage it does to your soul when it does.

So here are 4 steps you can take to help master goal setting:

  1. Take a long, hard look in the mirror. Who are you as an athlete? Where are you now, honestly? What are your biggest weaknesses?
  2. Set your big goals.
  3. Break your big goals down into smaller ones, maybe daily or weekly goals. Striving for that much sought after “progress, not perfection”. This will give you a sense of direction. When you have that, the motivation to accomplish those goals will follow. Setting small goals that are a part of the big picture, will not only help get you there, but crushing those small goals along that way will do nothing but build confidence.
  4. Although you should try to stick to your game plan, remind yourself that it isn’t a race and that there is no winner. Racing yourself can become a wonderful way to create a giant vortex of stress.

Now, a sidebar to remember in all of this:

  1. Remember all those big goals you set? Don’t try to tackle them all at once! Pick one to put your focus and energy on. If you try to hit all of your big goals at once, you’ll end up like the Cat in the Hat. Remember when he tried to stand on the ball and balance the rake and the fish and the cake and all the stuff and it all came crashing down? Do not be the Cat.
  2. I am applying all of this to goals within the gym, but that doesn’t mean that this is the only place you should put this into practice. This goes for goals in any part of your life.

So now it’s time to put down the phone or shut the computer screen. Go out there and start kicking your own butt! As the wise Dr. Burke always says, “Better everyday.”