Five goal setting exercises for high performance
Like it or not, formal or informal, goal setting is a constant in each of our lives. The direction which our careers, our craft, and our relationships take is governed by the invisible forces of desire and hope, through the more visible mediums of habit and action. In acknowledgement of how important the pursuit of goals is to our achievement and well-being, this article looks to present five leading strategies designed for, and used by, high performers across a range of crafts. A far cry from bullet point lists and talk of S.M.A.R.T goals, these exercises make use of creative thinking and visual-spatial design - perfect for those personalities who push boundaries, and exist on the edge of their comfort zone.
Deliberate goal setting is the conscious setting and articulation of desires, standards, and actions. It requires vulnerability, critical thinking, and the ability to think BIG. It’s an area of performance psychology which manages to be simultaneously over-simplified and over-complicated, and as a result, is often not given the time and effort which it warrants.
The setting of clearly defined goals result in many tangible outcomes. It simplifies the act of to focusing your efforts in a clear direction, with a clear plan mapped out. This reduces inefficiency when it matters most. Persistence is increased when challenges are encountered, and allows maximum energy to be put into overcoming these. Self-confidence is built up by the achievement of smaller goals, and satisfaction is found in the structure provided. Finally, performance benefits are inevitable in whatever craft is pursued. Not simply in regards to binary success or failure, but in the progress made while chasing outcomes. Additionally, the knowledge gained informs reflection and re-planning when goals are revisited.
Goal setting really is for everyone! Positive outcomes from goal setting have been consistently observed across the medical, educational, and elite sporting domains. For all the coaches, educators, and leaders out there - there’s no time like the present to reconfigure your team’s goal setting strategy.
Ideally, goal setting should take place at a clearly defined start point. Examples of this may include: At the beginning of business quarters, during pre-season for athletes, or between semesters for students. This allows full advantage to be taken of the planning phase, and for foreseeable issues to be troubleshooted ahead of time.
Goals can be broken down into four major categories. Each category comes with distinct characteristics, and unique benefits.
Dream goals are an ideal best case scenario to aspire to and work towards. They sit at the outer-reaches of potential, and are a reflection of our values and motivations. These goals are great for cultivating inspiration, and providing a north-star to guide our journey.
Outcome goals are an end result, and often fall out of our control. Whether it’s placing on the podium, or averaging a five star Uber rating, there’s ultimately only so much we can do to affect the abilities and perception of others. These goals allow us to identify what it is we’re pursuing in the medium term, focusing our efforts, and galvanizing teams.
Performance goals are quantifiable markers - think profit margins, obtaining certifications, or shooting percentages. Although some crafts lend themselves better to performance goals than others, these tangible waypoints can be used to measure (and celebrate!) progress, while providing stepping stones on our path to success.
Process goals provide us with regular action items which can be tracked and acted on. These behaviors help us form healthy habits, and take ownership over our own improvement. Small, specific, and well mapped out process goals increase both productivity, and accountability.
So with the psycho-education out the way, read on for five tried and tested goal setting exercises ready for you to implement next season! (Click on the exercise names to download your own PDF worksheet).
The Pyramid - For those chasing a dream.
Building from top to bottom, or bottom to top, goal setting pyramids provide a clear blueprint of how processes lead into performances which create outcomes and allow dreams to be realized.
This exercise is ideal when there is a clear vision in mind - helping create a plan to get there.
The Wheel - For those seeking perspective.
When it comes to balancing our lives, why reinvent the wheel?
Goal setting in this style has been practiced for centuries, and gives a bird's eye perspective on the component pieces of performance and/or happiness.
This exercise is best when looking holistically at performance and wellbeing. Allowing discrepancies to be observed, intentional growth to be created, and priorities to be adjusted when necessary.
The Timeline - For those with a deadline.
With the dates of tryouts in your calendar, how will you ensure you’re ready to perform?
Setting goals in linear form promotes planning, creates action, and enhances motivation through the achievement of progressively increasing goals.
This exercise is used when working with clear time constraints. Giving the tools to identify crucial performance markers, and figure out how to achieve these.
The Galaxy - For those thinking big.
Make your next goal setting session out of this world!
Utilise left and right side brain function by setting goals in a way which requires both logic, and creativity. This increases confidence, and takes into account individual differences in a way which a ballpoint pen and lined notepad cannot.
This exercise is great in an experiential group setting. It’s an engaging way to visualise goal setting plans, and create cohesion from large groups. All that’s needed are a few colours of sticky notes or cue cards, and you’re ready to begin.
The Staircase* - For those who want a plan.
Begin by taking first step towards success!
By providing a framework which allows larger goals to be broken down into more attainable steps, self-confidence is bolstered, and motivation is increased.
This exercise is perfect when trying to identify the actions needed to achieve a clear goal. It provides a structure for outcomes to be easily broken down into their component pieces.
* Shoutout to Mina Leslie-Wujastyk for introducing me to this one!
With clear benefits, goal setting is an activity which some evidence-based creativity can transform into a powerful tool for growth. Try out one of the above exercises yourself, or with your team, and let us know what you think!
Mzk Performance also conducts consultations and workshops where we help guide you through the goal setting process, exploring opportunities for growth, and facilitating teams or groups. For more information, please see our services page, or get in contact. Thanks for reading!