Let’s Take Another Look at Goal Setting

Let’s Take Another Look at Goal Setting

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There have been a few occasions recently when people have told me that they don’t really like goal setting and, in fact, have found it to be demotivating rather than the intended, confidence boosting motivation.

I think there are a few reasons why this could be the case and perhaps, by looking at goal setting from a slightly different point of view rather than the, commonly used, S.M.A.R.T. goals which involve writing things down , measuring progress, checking back and regularly reviewing, might help people to feel that they can use goals more effectively.

Perhaps people who don’t like goal setting have been focussing on unachievable goals or on purely results driven goals and, I agree that these approaches can both be demotivating.

I believe that goal setting in equestrian sport is essential for anyone who wishes to ride for anything more than the simple pleasure of being on the back of a horse. So, if you are learning and wish to learn more and if you are competing and wish to push yourself to improve then using some form of goal setting is the way to go.

When thinking about your goals, always make sure to focus on what you DO want to happen rather than on what you don’t want. Your brain is very clever at focussing on what you tell it so it’s important to tell it what you really want to achieve.

We can look at three types of goals in sport psychology:

  • Process Goals are the way of measuring and executing the training process in order to enhance your existing skills and gain new ones. These might include how many times per week you intend to ride and how often you have coaching and attend training clinics. They might also include enhancing your mental skills as well as your riding. They are your day to day and week to week training plans.
  • Performance Goals are a way of tracking your overall improvement in the sport. They include developing consistency in performance and things such as fitness and stamina. Performance goals are a way of measuring your progress.
  • Outcome Goals are the results you gain from consistently working on your process and performance goals. This is where you keep your eyes on the prize and look forward to winning some rosettes and trophies.

All of the above are important looking for at outcomes in any sport but they aren’t all equally weighted in their effect on your performance as a rider.

The critical ones are the process goals as they are the groundwork you need to do to learn and make progress. Without these basic plans you’re not going to achieve any outcome goals.

Performance goals need to be realistic and challenging enough to make sure that you keep on improving. Your performance will show improvement if your processes are in place and carried out consistently. If your performance goals aren’t being achieved then it’s important to return to the process goals, re-assess and change them as necessary.

Outcome goals might be seen as the most exciting, and by making sure that your have been working on your process and performance goals then they will take care of themselves and results will follow.

You will have a lot of control over the process goals and also a significant amount of control over the performance goals. Outcomes are less easy to control as there are so many variables and so much which is completely outwith your control as an individual rider. They are well worth having as it is exciting to dream about a big win and to imagine that wonderful feeling you will get as a winner and how proud you will be of all of the hard work.

So never stop dreaming and by setting up your processes needed to help you to get there then you’re giving yourself the very best chance you can.


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