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How to set a successful sporting goal: the top 5 things you need to know

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Posted by Barry B under General on 10 February 2012 at 10:02 AM

Goal-setting is part-science and part-guesswork; it's a combination of estimating your future abilities, bolstering those with optimism and hard work, and giving yourself a target which - if you train for it - is just about within your reach. But for many people it's an inexact science that results in disappointment, heartbreak and a tendency to distrust sport for its failure to nurture your ambition within. Bad times.

In this blog post I'm going to talk you through a simple process that will help you set - and more importantly, STICK TO - any long term sporting goal you want to set yourself.

First though, an interesting tangent to consider.

Sports psychology suggests that the human personality can be categorised in a plethora of different ways based on that person's perception of the world in front of them. This is a theory that is grounded in the concept of linguistic determinism: each person sees the world based on the language they have available to them - and in turn the way they present themselves to the world is determined by how their brain is 'wired'. This 'wiring' is known as a metaprogram - and any person's metaprogramming can be clearly established by observation.

Some metaprograms are more relevant than others. One such metaprogram is known as the 'big/small' metaprogram. That is to say, each person views the world either in detail, or via big concepts. To illustrate this, it's easy to think of two different people in your life who approach life, work, love or sport through either a 'big' world approach, or a 'small world' approach.

The big world person sees big concepts - they get the 'big picture' - and are inspired by big concepts and goals.

The small world person sees details - and they do things in small stages, steps or via stepping stones, viewing their training as a task-by-task, day-by-day process.

When it comes to sport - and in particular, training for sport - the most relevant metaprogram to consider is one that is known as the 'towards/away-from' metaprogram.

What this says is that there is a continuous spectrum and that you - the reader - will find yourselves somewhere on, viewing the world either from a 'towards' or an 'away from' perspective. To make what sounds rather woolly slightly easier to digest, two examples should explain it.

A 'towards' person might say:

'I want to be slim'

Whereas an 'away from' person might say:

'I don't want to be fat'

The key part for us is that numerous research articles over the past 40 years demonstrate quite convincingly that people with a 'towards' personality are far more successful at achieving their goals than those who have an 'away from' personality. Knowing what you want is more likely to lead you to success than knowing simply what you don't want. Direction is more effective than distraction.

Which is why the key to setting - and achieving - a sporting goal lies in several golden rules, all of which are aimed to take the 'away from' personality and turn them into the 'towards' person. Those rules might be summarised via the S.M.A.R.T model as follows:

Specific - make the goal as specific and clear as possible

Measurable - you should be able to determine when the goal has or hasn't been reached

Attainable - the goal must be readily attainable with effort

Realistic - the goal should be proportionate to your ability and the time you have to develop

Timely - it must be clear by which date the goal should be accomplished

So, the next time you're taking a challenge or thinking about what you want to achieve in sport, ask yourself this one question: am I going to set a challenge I work towards, or a challenge where I'm working away from something? If you start viewing challenges, goals or ambitions as tangible, measurable, timely objectives that you work towards, you are always halfway to success.

Good luck!

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