What is a Goal?
A Goal can be defined as attaining a specific level of proficiency on a task usually within a specified time limit (Locke, Shaw, Saari and Latham, 1981). We can have objective goals such as improving our bench press one rep max from 80kg to 100kg or they can be subjective, this may just involve increased satisfaction and well-being in your own appearance.
Goals can be performance based, which involves improving actual performance in relation to their own standard of excellence. They can be Outcome based, which refer to the desired outcome of a competition. Finally they can be process based, this refers to improving the execution of a specific strategy or movement for example.
Applying Goals to your Training?
- Goals Must be Specific– Setting Highly specific goals has been proven to be far more effective in eliciting high task performance compared to “Do Your Best Goals” (Locke and Latham, 1990). Thus it is far more useful to set a specific target weight to achieve than to just say “I’m going to try to lose a bit of weight”.
- Form Goal-Achievement strategies- This involves devising a diet and training programme that is built toward achieving your goal. Your strategy is like a map, if you follow it exactly there is no reason why you shouldn’t achieve your goal.
- Set Long and Short Term Goals– A long term goal directs our attention to the future, they are the journeys end, and this could be anything from Fat loss, Muscular gains or Improved CV fitness. Whereas a short term goal is a smaller more manageable goal, it is helpful in providing information on what we need to do/alter in order to achieve our long term aim. When achieve short term goals they are effective in providing motivation as they show we are progressing and that our long term goal is in fact attainable.
- Realistic but Challenging- Locke and Latham found that goals should be difficult and challenging yet attainable (1990). If we set goals that are too easy then it is unlikely we will apply maximum effort, but if goals are too difficult and unrealistic it will often lead to frustration, decreased motivation and lowered self-confidence.
Why are goals beneficial?
- Motivation- Goals influence our performance by directing our attention toward the task and necessary behaviour required to achieve this task (Locke, 1968). Goals also activate effort and enhance our persistence, they do this by providing a standard of training we must meet each session in order to achieve our goal. By reaching our short term goals we are developing motivation and confidence that we are capable of reaching our long term goal.
- Goal Regulation- Goals improve self-regulation, involving the cultivation of thoughts, emotions and behaviours that are planned toward achieving your personal goal (Zimmerman, 2000). Research by Zimmerman and Kitsantas 2001 found that expert athletes use more self-regulation than non-expert. For example they do this by selecting more specific process goals, they monitor their performance outcomes more regularly. Not only does self-regulation enhance performance, it also improves performer satisfaction.
Setting goals is essential in all aspects of life if you intend to improve and keep excelling, it is particularly useful in Sporting environment and the gym. By setting goals and devising plans on how to achieve these goals, you will wake up each day knowing what you want to achieve and how you set out to do it. This will prevent you from just drifting and not really progressing, it will provide you with responsibility and motivation. For example only you can decide whether you want to change, it will be your responsibility to stick to your eating plan, to get to the gym and train no matter what the circumstances, you may have to miss the odd meal or night out here and there but at the end of it all it will have been worth it when you have achieved your goal.