Reaching Your Goals
The author of The Winner’s Mind: A Competitor’s Guide to Sports and Business Success reveals how champions in any activity clearly identify goals and set up game plans to achieve them.
By Allen Fox
Most of the champion’s attitudes and techniques, once they are understood, can be applied by anybody. Anybody can improve and become more successful in business, sports, or elsewhere by becoming aware of their own achievement shortcomings — their counter-productive attitudes and insidiously harmful fears and emotions — and overcoming them by consciously behaving more like the champions.
Sure, the champions have it easier because they have better control over their fears and habitually do the right thing competitively. But with enlightenment, discipline, and persistence, the average person can do just as well. One of the techniques of champions is goal setting.
Goals Yield Direction, Motivation, and Game Plans
Champions are more clearly aware of their achievement goals than most people. They fix their goals firmly and distinctly in their view-screens and can thus direct and focus their efforts more effectively.
Having a clear goal allows them to develop an intelligent game plan for reaching that goal, and the advancing prospect of reaching it energizes them. Having clear goals and plans allows them to break up tasks into bite-sized pieces and work on them systematically. In this way, it is easier to see to the end of them; they appear less daunting, engender less fear, and are less likely to be put off. Most people, because they are afraid that they will not be able to achieve worthy goals in any case, run blindly and inefficiently with neither clear goals nor developed plans for achievement.
Having Goals and Moving Toward Them Makes Us Happy
Not only does setting goals help us become more effective achievers, but it also makes us happier! People are happiest when they are progressing toward a goal — when they wake up today a little better off than they were yesterday.
People who are trapped in situations where improvement is difficult or impossible are less happy. Here the feeling of stagnation is unpleasant and emotionally debilitating. Progressing toward a goal requires, first and foremost, that we have one.
Goals and Your Game Plan
Goals can be broken down into two categories: short-term and long-term. Your long-term goal is your major goal, the “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” and is what you are ultimately trying to accomplish.
Your short-term goals are stepping-stone achievements on the way to your long-term goal. They are simple, bite-sized objectives that lead you toward your ultimate objective. Effective achievement requires both types of goals, although, as we will discuss later, the short-term ones are the most important.
Equally essential is a game plan. This gives you the road map of your pathway to your long-term or ultimate goal and allows you to identify your short-term goals. All goals should be clearly identified (as specifically as possible) so you can keep your eye on them and not become scattered and disoriented.
It is also preferable, though not always possible, for their attainments to, in some way, be measurable. Vague goals or goals that are, for all practical purposes, unattainable are only modestly helpful. Examples are goals like “getting rich” or “running a huge company.” These are more in the “hope” than “goal” category. On the other hand, even vague goals or “pie in the sky” goals are better than none at all.
Effectiveness Requires Focus on Short-Term Goals
Champions win tennis matches by using this strategy. Their long-term goal is so obvious — to win the match — that they don’t have to think much about it beforehand. They construct a game plan that, ideally, uses their own strengths to attack their opponents’ weaknesses. This gives them the best chance of winning the match.
Their short-term goal becomes to win each point by using their game plan, and they focus all their mental, emotional, and physical resources on winning these points — one at a time. They don’t have to concern themselves about winning the match. (In fact, they often make conscious efforts to avoid focusing on winning the match during play since it tends to make them nervous and is, therefore, counterproductive.)
As long as they are sufficiently adept at attaining their short-term goals (winning points), their long-term goal will follow as a matter of course.
Happiness is Moving Forward
You will be happiest when you are improving in some way and moving toward a goal. This is best accomplished by setting up a clear long-term goal, a game plan for reaching it, a series of short-term goals, and then devoting all your powers to meeting your short-term goals. You can trot out your long-term goal from time to time for motivation and to see if you are progressing toward it as planned, but never forget to keep focused on meeting short-term goals.
Before and during the process, you should clearly identify and, figuratively, set on the table in front of you, your fears of failure. Do you think you are not smart enough, not educated enough, an inept athlete, lacking in willpower, have never done it before, not a “winner” type, and so forth? Consciously recognize that you can overcome any of these supposed weaknesses with sufficient effort and purpose.
If you find yourself procrastinating or are losing your resolve during the achievement process, trot out these fears again. They are, behind the scenes, disorienting you. Bring them out into the open, vow to overpower them, and immediately start moving forward. Success reduces fears of failure and breeds success.
The Success Formula
The general formula for success is fivefold:
- Clearly identify your ultimate goal.
- Construct a game plan for reaching that goal.
- Use this plan to set up short-term goals that lead toward your ultimate goal. They should be bite-sized, feasible, and, if possible, measurable.
- Attack each of your short-term goals in order, one at a time, by focusing all your energies on it. Once it is accomplished, move on to attack your next short-term goal.
- Monitor your overall progress toward your ultimate goal as more information becomes available. Consider whether or not you need to modify your game plan. If you modify the plan, change your short-term goals accordingly.
See all articles by Allen Fox
About the Author
Allen Fox is author of The Winner's Mind: A Competitor's Guide to Sports and Business Success (Racquet Tech Publishing, an imprint of the USRSA, $17.95, available on-line and at book stores everywhere). Fox earned a B.A. degree in physics and a Ph.D. in psychology from UCLA and is author of two previous tennis classics. Formerly ranked as high as No. 4 in the U.S,. Fox was a Wimbledon quarterfinalist, an investment banker, a small business owner, and the coach of many highly ranked Pepperdine tennis teams.
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