Setting Process Goals
Setting process goals
At Kansas State, it was a tradition to have individual goal meetings with the event coach at the beginning of each Fall semester. Most people loved it, as it brought hopes for the upcoming season because the rough reality of competition season hadn’t set in yet. Everyone walked in the meetings with eyes full of hopes and minds full of big dreams, large American-like expectations. I liked them too because I operated very visually, and I saw value in drawing out and having my season goals in front of me. However, the first years I struggled to understand what coach wanted from me in those meetings. If I told him that I would like to be faster in the sprints that season, he would ask me to write down specifically how fast my goal is to be in the flying 30 meter runs in training. He would also encourage me to think about what I needed to do daily to accomplish that goal. Sometimes it felt like he was being too picky and too particular with details. Only now I see the value in it.
I always watched confident and outspoken athletes with great curiosity. I have seen boastful daydreamers who have set unrealistic expectations for the season and failed to fulfill those expectations with a loud noise and embarrassment. I have also seen the humble and lowly athletes who say nothing and conquer everything. As well as those who are in between, maybe somewhat confused with what is the best mental mindset. I think I fall in the last category – somewhere between the humble quiet and the boastful outspoken. I’m sure everyone has his or her own happy medium in this area, and I’m also sure that it can be improved. Both sides have their benefits. One provides with self-confidence and readiness mindset while the other allows looking at the training process with humility and curiosity that encourages continual learning.
Legendary American basketball coach, John Wooden says, “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” I would like to borrow his definition of success and work from this premise. What is one of the most effective tools for a track athlete to gain individual athletic success in training and competition? Setting process goals. Setting and pursuing process goals forces us to stay in the moment and bring focus to each training. They remind us to shift from the daydreaming of what we want to accomplish at the end of the season to what we need to do here and now, where we can actually make a meaningful change. “Now is the only time we have, and the only time we have any control over.” It is a quote from the well-known American author, Richard Carlson. I had to stop and think about it for a few minutes when I heard it for the first time. I realized that there is no way around it, it simply is true regards to training as a track athlete. Each training session, each moment, one change at the time. This truth allows us to focus our energy on the details, gives clarity to push when we ought to push, to slow down when our bodies need a break. Long-term goals are optional, but process goals should be obligatory. Here are a few examples that I have made for myself that serve me weekly, even daily:
● Every technique training in offseason must be slowed down to 85% to learn the movements correctly;
● Prepare meals before each training so I always have healthy snacks available;
● Do preventive rehabilitation to my past weaknesses - Achilles, patellar tendon, shoulder capsule 2x per week.
Notice how I’m not talking about my goal to break my personal best or the 8000-point barrier 10 months later. It might hype me up for a while, sound like a good advertisement to many but realistically, it is not going to bring a real change in my training process, especially, if I decide to be driven from the within.
The overall result derives from the accumulated steps that have or have not been taken prior. New habits are formed and sustained only if we bring weekly and daily, in some cases even hourly intention to them. The result will not be a spectacular one if the work has not been exceptionally intentional and careful. It is only possible with careful setting of the process goals that focus on what can be improved today to make a better tomorrow.
Lesson: Setting process goals for training is a crucial step to take in order to gain a proper mindset toward continual training progress as it focuses on being fully engaged with the training process itself.
*It is a shortened chapter from my soon-to-be-released book. It will be a track and field training wisdom book, filled with personal stories, training/coaching observations, sports performance research, and downright pragmatic common-sense. Each month until the release date, I will post one shortened chapter of the book.
Estimated book release: June 2019 (Amazon Kindle)
Provisional title: Track and Field – Beyond Technique Training (How to beat genetic limitations by changing the mindset?)