Establishing Goals and Objectives

What is a Goal?

Goals are those achievements (personal or athletically) that you find personally important and incredibly satisfying. In the world of psychology, it is frequently mentioned that a goal should produce a sensation that you want to experience over and over. Goals should literally excite you because they are the things that allow you to achieve your highest level of true potential – frequently referred to as self actualization.

As you are establishing your goals, you may feel that committing to significant goals requires taking big risks and you are correct! Individuals that reach their full potential, by their nature, are educated risk takers and are aware of the fact that following a sequence of accomplishments makes the goal a reality within a specific period of time. Ironically, accomplished individuals understand the inherent risk of failure associated with not having a definitive plan which motivates them even more to establish specific goals, objectives and timelines. In a research report published by the International Journal of Sports Psychology, “the clearer and detailed the goal, the greater the individual’s tolerance of fatigue and distractions”.

When you establish you 3, 6 and 12-month goals, you will notice that the number of goals decreases as the duration increases. The reason for this is to eliminate spreading your efforts too thin which will only increase your frustration and failure to obtain your goals. Remember, you want to dedicate your time, energy and resources to tasks that will yield the highest level of your personal improvement and achievement.

What is the Difference Between a Goal & an Objective?

Objectives are the individual tasks that you need to complete to make your goals a reality. In order to be successful, your objectives need to be outlined in a sequential order that builds upon the previous objective. There are two things to keep in mind when you are establishing your objectives. First, establish objectives that are measureable and quantifiable. The goal is to strip the emotions associated with accomplishment. If a client tells me that he or she wants to get faster, there is no way to measure “fast”. However, if you tell me that you have a specific elapsed time for a specific distance, we can retest after six weeks of consistent training to see if your elapsed time has improved. If it has, you know that your nutrition and training is developing positive results. However, if the elapsed time isn’t faster, then you know that something specific has to be adjusted in you nutrition and training protocols. There is no emotion associated with setting objectives – you are either getting fitter and faster or you are not. Second, you don’t have to fill out every objective in the provided outline. You will notice in my example below, goal number three doesn’t have all five objectives filled in. The key is to establish objectives that effective in helping you achieve the goal. The focus needs to be on Working Smart, Not Hard!

There are five easy steps to setting goals and objectives:

Data Dump – Stop and review your biggest frustrations over the last six months. Write all of them down. Don’t organize or rationalize, just get them written down. Note: give yourself a week to finish this first step.

Organize – Take all of your frustrations that you have written down and rank them based on which frustration will provide you the greatest return on the effort that you put in. For example, if you are 25 pounds overweight (specific to your sport or activity level), losing this unwanted weight will immediately improve your strength and endurance. Be careful not to choose task that you would “prefer” to focus on, but rather stay focused on where you can get the biggest return on your investment of time, energy and resources.

Establish Timelines – Establish realistic time lines to accomplish each goal. Using the above example of losing 25 pounds for optimum health and performance, you would want to put the total goal of 25 pounds over the next six months (four pounds a month, one pound a week is realistic). If you were to put this 25-pound goal under the three-month timeline, you are simply setting yourself up for failure.

Prepare for Success – It is imperative that you plan for your success. We say with all of our clients that your success can not be accidental. Success and performance is created by establishing definitive goals and then breaking them down into incremental steps (known as objectives) with each step building on the previous. The key to maximizing this step is to gather all of the resources (tools, equipment, etc.) necessary PRIOR to beginning your achievement journey. For example, if you plan on adding fruit smoothies to your increase your intake of vitamins and minerals, you will need a blender. Though this may sound odd, it is this simple hurdle that will keep you from adding smoothies to your program – you don’t have the necessary “tools”. The same thing happens with the desire to eat real, raw food, it is the lack of purchasing, cleaning, prepping and packing the food items that keeps you from taking them with you when you leave the house. If you don’t have your real food with you and you are hungry, you will pull into a drive through. Planning ahead is the key to accomplishing any and all goals that you have established.

Train with Focus – Before heading out the door to train or race, review your personal goals and objectives; remember that there is a reason why you are not good at something: you don’t like it! However, if you take your daily training protocols and run them through your objectives (what you have to do to make your goals a reality) filter, you will crystal clear focus and a completely new level of motivation. Ironically, when you want to improve on something, all it takes is a dedication to identify what it will take to improve, create the time to train correctly in your personal schedule, collect all of the resources necessary and dedicate all of your energy to making your goals a reality. Once you achieve your three month goals, you can now move onto your six month goals and then onto your 12-month goals. Repeat this process indefinitely with bigger goals and aspirations than you ever thought possible. Over the last 33 years I have seen this process produce results that are literally in the history books of various sports and human accomplishments.

Let’s get focused, organized and start working towards your true potential!

Mental Blueprint of Success

Creating A Championship Mentality

There is no secret that during training your efforts are 90% physical and 10% mental and on race day your results are 90% mental, 10% physical. Ironically, most racers are aware of this; however, in my 34 years of working with athletes, not one has ever presented themselves to my office with a mental program in place. As I frequently say, “Your success up to this point is completely accidental and your future success is not guaranteed”. The reason why I say this is because they don’t know what they did to achieve the success that they have enjoyed, nor do they understand why their performance results have begun to suffer. Let’s take a look at the science of fear and then create some strategies to get you to front of it and stay there.

The Science of Stress on the Brain

The part of your brain that governs your response to anxiety is call the amygdala, or your fear center. This segment of your brain reacts quickly to fear and threats. For example, if your brain perceives that you are going to be attacked by a bear, the amygdala relays a message to your adrenal system to release adrenaline and cortisol. Additionally, more blood and sugar is diverted to your muscles for oxygen and energy. Another by-product of stress is that your amygdala shuts down your immune and digestive systems so your body can focus on running from the bear (this is where your hierarchy of needs come into full swing!). When you stop and review how the body responds to stress, if harnessed properly this can be used to your full advantage on race day meaning more oxygen and sugar to the muscles.

The complex issue within the brain is that the amygdala can also influence another part of your brain, the prefrontal cortex, which is in charge of decision making and reins in impulses and emotions, according to Dr. Michael Lardon, M.D. The negative long-term effects of consistent stress levels can result in the form of interrupted digestion (meaning less energy for racing), suppressed immune system (you become sick more frequently) and interrupted sleep patterns (delayed recovery after racing). Having less energy, consistently sick and delayed recovery quickly disrupts your motivation which ultimately leads to mental burnout and frustration.

Identifying and Dealing with Stress & Fear

To prevent stress from having a negative impact on your racing, you need to identify physical responses associated with stress and fear such as an elevated heart rate, upset stomach, irritability, short attention, etc. – and turn them into a positive context and not panic when you experience, them according to Greg Norman, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at the University of Chicago. High levels of excitement indicate that you are fully engaged with racing and the associated challenges.

Using Stress & Fear to Create Great Racing Results

As you get ready to race, stop and think about the amount of time that you have invested into your racing –both sport specific and cross training wise. Think about the self sacrifices that you have endured (eating real, raw food verses junk food, going to bed early, etc.). These thoughts will literally put your brain into a positive environment and you will enjoy the challenges of racing because you know you are prepared and more importantly, you understand how you got there.

According to Norman, putting a positive spin on your racing related mental anguish results in better results at the end of the race. Research indicates that elevated stress hormones can improve performance in the short term or diminish performance (and overall health) in the long term. Which situation will be the result depends on whether you enjoy or dread the activity that is creating your mental stress. Racing in an environment that you enjoy will result in a more enjoyable experience; however, racing in an environment that you don’t enjoy will only lead to more negative thoughts, frustrations and poor race results.

So how do you make your stress hormones benefit your racing? According to Dr. Lardon, you need to strike a balance between your selected race, skill set, energy and focus. If you are doing races that are too easy based on your skill set and speed, you will become bored quickly and left with a feeling of being unfulfilled. However, if your selected races are far above your ability level, skill set and speed, you will become overwhelmed, frustrated and shift into a mode of pain and fear.

The key to preparing your brain for the “stress” of racing is to trigger your body to produce a hormone called dopamine, commonly referred to as a feel-good neurotransmitter that is released when the body experiences something new and/or risky, according to Steven Kotler, a neurobiologist of peak performance. Activating this stress-reward (stress – dopamine release cycle) neuro-chemical system in a positive manner is the key to achieving your full potential. Racing at a new venue, changing up your training efforts, wearing new race kits, or even training with different athletes can all contribute to a “new” experience and positive results.

Mental Tools to Stay Calm and Perform Optimally

Racing & Training with a Strategy: As I mentioned in a previous article What Motivates You – Joy of Victory or the Fear of Failure, the key is to follow what you have proven works in training. By focusing on your strategy of implementation, you override the fear of failure.

Visualization: By following the mental movie that you created from your training notes, you can create an exact strategy from start to finish to literally creating the success that you have worked so diligently to produce. Why would you be surprised to get on the podium when you aspire to be a top profession one day – it is all part of the process.

Environment: You would be surprised how many athletes have people around them on race day but have no idea the negative effect that person is having on the outcome of the race. The same applies to eating the wrong food, listening to the wrong (or old music), etc. All of the elements that create your race day environment either have a positive or negative impact on your results. Identify what works for you and then create that environment every day that you train and race.

Belly Breathing: Another name for belly breathing is diaphragm breathing. When you inhale, your diaphragm contracts and moves downward while the muscles in your chest contract to expand your rib cage. This increases the volume in your chest cavity and draws air into your lungs. Working your diaphragm to its fullest potential allows your lungs to expand to their greatest volume and fill your lungs with the greatest amount of oxygen to fuel you working muscles.

Many racers underuse their diaphragm relying too much on their chest muscles and therefore take in less oxygen. Teaching yourself to rely less on your chest muscles to breathe, and more on your diaphragm requires practice and attention to details. To start the process of learning how to breathe through your belly verses your chest, lay flat on your back and put one hand on your belly and one on your chest. As you inhale, strive to raise your belly button hand first then feel for the fresh air moving up and into your chest. Hold for two seconds and then exhale until you feel your chest completely deflated. Repeat 3-5 times and then relax and focus on your normal breathing except now engage your breathing through you belly and not your chest. Note: because there is a tendency to hyperventilate when you first attempt. Do not attempt this skill unless you are lying down.

As you become more familiar with this breathing technique while lying flat on your back, move to a sitting position and strive to fill up your belly before your chest. To make things a little more difficult, place a straw in your mouth and breathe exclusively in and out of the straw – you will feel the diaphragm doing its job.