Everything You Need to Know for Successful Goal-Setting

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Why goal-setting is a powerful and free tool for athletes and coaches to reach desired results? Find out more!
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“If you don’t know where you are going, you might end up somewhere completely else”

Yogi Berra

Goal-setting might seem to be one of the easiest things, when you start planning achievements in sports. You know what you want and you know what you need to do for this, yet why devote an entire article to this?

The problem is not getting athletes to set goals – it is getting them to set the right kind of goals, the ones that provide direction and boost motivation.

In this article we take closer look on how to set goals in a right way.

Let’s dive in!

Why does goal-setting work?

Without doubt – we know that goal-setting works. Every one of us has an experience with setting goals and targets.  But, what’s the science behind it?

Researchers have explained it in two ways. Goal-setting makes us more confident, less anxious, and provides us purpose and direction.

If goals are set realistically, they make the whole process more enjoyable and fun. 

Also, goal-setting helps athletes to pay more attention to important elements of their skills that they normally wouldn’t do.

This way, athletes get constant feedback regarding their progress which makes dealing with setbacks much easier. 

The Three Types of Goals 

Almost every athlete uses some type of goal system to build up their performance or to help them win.

A strong goal plan will help to stay on the right track and keep the motivation levels at it’s highest.

Before setting any specific goal plan, an athlete needs to understand that there are three main types of goals, to keep in mind.

Every goal has its own purpose and a focus point.

Outcome Goals

Focus on the competitive result of an event, such as winning a race, earning a medal, or scoring more points than an opponent.

Performance Goals

Focus on details of the performance, not just winning or losing.

They tend to be more flexible and in athletes’ control. For example, running a mile 7 minutes faster or improving your serve accuracy 30%.

Process Goals

Focus on the actions an athlete must engage in during a performance to execute or perform well.

For example, a basketball player may set a goal of squaring up to the basket and releasing the ball at the peak of this jump. 

Key Point

Outcome goals in sports focus on achieving a victory in a competitive contest, whereas performance goals focus on achieving standards based on athletes’ previous performances. 

Long-term vs short-term goals

To set a successful plan, the one that you can stick to – you need a strong strategy.

This is where short and long term goals come into play. 

In short, Long-term goal is something that you desire to achieve in a year or two. This is the ultimate goal that drove you to sports in the first place.

Short-term goals are the ones, that will keep you focused and motivated. They will be the constant reminder of the progress you are making.

Professional athletes have adapted an idea of a short- and long-term goal-setting staircase or a mountain.

Long-term goals should always be linked to a series of more immediate, short-term physical and psychological goals.

This should create a sense of progression and lead to more difficult and distant goals. 

Staircase goal-setting method
Short- and long-term goal-setting staircase method

Why you most probably failed the last time

Thinking about goals is easy, but seeing them through, is a challenge on its own.

It is called the New Years paradox for a reason.

Usually, it’s always the beginning of the year when we start reflecting and planning new goals and targets.

We go overboard with everything and leave no flexibility. We either get too specific, set too many goals too soon, or just fail to adjust.

When you start to think about it, it’s like you never even wanted to give it a chance.

How to do it right?

Goal-setting is the most powerful technique for enhancing performance – but it is not a foolproof method.

It must be implemented with thought, research, and planning.

In some specific cases, it would be even ideal if you could consult with a professional beforehand. 

Either way, we recommend taking considerable time for yourself in order to build up a strong and realistic plan for your future goals.

Start with the long-term goal and the true reason behind it. You should understand what drives you in order to keep the motivation levels up.

Then move forward to your smaller short-term goals that will become the most important foundation for your strategy. 

Planning your goals 

Be Specific

Goals should be stated in very specific, measurable terms that you can relate to.

Specific goals, compared to general “do-your-best”, are more effective.

For example, running in a low heart-rate zone is too vague. A better goal would be running 6k with 140 bpm. 

Be Realistic

An effective goal should be difficult enough to challenge you, and realistic enough to be achieved.

If goals are too difficult – not reaching them will lead to frustration, reduced confidence, and poor performance.

Yet, effortless goals are of little value and make athletes soon lose their interest. 

The secret is to find a good balance between a challenge and achievability. 

Don’t forget about Practise Goals

For every outcome goal an athlete sets, he should also set a variety of performance and process goals that will lead to that outcome.

Setting practice goals will keep you focused on making constant improvements in your progress while maintaining motivation. 

Write down your plans

Writing down a simple plan of goals and keeping it in sight has significantly more value than having an in full-depth contract hidden away in your drawer.

Keep a constant reminder of your short-term goals in your calendar, so you wouldn’t lose sight of them.

Create a strategy

Developing and identifying systematic strategy on how to achieve your long-term goal is one of the most important steps.

The strategy you decide on has to be specific and involve definite numbers (how much, how many, how often etc.).

While planning your goals, you shouldn’t forget about flexibility. Instead of planning training on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays – it’s better to just plan to do training three times a week. 


Feedback about performance progress is absolutely essential for goals to actually work.

As an athlete, you should understand if and how you are progressing towards your goals.

You should write down and analyze your progress. This will keep you motivated and eager to achieve even more. 


Goal-setting, is and will be, the ultimate tool to achieve the highest results. It is an essential contributor for constant progress.

Thinking and planning goals are easy, but to truly succeed – you need to have a strong strategy. 

Use the Staircase or Mountain Goal-Setting method to determine your Long-Term and Short-Term goals.

The steps that lead you forward, will be the foundation of your success.

While planning your goals, try not to dismiss Process and Performance Goals – These are the ones that will give you a competitive edge and reduce anxiety while competing. 

Leave yourself enough room and don’t over organize your life. In the end, you want to enjoy the ride to your success story!

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