One of the most common areas within sport psychology that often gets very misunderstood and poorly managed is that of Goal Setting and Motivation.
When any individual finds they are struggling with motivation we always look at what they are working towards, what are their goals? Do they have direction? Do they have control over where they are headed?
Motivation is commonly misunderstood, with an unhealthy expectation that you should be motivated all the time and if you’re not there’s a problem. This is not true, no one is motivated every day for everything – the human brain is not made to cope with high dopamine levels for motivation 24 hours per day. Before you try and find motivation, the most important question is ‘What is causing me to be de-motivated?’
Often when we look at causes it comes from uncontrollable areas such as opponents, weather, time, etc., none of which we can control. If you are de-motivated by training then look at the variety you are having in your sessions whether that be the actual physical challenges, or even the environment – always training in the same places. Mix it up. Humans need new settings and environments for stimulation all the time. If you always train indoors then get outside; if you always train at the same track then mix it up and go somewhere different; and, if you always train with the same people then make a change there as well.
The SMART Model of goal setting (shown below) has been around for a long time, but without a more thorough understanding, and regularly adjusting and assessing your goals, you could be wasting your time and establishing Aims but not specific goals. The SMART model is a great guide to ensure you meet each of the areas with regards to Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Phased, but it’s not everything you need to know about goal setting.
The first rule of goal setting is that you must write your goals down – it creates accountability and provides a point of reference for every athlete. Secondly, your goals must be visible each day. Put them up somewhere where you will see them regularly, otherwise it will be out of sight and out of mind and you may find you never fully achieve what you set out to achieve. Third, and just as important, every goal you set must be within your control – if you have no control over the process of achieving the goal then you are setting yourself up for much frustration.
Rewards are an essential part of Goal Setting because they assist us in moving from external to internal motivation. At the start of any training phase have more frequent rewards externally to help get you going, but as you progress through your program spread out the frequency of external rewards because your internal motivation should have taken over by now as you get closer to your ultimate goal or competition.
Is your goal tangible?
Is your goal direct?
Is your goal clear?
How will you know if you’re on track?
How will you know when you reach your goal?
Is it possible for you to achieve your goal?
Is it within your capability to achieve your goal?
Do you have a specific date when you will have achieved your goal?