The following is a chapter from our upcoming e-Book, “21st Century Athletics: The First Wave of Adaptation.”
By Colin Farrell
One of the most common and oft-used goal-setting templates is the SMART Goal. It’s a helpful template to be aware of. Goals should be:
Goal-setting is extremely important and can be exciting. Committing goals to writing, somehow, makes them just a little bit more real. Laying out a plan to achieve them can add an extra level of commitment. Filling out the SMART template is a great starting point. However, there are two important aspects of being successful left out of the SMART template: passion and execution.
Gabriele Oettingen is Professor of Psychology at New York University and focuses a great deal of her time and attention on how people think about their futures. In her book, “Rethinking Positive Thinking”, she outlines another method of not just setting goals but achieving them, WOOP. Ben Bergeron is owner of CrossFit New England and a leader in world of CrossFit coaching. He has taken Oettingen’s method and built on it a bit further to develop the WHOOPIE template for setting and achieving goals:
Wishing and Hoping
Wishing and Hoping. One of the main issues with the SMART template is that it is very sterile, dry, and impersonal. Ensuring the objectives are achievable and realistic often means athletes sell themselves short so as to guarantee their goals can most assuredly be met. If an athlete is at a 6, and sets a goal to become a 10, but he or she only achieves an 8 or 9… is that a failure through and through? Absolutely not. Progress was made and the individual probably learned a good deal about himself or herself along the way, and potentially even knows how to get to a 10 from where they now are. If an athlete truly wishes and hopes they can achieve a specific goal, it is an indicator they want it and are passionate about it. It can become difficult to be passionate about working towards and achieving a goal that is flatly and resoundingly achievable.
Outcome. What would it look like if you achieve the goal? How does it feel? How do you celebrate? Who is there with you when you have accomplished the goal? What are you wearing, where are you, what’s going through your head? Visualize every aspect of the moment the goal is achieved. Individuals need to be excited about the achievement of the goal. If you, the athlete, cannot get excited about this aspect of WHOOPIE, the goal needs to be re-evaluated or the reason why the goal is being set (more on that later) needs to be re-visted.
Obstacles. “No battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy.” So wrote Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke in the mid-19th century. The importance of determining any and all obstacles on the path to achieving one’s goal cannot be overstated. Anticipate roadblocks and map out how to get around–or over–them. Knowing the enemy is imperative. You live in Maine, it’s January, but you have to go for a training run to get ready for Spartan Sprint you have coming up; how are you going to ensure you don’t roll over and get an extra hour of sleep in your warm, comfy bed? Your toddlers were up all night and you’ve got a big project at work; how will you find the time and energy to get to the gym to work on pull-up progressions? You pushed it a little too hard deadlifting yesterday and your back doesn’t feel great; what are you going to do to further your fitness while still giving your body the attention it needs? You have to travel for work every third week, often changing time zones multiple times in a single five-day stretch; how do optimize your health and fitness when the world seems to conspire against you?
Plan. Write out the process. Athletes should be as detailed as is possible, while still allowing for some flexibility (see “Obstacles”, above). Meeting with a coach to lay out a plan is immeasurably helpful when seeking to achieve fitness, nutrition, and health goals. Start with a big idea, and continuously break it down into actionable items with daily, weekly, and monthly checkpoints. Set in place actionable items that are 100% within your control. One of Steven Covey’s Seven Habits is to “sharpen the saw.” This can be interpreted similarly as “work smarter, not harder.” If an athlete set out a goal to be twice as fit next year as they were this year, they may simply decide to go to the gym twice as often. While this may (though it is not likely) work, truly effective people will find ways to be more efficient, not just harder working. Again, coaches and mentors are an invaluable resource in establishing how to maximize output without putting in absurd and intrusive numbers of hours in pursuit of a goal.
Identify. “When it is 5:00am, 12 degrees outside, and I have a long day of work ahead of me, I am the kind of person that will still get out of bed to ensure I get my training run in.” “When my twin toddlers were up all night last night, and had to go into the office early to get a jump start on a project, I am the kind of person that will still go to the gym before heading home for dinner.” “When my low back is killing me from deadlifting a little too much earlier this week, I am the kind of person that will still get to the gym and ask a coach how to work around the issue, and I am the kind of person that will use some time off to dial in my nutrition.” Athletes that identify as the kind of person that works hard, doesn’t make excuses, and is tenacious in pursuit of objectives will find more success than those that focus their attention on the task at hand. Focus your attention on being the kind of person that will complete tasks despite everything.
Execute. You have a dream, you’ve visualized how incredible the outcome will be. You’ve anticipated potential problems and setbacks along the way, laid out a plan, identified as the kind of athlete that sets and achieves goals.
Now go do it.