4 Attributes of Successful Goal Setting
What exactly do you wish to accomplish this racing season?
When designing your training plan, this is possibly the most important question that determines the direction you will take. Don’t be hasty in setting your goals, you should really take your time and think about them carefully. Take a few days to really think about what you want to achieve.
By understanding precisely what you want to achieve, you will greatly increase your chances of success
On the flip side, having goals that have not been thoughtfully defined, usually result in a disappointing season. Without knowing exactly where you want to end up, your journey may take you everywhere but your preferred destination.
The important part is defining goals, not dreams
Every athlete has dreams. Dreams of winning national titles, dreams of turning pro or maybe dreams of going to the Olympics. Dreams are very important in an athletes development, but must not be confused with goals. Dreams are the ultimate result of achieving your many well defined goals.
Dreams help us stay on track to our goals and our goals keep us on track to our dreams
I like to differentiate dreams and goals by asking “Can I achieve this outcome this season?” A goal is a target you could realistically achieve this racing season. A dream is a target that you could achieve over a longer period of time. It can be a battle between optimism and reality.
Never forget your dreams, one day they will become your goals
Here are some attributes that are important for setting good quality goals for your next racing season
Attribute 1: Your goal should be measurable
Give your goal a completion date and a measurable target. If you don’t set a completion date, you will find yourself constantly pushing back your goals until you find the season has come to an end and you have achieved nothing.
Setting a measurable target can be a bit trickier. Try using quantifiable numbers such as a race time time or a favorite climb time. Applications like STRAVA make it much easier these days.
For example, you might have local hill climb segment, and on STRAVA you can see that the local A-Grade riders are riding the climb in X minutes, but you can only achieve X -5 minutes. A goal of “Ride local climb segment in X -1 minute by 1st of July” would be a much more measurable goal than “Keep up with most of the A-Grade riders”
It’s best to avoid vague goals that are hard to quantify
The goal mentioned above will give you hard data to work with. 1) I can currently ride the climb in X -5 minutes 2) I want to be able to ride the climb in X -1 minute 3) I want to achieve this time by 1st July this season. This is a simple quantifiable goal that allows you to also measure your progress which in turn will help with motivation.
Attribute 2: Your goal must be under your control
In a nutshell, your goal must not be dependent on anyone else’s performance. Goals like “Win RaceXYZ”, while they may seem achievable, don’t take into account factors outside your control. For example, this year someone may be training even harder and peaking perfectly for this race. Or maybe an “out of towner” ex pro may show up on the day. Or even something as simple as double flatting can cause your race to go awry.
A better goal may be to beat a particular lap time from last year. Although this still has external elements like weather and course condition, it doesn’t rely on other peoples performances.
I’ve seen this personally in an annual MTB race I like to do. I really wanted to win it, but missed out. However my lap times meant that LAST year I would have won. So in this instance I was able to take solace in knowing I had the ability to win the race, I just didn’t this year, because someone else trained harder than me and stepped up the competition.
Attribute 3: Your goal should stretch you
This is probably the hardest attribute to set accurately. Like your dreams, it’s a battle of reality vs optimism. You want a goal that you can realistically reach, yet you want a goal that will require you to do something you have never done before, something that will push your limits and take you to the next step.
Riding a climb in the same time as an A-Grade rider might be too easy for a B-Grader, too hard for a D-Grader but maybe just right for a C-Grader. It can be hard to determine where that sweet spot is.
When setting your goals, this is where it is important to take your time and really think about how far away you are going to set those goal posts.
Attribute 4: State your goals positively
If you’ve ever been mountain biking, you may be familiar with the idea that you never want to look at the obstacle you wish to avoid, rather focus on the clean path around it. This is what ends up happening otherwise…
“Don’t hit the tree, don’t hit the tree, don’t hit the tree, don’t hit the tree” CRASH “Dammit I hit the tree”
The same idea works with your goals. If you set a goal like “Finish RaceXYZ without crashing”, what do you think you will be focused on during the race?
If that truly is your goal, a better alternative might be “Maintain my focus during RaceXYZ”. That way when you are saying your goal to yourself, you have positive words like ‘focus’ instead of ‘crash’
Here are some example goals:
- Ride ‘Switchback Hill’ in under 14 minutes before 12th March.
- Run a personal best by 10 minutes at this years London Marathon.
- Complete all my scheduled races this season.
- Successfully clean all the obstacles on ‘Dead Mans Climb’ before October.
Once you have set your first and most important goal, try to set 2 more goals. Give them the same thought and consideration when planning. Try not to set more than 3 goals per season. Personally I like to set my 3 goals to correspond with 3 different aspects of my sport so I focus on being a more rounded athlete.
Here is an example of my 3 goals as a competitive club mountain bike racer:
- Climb the mountain trail in under 30 minutes by July (to increase my aerobic engine)
- Enter in 3 XC downhill events this season (to sharpen my downhill abilities under race conditions)
- Cleanly ride the obstacle course on the black diamond section by the end of the race season (step up my bike handling skills from blue to black)