The What, Why and How of Goal Setting

20 Feb 2024
4 min read
Authors – Vedika Jogani

A recent graduate from Ithaca College with a Master’s degree in Sports and Exercise Science, specializing in Mental Performance, Vedika Jogani is OMP’s Product and Content Manager.

In high performance, goal setting is a potent and transformative technique.

While extensive research has explored SMART goals and various goal-setting acronyms, there remains a notable gap in understanding the intricate process and the nuanced ‘how’ behind it all.

A recent, 2023, study compared goal-setting models, revealing that this complex practice can be distilled into four key stages: preparation, goal setting, and meticulous planning, all followed by a strategic and deliberate follow-up. 

1. Preparation

This stage involves performance profiling, emphasizing collaboration and analysis.

The process includes understanding long-term vision, connected to goal motives, and education stages rooted in psychological skills training.

There is a focus on the involvement of a social agent, like a coach, to enhance effectiveness.

Educating athletes about effective goal setting is considered a vital step, enhancing self-regulation and autonomy.

The multifaceted nature of goal setting, encompassing individual and team aspects, highlights the need for tailored approaches and understanding the diverse factors influencing the effectiveness of the goal-setting process. 

2. Goal Setting

Empirical evidence suggests specific goals may not be superior to nonspecific ones, and specific, difficult goals might be less effective than specific, moderate goals.

Despite the evolving nature of goal-setting theory, specific, challenging goals persist.

Most processes encourage setting multiple goals, but guidance on the number of goals is lacking.

Prioritizing goals, often through ranking by importance, is common, with some models offering comprehensive frameworks for goal prioritization.

The need for a goal ranking/prioritization stage can potentially be minimized by conducting a quality needs analysis, preventing overly broad goal setting. 

3. Planning

In this stage, commitment is vital, driven by an individual’s determination linked to goal difficulty.

Strategies like athlete involvement, incentives, and public disclosure enhance commitment, emphasizing ownership and mission identification.

Processes involve strategies and barrier recognition, addressing internal and external factors. Feedback, particularly with measurable goals, is crucial for motivation and strategy evaluation.

Combining goals with feedback is effective, and interventions incorporating self-monitoring show short-term positive impacts on training adherence. 

4. Feedback

In the pursuit of goals, adapting and refining them is crucial for success.

Rather than persisting blindly, smart adjustments along the way are essential.

Letting go of unrealistic goals can be a positive, protective move, shielding against emotional tolls.

Practitioners should be mindful of goal-revision processes during the journey.

Positive reinforcement is also key, motivating athletes by recognizing their efforts and achievements.

However, coaches must be strategic in using tangible rewards, ensuring they don’t unintentionally stifle intrinsic motivation.

It’s a delicate balance between external recognition and internal drive. 

In conclusion, the study sheds light on the intricate process of goal setting in the realm of high performance.

The four key stages—preparation, goal setting, planning, and follow-up—underscore the complexity and depth involved.

Coaches and practitioners should keep these strategies in mind while helping athletes set goals for its most effective use.  



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