The Importance of Goal Setting
It is hard to achieve anything if we don’t know what you are trying to achieve. How can you know how to get somewhere if you don’t know where you are trying to go?
Goal setting is an important part of exercise as it gives us something to strive towards. We can all benefit from setting goals, no matter how much experience we have, how fit we are or how competent we are at performing the type of exercise that we take part in. However, goal setting is something that a lot of people neglect to do. It can be particularly difficult for people who are new to exercise or a particular exercise class but it is worth doing and the more we set ourselves goals, the better we become at doing it and it starts to become part of our natural routine.
There are many benefits to setting short, medium and long-term goals but we have outlined some that we consider really important below.
Confidence and self-efficacy can be improved by achieving goals or taking steps towards achieving a goal. The act of achieving a goal allows you to realise your own strengths and how far you have come as a result of your training and hard work. It also allows you to identify how you were able to overcome barriers on your way to achieving your goal. This can improve confidence in the future when faced with similar barriers, as you will be more aware of your ability to face these challenges head on and you will possess the skills and mentality to not let them stop you.
Without a target to strive towards, it can sometimes be too easy to give up when we face a setback. However, with a clear goal and a clear pathway for achieving that goal, we can make it easier for ourselves to not lose motivation following a setback. For example when trying to improve our fitness through regular spin classes, if we have to skip a couple of classes due to a minor injury, it can be much easier to return to our class in the future if we are striving towards a specific goal like improving our 20km cycling time by 2 minutes within the next 3 months. If we didn’t have this goal, we would be much more likely to stop attending the class.
Setting achievable goals can help us to control our performance anxiety as we have a clear pathway for successful performance which can make everything less daunting, especially when we are learning something new! Goal setting can give us a sense of control which can reduce our stress levels in situations where we would normally have negative thoughts about the likelihood of experiencing a positive outcome.
Tracking Your Progress
By setting goals, we have something to aim for and a way to track our training progress. It allows us to see if we are making progress towards achieving what we want to, which can provide positive feedback when things are going well. On the flip side, it can provide valuable information when we are not on track and this can be used to adjust our training to ensure that we get where we want to go.
SMART Goal Setting
It can be hard to know how to set appropriate goals if you have never done it before. A good way to ensure that goal setting is effective is to use the SMART principle to guide us when we are setting goals:
Targeting a specific component of the form of exercise you take part helps to harness attentional focus
By setting goals that can be measured, we are able to track our progress to ensure our skill development is not plateauing. This allows us to monitor our progress and can help to improve motivation.
Goals should be challenging but not unrealistic. Achievable goals will help to improve confidence as we take steps towards achieving them.
Task persistence can be improved by recording goals as progress can be visualised and areas for improvement can be identified
Putting a desired time frame for achieving the goal can give us a push to work towards it.