“To set goals or not to set goals” by Toni Gaddie

If you are interested in the literature on achievement in many areas of life, it is almost certain that you are bound to come across the setting of goals in one of the chapters. The first school of thought places much emphasis on the outcome and every section is broken down into chunks toward achieving the final outcome or result. Goals are set up for each step of the way for e.g. current, short-term, long-term, and of course, the ultimate goal. From this, a structured schedule of action steps is carefully formulated to assist progress gradually toward the ultimate goal. These schools of thought would say that goals are central to achieving everything and anything.

The second school of thought/s place more emphasis on the journey instead of the outcome. The focus is on the process, the routines and being fully in the action steps that eventually make-up the process. The emphasis is on the experience of the journey and to acknowledge the learning and qualities, which the journey brings along the way. If the outcome is achieved this is a bonus! This school would clarify what you want, place it at the back of your mind, and focus on improving the moment to moment process.

Both of the above, in my experience can be equally valuable models towards working towards achievement. After working with a variety of sportspeople, whether you choose the first or the second school of thought, or even a combination of the two, all depends on your relationship with expectation and pressure. Some great athletes love the adrenaline brought about from the pressure of top of the mind goals. These athletes harness adrenaline and make this pressure serve their performance. This group of athletes would choose the first school of thought. An example of such a champion was Michael Phelps the greatest Olympian of all time so far. He is known to set goals of specific times for specific races, which he achieved. These goals were set and addressed years, to months to minutes before he dived in the pool.

Other equally great athletes have rather learned to deal with the discomfort of the adrenaline in competition. These sportspeople prefer to use tools to contain or calm the adrenaline, so as to compose the plethora of symptoms adrenaline can bring. This allows them to stay aware and engaged in the moment, without feeling overwhelmed by the adrenaline and in so doing serves their performance. These athletes would choose to lessen the pressure and expectation that focusing on the outcome brings, and they therefore would choose the second school of thought as their preferred manner of “goal setting.” An example of another athlete who made history was Nadia Comaneci. She was the first gymnast to ever score a perfect 10 score at the Olympics. Her procedure of achievement was the second school of thought. When she competed she would say, “… I hope I am going to do a good routine here – because I knew I had prepared everything I had done in the gym.”

As you can see from the above, whether you choose to have a particular outcome set and work hard to achieve it or whether you have a particular process set and you work hard to achieve it, does not seem to have an influence over the eventual outcome. Both of the aforementioned achievement procedures have been experienced successfully by the greatest sportspeople of our time!

What is most important though is to know how goals, adrenaline, expectation, and the accompanying pressure influence you. A good understanding of the effect of the above on your mind, body and performance will give you an excellent clue as to what and when to choose which procedure of achievement.

Hopefully from the two schools of thought you can clearly see that the former increases your excitement and adrenaline to raise your game and the latter decreases your excitement and adrenaline to raise your game, both of which serves your performance and your future achievements.