Sunday, July 15, 2012

On goals

This doesn't have a whole lot to do with WOC, but it's somewhat relevant.  And very long.  But hopefully informative.  

On goals:

I do a lot of goal-setting work with my junior skiers, and as a result, I tend to set a lot of goals for myself, as well.  Turns out, they work.  But only if you make SMART goals.  I’m not just capitalizing SMART because you should, obviously, make smart goals, but because it stands for:


Hopes and goals are different, yet related, beasts.  A hope is basically an outcome goal with no process goals to back it up.  Saying “Man, I hope I beat Simone Niggli today” does not mean you can just wake up and beat Simone Niggli.  Unless you’re Ian Smith, and challenging her to a bowling match.  Even then it may be a close call.  That goal, while specific and measurable, is not all that attainable, relevant, or have a temporal component.  While you can totally choose an outcome goal as lofty as beating Simone Niggli, it is important to consider your starting point, what is involved in said achievement, and your time available to devote to the process goals involved.  If you’re a couch potato who has never run more than a mile in your life, it may take you longer to achieve (or not achieve) your goal than if you’re a Kenyan marathon runner.  The starting point is important. 

It is also important to have specific goals.  If you just say, “I want to be a better orienteer”, you have no way to measure that.  How will you know if you are a better orienteer?  Much better to say something like, “I want to make fewer than one minute of mistakes for every kilometer in a race”.  That is something that you can measure, and therefore, determine if you have achieved it.

One of the drawbacks of goals is that you can be really disappointed if you don’t make the goals.  That is why it is important to make attainable goals, that are relevant to where you are now.  Applying a temporal component can make the loftier goals achievable.  You may not be ready to make the WOC team yet, but if you say “I will make the WOC team in 2015”, that gives you three years to develop, implement, and achieve goals and plans to get there.  It is important to have some intermediate goals along the way that are attainable, and relevant, so that you know you are on track to reach your dream goals. 

Once you’ve come up with some dream goal, that is specific, measureable, attainable, relevant, and has a temporal component, you need to figure out what is necessary to get you to that goal by the time you’ve determined you will do it by.  This is where a coach can be very helpful, identifying your existing strengths and weaknesses as an orienteer.  It is useful to make a series of process goals to help you achieve your outcome goals.  These are goals that you can assess as you go along, like “choose good attackpoints”.  These are the goals that you want to focus on.  If you focus on doing your process goals to the best of your abilities, your likelihood of achieving your outcome goals becomes way higher.  If all you’re thinking is “I want to be third in this race!  Am I third yet?  What if so-and-so is beating me?  I wonder if I’ll finish third?” you’ll probably miss your attackpoint, or turn the wrong way down a trail, or forget to look at your compass, and you’ll end up lost and losing more time.  If, instead, you’re thinking “what is my attackpoint?”, you’ll likely choose a good attackpoint, and spike your control.

Now that I’ve blabbered about goals for a while, I’ll share mine for the long distance race at WOC this year.  I usually choose an A, B, and C goal, so that I can address the dream goals, the realistic goals, and the everything-went-wrong goals (i.e. you miss two months of training because of an injury).  

My goals for the long distance race:

Plan A:
-           - 35% behind the winner

Plan B:
-            -45% behind the winner
-           - Top 20
-            -25% of my splits in the top 15

Plan C:
-            -Top 25
-            -<50% behind the winner
-            -25% of my splits in the top 20

Process goals:
-           - Find three positives from every race.
-            -<30s/km of mistakes
-            -Choose solid attackpoints!!!
-            -Visualize the Situation
-            -Run the uphills
-            -When bashing, thou shalt do it forcefully and in the right direction
-           - Laser sharp focus, the whole race (esp. in long)
-            -Look wide for routes
-            -Be aggressive
 How did I do?
Well, Simone Niggli came along and crushed my heat by 3 minutes, so while I’d initially been 31% back, I ended up 42% back.  This was a big improvement over last year, where I’d been 69% back in the long, but it’s plan B for this year.  Top 25 in my heat was plan C, so I achieved that goal, too.  I had 9 splits (of 17) in the top 20, and none in the top 15, so that was also achieving plan C.  Most importantly, I nailed my process goals, achieving every single one.  Wahoo!

This is why we set goals – not just to achieve greater heights, but to feel some satisfaction from a race, when all too often, all you want to do is analyze what went wrong.  Try this for yourself, and see how it works!


Anonymous said...

This is a great way of looking at races, goals, and life in general--constructive and helpful. Thanks for posting! Good luck in the middle! - Dasha

Rebecca said...

I've bookmarked this!

Thanks for your thoughtful post, Alex!