Updated: Mar 26
We’ve all set goals we never achieved.
“I’m going to get a personal record (PR) every time I race!” we tell ourselves one evening when we’re eager and motivated.
My number one tip is to follow the SMART goal-setting principle. I use this principle every day when I talk with my clients.
So how do we prevent that failure from happening? How do we set goals we can actually achieve?
My number one tip is to follow the SMART goal-setting principle. I use this principle everyday when I talk with my clients.
SMART goals are realistic and achievable. You can be proud of yourself when you reach your goals, rather than disappointed when you fail to meet your unattained goals.
What is a SMART Goal?
So what does SMART stand for? It’s an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Let’s break these words down into more detail to help you create your SMART goals.
Do you want to get faster? Attend practices more regularly? Be specific. For example, I want to go to practice Monday - Saturday, and I want to drop 3 seconds off my time in 3 months.
If you aren’t specific in your goals, you won’t ever know when you’ve achieved them. Being specific gives you a roadmap of what action you want to take.
Is your goal something you can measure? For example, with PRs, it's easy to measure the time.
Or if you have a goal of going to practice a certain number of times per week, keep a calendar and mark off the days you went! You can get creative with the design of the calendar to keep you motivated and inspired throughout your fitness journey.
It’s important to be realistic when you set your goals. For example, with PRs, it's likely not possible to drop time every single time you race. Your body just naturally fluctuates with each performance!
Keep it reasonable! And then when you reach your goal, set new goals! This process will keep you feeling confident and encouraged, rather than disappointed when you don’t reach your impossible goal.
You can always set harder goals in the future, but start out with goals you know you can achieve. I'm not saying go easy on yourself, but they should be possible to achieve!
Outside of practice, you're likely trying to keep your body healthy in other ways. For example, stretching. But is your goal to do yoga every day, but you hate yoga? That’s setting yourself up for failure.
Choose a goal that you enjoy, or at least tolerate, so you can stick to it without torturing yourself! If you enjoy simply stretching on your own, but not yoga, then make a goal to stretch for 20 minutes periodically instead!
Movement shouldn’t be an awful chore. You love your sport, so movement outside of your sport should also bring you joy!
Finding the joy in movement will make you more likely to stick to and reach your goal!
I suggest setting short-term goals at first, rather than long-term goals. Or do a combination of both! Can you drop 3 seconds in 3 months, and maybe 6 seconds by the end of the season? Can you stretch 3 times a week for 3 months, then bump it up to 6 times a week for the next 3 months?
Give yourself specific check-in dates, so you can reassess and make sure you’re on track. And when you hit the short-term goals, you’ll be more motivated to tackle your long-term goals!
An Example of a SMART Goal
Let’s say I want to drop time off my PR and increase my flexibility. Here is the SMART goal I would write for myself: “I want to drop 1 second off my PR in a month, and stretch 3 times a week for 20 minutes.” That’s a specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound goal!
Good luck with your goal-setting!