Looking ahead to a new training and racing season can be exciting! What new adventures are in store for you in 2023? Do you have new training opportunities, new race locations, new opportunities to grow closer with friends and training partners? A new season can bring optimism and new energy. Embrace the excitement, and before running out the door in your new running shoes, take a moment to look back on all of your accomplishments from the past year and adjust your goals accordingly.
We have established that goal setting, when structured properly, is a foundational part of performance psychology training (Are you setting goals or are you goal setting?). We have also established that adjusting goals during the season is an important part of maintaining motivation and keeps us on an appropriately challenging yet achievable timeline (Now what? Adjusting your goals when things don’t go as planned). Now, it is time to look at one of the most critical and most overlooked steps in setting new goals: acknowledging successes and evaluating accomplishments. Here are three tips on how to do this successfully.
The first thing is to avoid evaluating goals with a pass/fail grading system. Instead, look more closely to discover what you did and did not accomplish towards each goal. How close or how far are you from achieving your unfinished goals? Just because you didn’t hit that finishing time or age group placement doesn’t mean that you didn’t make progress in the right direction.
Next, avoid simply rolling unfinished goals over to the next season. More often than not, you will have progressed beyond last season’s starting point. You will have learned this as you evaluated your accomplishments (while avoiding the pass/fail system!). Goals are meant to be adaptable. Adapt your unfinished goals to match the progress you have made as an athlete. This will help you to find the right balance of challenging yet achievable for the next season.
Our third tip is to seek a third-party evaluation of your previous season and your goals for next season. This can come from several places, including a performance psychology professional, a coach with a specialty in mental skills training, or a trusted training partner. Identify a resource who is trained in this area, and if that is not an option for you, then a trusted training partner with knowledge of you and your abilities is the next best thing. As athletes, we can be overly critical of ourselves and more focused on what we did not accomplish than on what we did. Others often see our successes and accomplishments more clearly. A professional or very close friend is also more likely to tell us if we are being too aggressive or too conservative in what we think we can accomplish in the year ahead.
We have barely scratched the surface on what an effectively structured goal setting program can do to enhance athletic performance, but hopefully these blogs have shed some light on how important it is to spend time setting and adapting our goals and how they are structured throughout the season. We will continue to build on this as the foundation for mental skill development and as a jumping-off point to further explore the principles of performance psychology.