Mind of Steel – Goal Setting

Dr. Stankovich

Goal setting is arguably the best technique an athlete can use to immediately improve his or her performance.  Interestingly, although this statement is true, very few athletes actually know how to set effective goals.  In other words, far too often athletes set what we call “do your best” type goals that are extremely vague (i.e. “to become a better pool player”) and without any timelines to measure success (re-read the example I just gave – how will you know when you have become “better?”).

Research studies in sport psychology clearly show people who set specific, measurable goals almost always out-perform people who set “do your best” type goals (or people who set no goals at all).  By setting and achieving goals, your self-confidence will dramatically improve – and so will your pool game.

Below are tips to help with goal setting for immediate success:

Begin by brainstorming all the goals you want to achieve, and for now don’t worry about how vague the goals might be (we will refine them later).  Take out a sheet of paper and start writing down as many things as you want to accomplish and try to do this in just a few minutes.

Once you have your list, go back through each goal and look to see whether it is vague (“win more”) or specific (“make at least one ball on every break”).

When writing your goals, try to develop as many process goals as you can.  A process goal is a goal you can control (i.e. starting each match confident and composed), whereas an outcome goal is a goal typically beyond your complete control (winning tournaments is great, but ultimately you never control ‘winning’ if the opponent has a shot to win, too).  By reaching your process goals, you will ultimately reach more outcome goals (and win more games!)

Try to break your goals into three areas: Physical, technical, and mental.  An example of a physical goal can be making sure to get 8 hours of sleep the night before a tournament or to have water on hand all day in order to stay hydrated.  A technical goal might be to practice until you can successfully make 90% of spot shots.  A mental goal could be making a point to use a deep breath between each shot.

Your goals should always be in writing and you should have dates attached to each goal so you can monitor your success.  It is also wise to develop short-, mid-, and long-term goals.  We call this technique developing a “goal ladder,” and it has been found to be a very effective technique.

Other tips include being realistic with your goals, as well as being somewhat flexible if you don’t first succeed.

Keep track of all your progress by keeping a journal.  While this may sound kind of funny, you will find that our memories are really not that great – and a journal will actually help you recall some of your better moments.  Your journal should include all of your goals, as well as regular entries that allow you to update your progress along the way.   

Dr. Christopher Stankovich is a nationally acclaimed expert in Sport & Performance Psychology and the Founder of Advanced Human Performance Systems.  For more information on performance-enhancement products, including the popular  “Mind of Steel for Pool Success” DVD please visit www.drstankovich.com