We now know the benefits of goal setting and the differences between process, performance and outcome goals, so now it is time to learn how to set effective goals.

Here are some guidelines to make your goal setting more successful!

1. Emphasize process and performance over outcome goals

We discussed this in a previous post, but for a quick summary:

Process work on improving form, technique and strategy.  Performance goals look at overall personal performance.  Outcome goals focus more on external factors (outperforming another competitor and hitting an objective such as winning).  Process and performance goals build on one another towards an outcome.

As discussed in the previous post, outcome goals can be negative to focus on as they involve factors outside of our control.  You can´t control the other competitors, referee or judge, weather, sickness… you can only control your own process and performance (to a certain extent).

2. Set specific and measurable goals

This is such an important one!  It´s not enough to just set a goal of, doing your best, for example.  How do you measure that?  When trying to set specific and measurable goals, try to follow these guidelines: emphasize both quantity and quality of performance, use both objective and subjective performance measures, measure abstract elements by setting goals based on specifically defined behaviors that demonstrate such qualities.

3. Set moderately difficult goals

This is a balancing act between setting goals that aren´t too easy or too hard.  It should be challenging, but attainable.  The best way to do this is to set goals that are only slightly more challenging than their current ability (5-15% increase).  Work towards this goal by setting smaller, intermittent goals.  You will work your way up the staircase towards that 5-15% increase.

4. Set positively focused goals

When setting goals, focus on what you want to accomplish.  If you want to improve your nutrition, maybe set a goal of tracking your food each day so that you can see how well you have done instead of focusing on all the foods you have to avoid.

5. Set both long-term objectives and short-term goals

Let´s say that you want to run a marathon, but you´ve never done a marathon before… In fact, you don´t even run!  Your long term objective is what you ultimately want to achieve, but setting that as a short term goal is unrealistic.  There are too many steps between where you are now and the marathon.  Instead of setting it as a goal, set it as the objective and set smaller, short-term goals that help you reach that objective.

When doing this, put a time constraint to it.  For example, in the next month you want to be up to running 8 km.  That is your monthly goal towards your marathon objective.  You can then break that goal down even further into weekly and daily goals!  See!  You take something that was previously a mountain and created steps for yourself to more easily and effectively reach the top!


Burton, D., & Raedeke, T. D. (2008). Sport psychology for coaches. Leeds: Human Kinetics.

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