Psychology: Goal-setting

Steve Mann talks about how goal-setting can enhance performance

Posted on November 27, 2013 by
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David Rudisha WR (Mark Shearman)

Goal-setting is a fundamental part of training in sport and is integral for enhancing performance and motivating the athlete and enhancing their self-belief with regards to their skill and ability. However, for goal-setting to be effective, it needs to be applied in a certain way.

There are many occasions when the wrong types of goals are being set for an athlete at the wrong time and this can have devastating effects on their self-confidence, especially if they fail to reach these goals.

If goals are set in the correct manner, the athlete will be motivated to rise to the challenge much more and also succeed in enhancing performance and self-confidence. So the main question is, how do we set goals correctly in a way that will enhance our performance?

There are specific points to bear in mind when setting goals:

» A number of short-term goals are needed that will lead to a long-term goal.

» They need to be specific and need to be measurable.

» They need to be difficult for your skill level, but also at a level that you can realistically accomplish.

It’s always a good idea to set these goals with the help of your coach.

Now that we have these points, we can explore the different types of goals. There are three types in total leading from process to performance and then outcome. Outcome goals would be mainly long-term goals as opposed to process goals which would be short-term goals. However, performance goals are more intermediate.

So what are these goals all about and how do they enhance self-belief and motivation?

Process goals

These are the mechanics of the process. Process goals are also closely related to mostly short-term goals. This involves setting goals for specifics of a skill such as the waist movement in a javelin throw, focusing on the trajectory of the javelin while in your hand and strength training.

Once we’ve set and accomplished these goals they will then lead onto performance goals.

Performance goals

This is how well you perform when bringing a number of process goals together. This would be distances accomplished in the javelin throw – 85m after a certain amount of time and then 85.50m a certain amount of time after this.

This leads onto the long-term goal of outcome goals.

Outcome goals

This would be the final accomplishment in relevance to the athlete. This would be what the performance goals would lead to and could be a personal best, a heat or even a medal. This is how we manage to excel our performance to the next level using goal-setting. The process of being aware of our own accomplishment with our performance and relating this to the processes and hard work we put into these accomplishments helps to motivate us to work even harder and set further goals.

Seeing how far we’ve come and how much we’ve accomplished makes us realise that we can progress and that we’re capable of increasing our performance. This enhances our self-belief and confidence by helping us to become an athlete with a higher level of mental toughness.

Goal-setting techniques can be used in a wide variety of situations to help athletes and teams. These techniques help enhance performance, but if you want to find the full effect of goal-setting then it may be a good idea to seek the advice of a fully qualified and registered sport psychologist.

» Steven Roy Mann, BSc (Hons), MSc, PGCert, MBPsS, is a performance psychologist and martial arts coach. Email

One Response to “Psychology: Goal-setting”

  1. Great advice on goal setting! You may want to check out GoalsOnTrack, a very nicely built web app designed for tracking goals, habits, and todo lists, and supports time tracking too. It's clear, focused, easy to navigate, and most of all, really works!

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