Sunday, May 13, 2012

Goal Setting - Teacher Teach Thyself

Goal Setting- Teacher Teach Thyself

As a coach, one of the most important things I can do for my players is to help them set and reach goals. With that being said, I could do a lot better job with it. It is an inexact science at best. We sit down as a group and talk about our dreams. What do we want to accomplish? I sit down with each player individually and we do the same thing. Most of it is pretty straightforward. I was especially proud of this year's team. They had the wisdom to understand that if they acted like a family, had fun along the way and worked to win, they would achieve a lot. They had three words that encompassed their goals; fun, family and win. It also supported how we coach and how to get through a long season of up and downs keeping our perspective. For the most part, we achieved our goals. We won, we had a lot of fun and we acted like a family. Was that effective goal setting? In some ways yes and in some ways no. We got a win right out of the box, so that goal was accomplished and not replaced. I learned from that! Overall, I wanted to be more effective with my goals and in helping my player set goals. That is what lead to this blog post.

Lately, I have been helping individual players set goals. I had this feeling that something was missing as we worked together. I was talking about what needed to happen for goals to be achieved, but I knew that the player's belief system didn't support the changes. As a coach, you need a firm belief that people can change in order to go to work every day. When you see a young player without that belief in him or herself, you have run up against a brick wall.

I tackled it by doing what I normally do, I started reading. In today's world, I no longer have to drive to Barnes and Noble. Now, I simply go to the Kindle Store and start downloading. This is extremely convenient, but a bit costly. I found a fantastic book. It is Setting Goals In Line With Your Belief System by Andrew Ostoja. It is a very short read and only cost a few dollars, but those were dollars well spent. For the first time ever, someone explained why the best efforts to set and reach goals fell short. If you set a goal that you don't see yourself achieving, you probably won't get it.

I set up some exercises to help my players figure out where their goals didn't match their beliefs. Oh, it was brilliant. Then, I realized, I needed this more than they did. Why am I fat when I have been lamenting for six months that something has to change? For exactly the same reasons; my beliefs didn't support my goals.

Not only did I ask players to do these exercises, but I got busy myself. Whew, this is tough work. Lots of things happen every day to drag me back to a lack of belief, but now that I know the foundation to build on, I can better refocus on what I want. Here is the process I gleaned from the book and tweaked a bit here and there to fit the circumstances. I will share some of my journey and some of my student's journeys, but I hope you understand, this process works for anything. I hope you can use this to help yourself set some goals for things you want to accomplish. I would love to hear from you as you go through the process!

First, what is it you want?
I want to get fit and lose weight.
Here are some goals that others have:
I want to win on tour this year.
I want to be a great putter.
I want to quiet my nerves when I play golf.

Whatever you want, its okay. By that I mean, don't let anyone talk you out of it before you start. That is more common than you think. People will help you fail before you even start.

Your goal should be something you really want. Something that you can sit and think about that brings a smile to you. It doesn't have to conform to what other people think you should have or need. It can be about having fun, achieving a big dream, doing something outrageous or doing something so small and seemingly inconsequential that no one can understand why it would be a goal.

Next, think about what that goal is and write down some statements about where you are now. These statements should start with the words "I am..." Here are some of mine: I am weak. I am out of shape. I am not getting any younger.

Here are some I have heard from others: I am a bad putter on left to right putts. I am not good at controlling my speed. I am really nervous over my putts. I am always thinking about the result of the putt. I am not sure I can win. I am more worried about the cut line than winning.

All of these are truthful observances about where we are at the time we make them. Maybe they aren't realistic, but in your mind they are real. If I am fat or weak, how can I see myself as fit or strong? That is the main question you need to ask yourself about your "I am..." statements. For you to make a change and reach your goal, you have to first change how you view yourself.

Okay, lets back up and talk about change. Achieving goals means making changes, right? I am not asking you to change as a person, or am I? Yes, you might need to tweak your beliefs to reach your goal. You will probably also have to change some habits you have. Do you have to become a different person? Probably not. If you are a book junkie, like I am, you should also take a look at The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It talks about how habits guide us through life and hold the power to also guide change.

So, the first thing I need to change is my belief system. Since my past year has been spent healing from injuries, my body is weak. However, I could choose to believe that I am weak, but getting stronger every day. Or, I could have the belief that I am strong in will and that will lead me to be strong in all ways. Can you see what I am doing? I am adopting beliefs that will help me achieve my goals. It isn't a bunch of smoke that I don't believe. Instead, it is using what is true to reframe things that aren't helping me change.

How can you do the same? First, figure out what it is from which you get strength. Are you a hard worker? If so, weave that into your negative "I am..." statements to change them. An example would be, I am working hard to control my speed on the putting green when I practice. I am sure my putting practice will pay off on the golf course. I am going to look for opportunities to show great speed control when I putt at this course.

Perhaps you are a great athlete, but you struggle with nerves. Your "I am..." statement might go from I am nervous, to I am a great athlete and I will face my nerves by quieting my eyes and my mind and relying on my athleticism. All athletes are nervous, but most learn to perform by focusing on the process, the competition or even a mantra. Changing your "I am..." statement to discount your nerves won't work, but you can incorporate a way to deal with your nerves in the statement. That means you won't change who you are as a person, but you will change the habit of focusing on your nerves instead of what is needed in the moment.

Okay, you are ready for the next step. Figure out what is important about what you want and write it down. Let's say you want to win on tour. Why is that important? Well, it will allow you stay out on tour and continue to make a living. It will be a lot of fun to win. It will confirm that you have worked hard for years and earned a good result. How about the person who wants to be a great putter? That person will see her scores go down. She will feel confident when she is putting. She will put less pressure on her short game and approach shots. She will have fun making putts. Mine was easy. My body is the source of my health and I will be dependent upon it for my quality of life for years to come. Also, if I am fit, I can play all the sports I want to play and to me, that is fun!

Finally, be specific about what exactly you want and when you want it. If your goal is to be a better putter, how will you know when you achieve it? Can you figure out a way to track your improvement? Will you know it when you achieve your goal? Let's take a tough example and talk about the player who wants to quiet her nerves when she plays golf. First, how do her nerves show? She feels jumpy and can't stay still after hitting a putt or a shot. She snaps her fingers and talks to the ball. She feels relieved when the ball does what she wants. These are some of the ways her nerves show outwardly. Inwardly, they make her mind busier than it needs to be. They make her focus fleeting. They make a miss seem more important and likely to cause more misses. From a coach's standpoint, these nerves seem to build as the round proceeds. They seem more pronounced on tougher golf courses or tough shots. They seem to take away from the player's enjoyment of her day.

If we all have nerves, why does this player's nerves seem so much worse than other player's nerves? Because she is in the habit of focusing on them and allowing them to be more important than other thoughts and actions. In the Power of Habit, the author, Duhigg, talks about the loop of cue, routine, reward as being the basis for our habits. For this player to change her behavior, she needs to understand what cues she is reacting to, what routine she has developed and what reward she gets. It is easy to look at a bad habit and think that it is crazy that a person has any rewards from it, but in truth there are rewards. Here is how this player might be able to break down her habit loop as it regards her nerves on the putting green:

When I really need to make a putt, I think about the result and I get a little nervous. When I line it up, I can visualize and see it going in, but when I get over the ball, my mind is busy thinking about the line, making it and what will happen if I hit it too hard or too far right. All of a sudden, my mind is all over the place. After I hit the putt, all that busyness comes out by snapping my fingers, jumping a bit, talking to the ball and walking after it when I hit the putt.

This player's cue is: I really need to make the putt.
This player's routine is: I line it up, visualize it, allow my mind to get busy, hit the putt.
This player's reward is: I let go of my stress with finger snapping, talking to the ball and allowing my energy to come out.

She can accomplish her goal of quieting her nerves by changing this loop.

The new cue: I will roll this ball on the line I choose at the speed I see.
The new routine: I line it up, visualize it, keep my mind on counting out a rhythm that matches my rhythm and hit the putt.
The new reward: I will calmly watch the ball roll along the path that I envisioned.

The player is doing the very same task on both attempts. She is putting a ball to a hole. She has changed her habit loop by adopting a few new things and taking away a couple of things. If she can recognize what cues cause her nerves, she can decide to write a script for herself that ignores them. Her self talk of saying "I need to make" vs. "I will roll the ball." She adds a simple task to her routine, that of counting out a rhythm, to keep her mind from flying around while she is over the ball. Her reward of letting go of a lot of stress will no longer be needed, because she will feel a lot more calm.

Her goal is to do this on each and every putt, but to expect to just flip a switch and make this change is simplistic. Instead, she will need to focus pretty hard on doing the right thing, especially when she notices the cues that cause the bad routine. She should also ask for help or support from her coach or teammates. Perhaps she could ask them to let her know if they see her snapping her fingers or moving up and out as soon as she makes contact with the ball. Finally, she should take the time to track her progress. Perhaps a journal entry after every round or a tally mark on every putt done using the new loop.

Finally, figure out how you can track it. This player can aim for 50% of the good habit loop in her first tournament using it. She can then adjust that percentage in every tournament she plays. What is her yardstick for success? That is personal, but that should also be noted. How about, I will be successful when I do this 90% of the time when I play. That means she will have to keep documenting her success. How about, I will be successful when this new loop becomes a habit and I no longer have to work hard to recognize the cues that cause me to be nervous.

I want to lose 30 lbs. by Jan. 1, 2013. That is my goal. Wish me luck! Change is hard. It should be a bit easier now that my belief system supports my goal.

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