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How to Set Goals Like an Olympic Champion
Author: Dr. Brian Marentette
Published: 8/1/2016
Any successful athlete (or successful person for that matter) likely achieved their success by setting goals, then reaching them.  Whether it is conscious or unconscious, everyone sets goals on a daily basis.  For athletes, setting the right goals, and doing so consciously (at least at first) is one of the most important tools that can help an athlete be successful.  In this post, we’ll go into the three basic types of goals, when to set them, and when to activate them in your mind.

Outcome Goals (Dreams)
As we discussed in our earlier post about Fostering the Right Mindset, every athlete needs to have big dreams like winning the Stanley Cup in hockey.  With the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio only days away, let’s use the example of an Olympic swimmer and their dream of winning a Gold Medal.  This“dream” is an outcome goal because it is a"finish line" for their success.  Outcome goals are important because they provide inspiration, vision, and help the athlete remember why they are working so hard.  Outcome goals determine the finish line.  They are far off in the future and very dificult to achieve.

So when do you focus on Outcome goals? In between competitions and practice sessions.  Competition is no place for Outcome goals.

Performance Goals (Steps)
In order to achieve the desired outcome goal, athletes need to set goals that help them perform in a desired way or at a desired level.  For example, in order to win a Gold Medal, a swimmer first needs to finish in the top two place of the semi-final heat to reach the gold medal heat.  A successful swimmer knows this and sets a performance goal of reaching that final heat in order to accomplish their goal of winning a gold medal.

So when do you focus on Performance goals? In between competitions and practice sessions.  Athletes shouldn't be focused on Performance goals during their execution, however at a competition (depending on the sport) the athlete may need to focus on Performance goals.

Process Goals (Actions)
Now, to get even more specific, athletes need to set goals that help them to take the right actions that will result in them performing in the desired way or at the desired level.  In order to get into the right mindset for optimum performance, the athlete must set goals to keep them focused on the moment and their actions, rather than their dreams.  The Olympic swimmer is about to start a race and is reciting several statements in their mind, such as specific movements, pace of their breathing, taking their flip-turn smoothly, etc.  These process goals allow the swimmer to focus specifically on what they need to do to execute the level of performance they want.

So when do you focus on Process goals?  During competition.  That’s right; athletes should almost exclusively be focusing on process goals, because if the athlete achieves their Process goals, they will likely achieve their Performance goals, and ultimately their Outcome goals.  Process goals keep the athlete focused on execution.

That’s how Olympic Champions set goals.