Goal setting is a powerful tool used to help us achieve a result. This is applicable to any part of your life and I’m going to be discussing this specifically for Dragonboating.
One issue that I see happen time and time again from any paddler and even myself is staying focused and motivated in this sport. When you first start, it’s easy to learn so many new techniques and improving the quality of your paddling. Though, there reaches a point when you start to plateau and this is the time when we need to boost our motivation and set new goals. Whether you have just started or have been paddling for years understanding how goal setting can work for you will not only get you motivated, it will take you to another level of paddling.
I use the S.M.A.R.T approach when it comes to setting goals for Dragonboating. It is a simple principle to follow and can help you take your paddling to another level if you apply it properly.
The S.M.A.R.T. principle
- Set Specific Goals. Research shows that specific goals are the most motivating. For example, a specific goal is to reduce your 200m water time trial time by 30 seconds within 6 months. Many people just say they want to get faster. This goal is far too general to really motivate you in your training.
- Set Measurable Goals. Simply saying that you want to get faster is not enough detail. You need to be able to chart and document progress toward your goal. One way to measure your progress is to document your performance at set intervals. In the above example you may want to record your 200m water time trial performance every 2 months so you have a good measurement to work on.
- Set Adjustable Goals. This means your goals are flexible enough to accommodate unexpected challenges without becoming obsolete. An injury may force you to modify your goal. If your goal is to compete at the Dragonboat National titles in 6 months and you are injured, you may need to change your goal to allow for an extra 3 months to recover from injury. It doesn’t mean you abandon all your plans. At the same time, you may find you are progressing quickly and need to raise your goal. Set Action-Oriented Goals
Another important aspect of goal-setting is to keep focused on personal action. Don’t forget to consider not only what you want to achieve, but how you plan to achieve it. I will discuss this in another post.
- Set Realistic Goals. Start where you are, and increase your goals accordingly. If you haven’t ever paddled a 1000m race, it’s probably not a wise goal to say you want complete this in 20 minutes. While that may be your long-term goal, in the short-term you may want to shoot for the a 500m race first and condition your body for racing conditions. This sort of progression is healthy and realistic. Also, keep in mind that as you become more fit towards your full potential, the room for continued improvement gets smaller. Similarly, if your goals are too simple, you won’t feel much satisfaction by attaining them. Only you truly know what is realistic for you.
- Set Time-based Goals. Look again at first example: reduce your 200m water time trial by 30 seconds within 6 months. This is specific and time-based. Without a time line there is a tendency to procrastinate or get bored. You may also need to set interim goals with shorter time lines to keep you on track. Consider the previous example of working up to a 1000m race by completing shorter distances first. This is breaking down your goal by being time specific. In general, goals that stretch out beyond 6 months are too long to keep you interested and motivated. Try to re-evaluate your goals every 2-3 months.
Goal setting is an art as well as a science, but if you make sure your goals follow the S.M.A.R.T. formula, you will find you are more likely to stay motivated and reach goal after goal.
With this in mind, start putting down your goals for Dragonboating. I would love to hear your goals for 2009, so please add your comments below.