Make Your Ski Racing Goals S.M.A.R.T.E.R.
Goal setting is a simple and practical mental tool you can use to maintain a high level of motivation in your ski racing. Keeping you focused and committed during the long and vital prep period is especially valuable. For some very elemental reason, people respond to goals profoundly and personally. The experience of setting a goal, working toward a goal, and achieving a goal has a powerful emotional resonance that causes us to continue to strive higher for the goals we set for ourselves.
Goals offer two essential things that fuel your motivation. First, goals provide the destination of where you want to go in your ski racing. This endpoint is necessary because if you don’t know where you’re going, you will stay where you are. Second, having a place you want to go to doesn’t have much value if you don’t know how to get there. Goals provide the road map for getting to your destination.
Set S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Goals
The acronym S.M.A.R.T.E.R. represents the seven criteria that you can use to get the most out of your goal setting:
Your goals should be specific to what you want to accomplish. For example, a general goal might be, “I want to ski faster.” Instead, you want to identify what aspects of your skiing need to improve to ski faster. A more appropriate goal might be: “I will work on skiing more aggressively in my training.”
“Do your best” goals aren’t very effective because they don’t offer an adequate benchmark to strive for. Instead, you want to set goals that are measurable and objective. For example, a measurable goal might be: “I want to reduce my FIS points by 50 by the end of the season.”
Goals set by your parents or coaches will not inspire or motivate you fully because they come from outside you, and you won’t feel real buy-in because they aren’t yours. When you set goals that you believe deeply in, they become woven into the very fabric of your motivation, and you almost have no choice about whether you strive for them.
Setting too low goals will have little motivational value because you know you’ll achieve the goal without much effort. You don’t want to set too high goals because you’ll see that you can’t reach them, so you’ll have little incentive to put out any effort. You want to set goals that are both realistic and challenging. Realistic meaning that you can achieve them and challenging because your only chance of achieving them is by working hard.
The best goals are ones with a time limit for their achievement. You will feel highly motivated to put in the time and energy necessary to reach them when you have set a deadline to achieve them. For example, a goal might be: “To improve my strength and power, I’m going to increase the weight on my power cleans by 20 pounds by doing five sets of power cleans three times a week for the next six weeks.”
Your motivation to strive toward your goals is driven by the emotions you associate with those goals. These emotions can decide whether you achieve your goals when faced with setbacks, failures, disappointment, fatigue, pain, monotony, and the desire to do other more exciting things. As a result, you want to set goals that inspire and excite you.
You are more likely to stay committed to pursuing your ski racing goals when you write them down (and not just type them into your phone or computer) than if you only think about them. The physical act of writing your goals appears to somehow imprint them more deeply in your psyche. Writing them down also seems to make the goals more tangible and real. The explicitness of writing down your goals seems to create a greater sense of ownership, making you feel more compelled to strive for your goals.
Several other guidelines can help you set goals that will offer you the maximum benefit.
Focus on the degree of attainment
Goal setting is still an inexact science because it is impossible to set goals that you can be sure you can achieve. Because of this uncertainty in the goal-setting process, your focus when you place and strive for goals should be their degree of attainment, not absolute achievement.
The degree of attainment emphasizes improvement toward the goal. Using a power clean example in which your goal was to improve by 20 pounds, if, after six weeks, you have increased your weight by 15 pounds, though you did not attain your absolute goal, your improvement is considered a success.
Make your goals public
Studies have shown that you are more likely to adhere to your goals if you make them public, sharing them with others, for example, showing them to your coach, family, or friends, or posting them on your social media. Doing so makes you accountable to yourself and everyone with whom you share them.
At the same time, you want to be thoughtful about whom you share your goals. The worst thing that can happen when you make your goals public is that they turn from goals that you see as a challenge to a perceived threat that causes you to feel pressure and, as a result, cause you to want to avoid them. I recommend that you only share your goals with people you know will positively encourage and support your goals.
Review your goals regularly
Because goal setting is an inexact science, you should view goal setting as a dynamic and ever-evolving process of review, adjustment, and recommitment. It would help if you made it a habit to review your ski racing goals monthly and compare them to your progress. It can also be helpful to check them with your coaches, who can provide valuable feedback you can use to make adjustments that will further motivate you to pursue your goals.
Types of Goals to Set
S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Goal setting involves establishing a series of goals that start the big picture and get increasingly specific and actionable.
- Long-term goals: What you ultimately want to achieve in your sport (e.g., skiing in college, making the U.S. Ski Team, winning an Olympic gold medal).
- Yearly goals: What you want to achieve this year (e.g., qualifying for a new level of races such as Regionals or Nationals, lowering your points to a certain level).
- Performance goals: What results do you need to achieve your yearly goals (e.g., finish in the top 10 to qualify for the next race series).
- Preparation goals: How you train and what you need to improve to reach your higher goals (e.g., physical, technical, mental).
- Lifestyle goals: What you need to do in your general lifestyle to reach the above goals (e.g., sleep, eating habits, study habits).
Decide on what you think are reasonable goals using the S.M.A.R.T.E.R. guidelines and the other criteria I described. Suppose you are unsure of the goals to set. In that case, I recommend you sit down with your coaches and collaboratively prepare your goals. They often have experience and perspective on your development that can help you set the best goals that will motivate you most.