How To Set Goals That Make You A Winner -- All The Time

Bill Cole, MS, MA Founder and CEO William B. Cole Consultants Silicon Valley, California

How often do you evaluate your sport competition, speech, interview, job evaluation, class tests and papers in win-loss terms? Either you succeeded or you failed? Either you won or you lost? Isn't this an unhappy, pressure-packed way to go through life? Is there a better way? Here is what we usually hear from less-experienced performers:

1. Will I win? Will my speech evaluations be high? Will the audience like my speech?

2. Will our team win? Will we get to the round of play we desired?

3. Will I or our team achieve the year's ranking goal? Will others approve of our performance?

As you can see, there are not too many types of outcome goals we can set. This means our chances of being "successful" as defined by these goals are quite limited. Either we win or lose. Either our team wins or loses. Either we reach our ranking or we don't. The audience evaluates us positively or they don't. This type of either-or, black or white thinking can be quite pressure-inducing and can easily lead to feelings of complete failure, disappointment and depression if these specific, limited goals are not reached.

Perhaps most damaging, we put our happiness and satisfaction with our performance into the hands of others. We ask them to evaluate us, regardless of HOW we played. We put enough pressure on ourselves without buying into societal pressure to evaluate ourselves positively ONLY if we win, get that A+, get that raise or get that standing ovation. These are outcome or product goals.

Process Goals Experienced performers always set these outcome goals to measure themselves in an external sense. Yet they know that all pressure is self-induced, and they avoid having one single, external difficult-to-reach goal as the ONLY goal. They also realize that measuring themselves internally is vital to continued performance improvement. They seek this feedback with a passion. Top performers use these internal goals, called process goals or performance goals, in these ways:

1. These goals act as a pressure buffer so when losing or performing badly, a "WIN" can still take place by reaching some performance goals.

2. Monitoring process goals as the performance proceeds maintains focus on what makes the performance succeed. Top performers take care of the little things and then the big things, like winning, take care of themselves.

3. Setting performance goals gives a you a feeling of control. It truly is impossible to will yourself to win, because the opponent is doing the same, and it is impossible to make the audience love you, or to make the professor give you an A+. You cannot control the outcome, but you can control to a high degree YOU as you perform.

4. Monitoring and measuring process goals gives you and your coach material to work with in designing and adjusting your performance afterwards. This moves your awareness of your performance away from the global "I did bad" or "I did good" to detailed, specific, changeable aspects of your performance that you can control.

5. Even if you lose, you win. Losing the game does not mean you wasted your time if you learned something, improved, gave a good effort, or used performance goals to do better next time.

Performance Goals
Here are some types of performance goals you can set:

1. Strive to always have a good time as you perform. If not, why do you do it?

2. Learn at least one new thing about yourself via this performance.

3. Use the performance as an opportunity to learn how to handle pressure better and to perform better when the stakes are high.

4. Improve your ability to control your breathing, especially during tense times.

5. Improve your ability to monitor your rituals and routines, and to be able to enter the flow state as a result.

6. Reduce the number of mistakes you make. Move your performance into a higher level.

Monitor these process goals during breaks in the performance and at its conclusion. Have a coach or friend videotape you or use checklists to measure the performance goals you set. With practice you can observe these process goals as you actually perform. To start, though, just sit down at the end of a performance and review your internal goals as you reflect on your performance. This can be a chart, simple notes or the start of a performance journal.

Winners set multiple goals, both internal and external, so they can win the mental game as well as the external game. Be good to yourself and set both types of goals. You will perform better, enjoy yourself more and learn more about the fine art of performance, about yourself and about others. Isn't that what it's all about?

Copyright © 2005-2011 Bill Cole, MS, MA. All rights reserved.