Goal setting: is an essential tool for training and competition; it keeps us motivated, it makes us work harder and it helps us identifying areas for improvement. Having goals increase our satisfaction and confidence and it help us to get the most of our training. To be effective, we need to have a vision about the result we want to achieve, which at the same time needs to be challenging and achievable. Another aspect to consider is identifying the objectives to reach the goal and the necessary actions to do to meet these objectives.
When setting up the objectives, we need to be very specific, adding the deadline to meet them, bearing in mind the resources, time available, and our capabilities. Finally, we cannot forget to set up a way to measure our progress, to check whether the objectives or the goal needs modifying. Expect also times where you do not see progress, where goals are unmet, and where you reach a plateau. The more and clear we specify the objectives the easier it is going to be to meet them.
The acronym SMARTER is useful for setting objectives:
Specific, Measurable, adding related Actions, Realistic, Time bounded, Evaluating the objectives to see if they are being met, and Readjusting them if necessary.
Gratitude: is feeling appreciation, being thankful and having a sense of abundance. This emotion is relevant to sport psychology for two reasons: 1) When expressing gratitude athletes and coaches strengthen their relationships. 2) When feeling grateful (as opposed to feeling entitled) it is possible to see opportunities instead of despair.
Kaizen: Word of Japanese origin referring to the commitment to continuously improve, (e.g., setting new goal each time we reach one) and understanding mistakes as opportunities to learn.
Locus of control: Through our set of beliefs and life experiences we develop our locus of control, which is the place where we think the control of what happens to us, our successes, and failures is. This interpretation – irrespective of whatever happens is within someone’s control or not – is important when coping with stress. When faced with scenarios like: “whether an athlete did not get a good score due to not training efficiently, or due to the judges not scoring fairly”; answers about the perception of the locus of control could range in a continuum. On the one extreme it could be internal (e.g., attributing success or failure to ourselves), and on the other externally (i.e., due to luck, fate, chance or powerful others). Those with an internal locus of control hold themselves accountable for what happens to them and try to exercise that control; whereas those with an external locus of control do not usually exercise control about what happens to them. Having an internal locus of control is empowering because it leads individuals to think they can influence events in their lives and motivates them to be responsible for their actions. Nobody can control everything happening to us, however what everyone can do is controlling the reactions to what happens, i.e., what we think and do about it. Some of the relevant theories to the locus of control are: Locus of control theory, Social learning theory. The locus of control has been researched and measured on a wide variety of contexts such as health, academic achievement, parenthood, economic behaviour, prison environment, and driving behaviour.
Optimism: three important aspects of optimism are:
- Believing that an outcome is going to be successful.
- Seeing opportunities instead of setbacks.
- Having certain explanatory styles about what happens to us.
Optimistic thought= believing a setback is temporary vs. Pessimistic thought= believing setbacks last longer.
Optimistic thought= believing a setback is just about a specific part of our lives vs. Pessimistic thought= pervading a large part of our lives.
Optimistic thought= share the blame vs. Pessimistic thought= blaming ourselves.
Being optimistic when facing difficulties has the advantage of making us persevere, as opposed to being pessimistic which make us loose our confidence and motivation. However, there are limits about being optimistic if for instance we are not realistic about our situation.
A main author on optimism is Martin Seligman https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Seligman
Photograph by Frederik Lower on Unsplash