ASK KOLAT: How Important Is It to Set Goals?
Write Your Goals Down
Cary Kolat discusses the importance of setting goals while he was competing as an athlete. This was an easy question to answer for Cary. It’s extremely important to set achievable goals for yourself. Cary was fortunate enough to plan out and write his own goals down at the young age of 8. He had been told to do so by teachers, coaches and his parents a million times. After that time, he doesn’t ever remember actually writing them down again. He had tunnel vision and knew exactly what he wanted to achieve in the sport of wrestling.
Clarity of Mind
Cary makes an analogy to help show the importance of setting goals. When his daughter was about 9 years old they would go on runs together. They ran the same route, 3 miles, every time and they knew it by memory. One day he asked his daughter a question. What if he took her to a different place to run but the same distance away? Still familiar enough that she could get home, but not a familiar as their normal route. Would it take her longer, shorter, or the same amount of time to complete the run? She said longer, she knew she would make mistakes along the way, maybe a wrong turn somewhere, or maybe she would run a slower pace as to not miss a turn. This is the simplest way to explain goal setting. If you do something and you lay out beforehand and know the path you are going to take, it is less likely you are going to make mistakes along the way.
If you are a coach and want to demonstrate this to your athletes, take them on a run. Don’t tell them the route or how far they are going to be running. As a leader you know what is coming. You know where the hills are, where the tough spots are and when you have to grind it out. By the end of the run they will be completely exhausted. They are unaware and unprepared for the obstacles the route presents. Then, the next day tell them they are going to do exactly the same run as yesterday. Their times will be better and they won’t be as exhausted. Once you have taken the unknowns out of the equation their performance is higher as they have less distractions. Despite setting goals early in his life, for a long time Cary didn’t realize that goal setting helped provide a path and remove a sense of unknown.
If You Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail
While Cary didn’t feel the need to write down all of his goals all the time, it’s important to do. It helps keep you focused and on the right path. Cary had the beacon of an Olympic gold medal hanging above him to keep himself focused. In the process and along his path to reaching that beacon there were many things that came first. Training was one aspect. He never walked into a wrestling room without an individual plan or goal for what he wanted to accomplish. For example, he is training with an athlete and they wanted to test his defense. So, the goal for the last practice was to find the chinks in his armor. They put him through a rigorous warm up to fatigue his body and then placed him in the center of the mat. Every minute for 20 minutes a new partner would attack and shoot on him. His only goal was to defend and hold the center of the mat without stalling. The intention was to see how long he would last without getting frazzled and really start giving up points, once he did the goal was to see where his defense was week and needed shoring up. That was an individual goal for one practice. As you get better at setting and accomplishing those short term goals you can begin to look further into the future.
Short/Long Term Goals
Cary set the goal of an Olympic medal when he was 8 and didn’t accomplish it until he was 27, in that span many small and short term goals had to be accomplished first. By setting both short and long term goals you are able to create a map and a vision of where you want to be and stay on track without making as many deviations and mistakes along the way.
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