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Stay Engaged in Your Training Through Goal Setting

Updated: Mar 3, 2020

By Mike Stacey, Mike Stacey Mental Skills (MS2)

Every person has some easily measurable goals, like:

  • ‘Yes. I ran a mile in 7 minutes’ ‘No. I didn’t’

  • ‘Yes. I started the 4-Week Challenge’ or ‘No. I’ve not’

  • ‘Yes. I got stronger’ or ‘No. I didn’t’

Whether you're beginning the 4-Week Challenge or you’ve been training consistently for a few months, you’ve probably found a few skills you’d have fun improving. Identifying a skill to hone is a powerful way to keep developing and stay motivated for training.

You can ask yourself, ‘what do I want to get better at doing while I work out?’

For example:

  • If I’m weight training or doing Crossfit, do I have an exercise technique I can improve on, such as my hang clean, squat, deadlift, or overhead press?

  • If I’m doing combat sports, do I want to be more skillful in my submissions, escapes, parries, or low kicks?

  • If I’m a fan of outdoor sports, do I want to improve my rowing, bouldering, or hill strategy?

  • If you play recreational sports, your skill could be something like, ‘rebound control,’ ‘follow through on free throws,’ or ‘smarter play reads’

Before you continue reading, pick a skill you’d like to improve. Honing your skillsets and finding mastery are easy ways to engage more fully in your training, build confidence, and provides you with another reason to exercise.

Gauging success in skill development is tricky and doesn’t always lend itself well – or easily – to statistical or objective monitoring. Using a Performance Profile, you have a subjective way to self-assess and track progress toward skills that aren’t easily quantifiable.

Below is a single Performance Profile.

Skill Name:

When you complete a Performance Profile, write what you’d like to work on under ‘Skill Name:’

You’ll notice the Performance Profile is made up of ten circles. The smallest circle at the center is ‘1’ and the outermost circle is labeled ‘10.’ The number on each circle increases as you move outward – think about it like a 1-10 scale. You will rank your ability at the skill you'd like to work on from 1 to 10. One is ‘Very Unskilled’ and ten is ‘Very Skilled.’

You will shade the Performance Profile in up to the appropriate circle.

For example:

  • I’m working on my Hockey IQ and want to make better decisions under pressure

  • I believe that I’m a 5 out of 10

  • So, I write down ‘Make Good Decisions Under Pressure’ next to ‘Skill Name:’

  • I fill my performance profile in up to the 5th circle

Skill Name: Make Good Decisions Under Pressure

Next is where the goal setting and skill development part of a Performance Profile comes into play. You will decide how much you can reasonably improve your skill in the next four weeks. Once you’ve decided where you’d like to be, you will divide your performance profile in half and shade up to that point.

For example:

  • I’m going to decide how much better I can reasonably get at making good decisions under pressure in four weeks.

  • I believe I can get up to an 8

Skill Name: Make Good Decisions Under Pressure

With half of the circle shaded up to where you’d like to be and half of the circle shaded up to where you are right now, you’ve got a visual representation of your skill level and your goal. As you improve, you will gradually fill the circle until both sides match.

For example:

After one week of practice, I reflect on how well I’m doing at making decisions under pressure. I’m still not where I’d like to be, but I’d say I’m a ‘7.’ So, I fill in two more lines. In another week, I’ll reassess my skill level.

You’re welcome to print out the next blank Performance Profiles and use them to set your goals. Assess where you are now and where you’d like to be. You'll notice an 'Athlete' and 'Coach' key below the Performance Profiles. If you are working with a personal training, coach, or partner to keep you accountable, use the Performance Profiles to set goals together.

You and your coach will discuss where you are and where you'd like to be in specific areas of fitness or skill. You (the athlete) will shade up to your current skill level in solid black. Your coach, trainer, or partner will lightly share up to where you both agree is reasonable to be in four weeks. You will track and reassess your progress together in one to four weeks.

Skill Name:

Skill Name:

Through regular reflection on how you’re doing, you’ll get a better-rounded view of your skills and might be a little more present while you train. Ideally, you'll pick and work on things that matter to you, stay more engaged in your training, and enjoy the process that much more.

Every week, plan to check-in and assess your progress toward your goals. Remind yourself using a calendar notification or a physical note somewhere in your room, locker, or gym bag.

Remember that a self-assessment requires effort, time and being honest with yourself. As you meet or exceed your goals, you have the option to continue working on a specific skill or move on to another one. Over four, ten weeks, or a few months, you will have a clear, graphical representation of your skills and what you've accomplished.

More than a few athletes and exercisers had questions about how to use a Performance Profile and you’re welcome to email with questions. Good luck with the Operation RSF Challenges and in setting goals to keep training fun and engaging!

Author Bio: Mike Stacey is a mental skills coach who assists professional, Division I, Division III, and youth athletes of various sports, as well as juniors hockey players in training the mental game. Through work with individuals, teams, supervised experience fresh out of school, an M.S. achieved at TCU, and a B.S. from Purdue, Mike draws on a diverse background and knowledgeable network to serve every athlete and coach to the best of his abilities. Mike has been an Operation RSF affiliate since June of 2019.

Website: www.mikestaceymentalskills.com

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