When’s The Last Time You Wrote Down A Goal?

Whenever I speak about setting goals, I ask people if they believe in the significance of written goals. They always say yes, but when I ask how many goals they have written down this year, they often give me a blank stare.

That never ceases to amaze me. Research shows that people who write down their goals accomplish significantly more than those who do not. Ever wonder why the other guy makes it look easy?

Some of this, I suppose, is just indifference or procrastination. Based on years as a mentor, coach and athlete, I know that most people never have been taught exactly how to write adequate goals. Keeping this in mind, I would like to suggest a basic goal-setting outline, specifically the system I use.

1) Don’t overdo it. Research shows we can’t focus on more than five or six things at any one time. Keep the list simple. Ironically, your list should be so short that you can repeat it word for word from memory.

2) Make intelligent goals that are realistic, that are achievable. For example, a poor goal might be, “I want to win Indy this year.” A good example could be, “Run faster lap times at Laguna Seca by at least 5 seconds.” It’s important to be able to measure your accomplishments. This is of particular importance with auto racing. If you race hard around a road course, not knowing what your lap times are, you will never know if your new methods are better or worse. Once you begin to see success “in writing,” not only will you begin to achieve more rewarding goals, but your confidence and self-esteem will soar as well. Once you see yourself reaching goals you have written down, then you can use a proven method Olympic athletes use called, “Turning up the thermostat.” When it comes to goal setting, if you’re not out of your comfort level you’re not introspective enough. You want to improve, don’t you? Then crank up that thermostat! Once you write something down, you are setting things in motion. And don’t just write a goal down. Set a date. A goal without a specified timeline is just a dream.

3) Writing down goals and reaching them is the aphrodisiac of auto racing. It’s important to review them regularly because this is how they become authentic. Many racers use a similar method of writing down goals when they create a build sheet for a new racecar. As you complete each line and cross it off as you go, there is a feeling of accomplishment, and during this process you repopulate the list and refine it as you go. This is the very principle I am attempting to explain. This principle works equally well with regard to setting goals for racing, be it lap times, better car setup, or what have you. In fact, these very guidelines have been used at corporate levels for decades.

4) Something I learned years ago is the importance of keeping your goals to yourself. We’ve all been guilty of bragging to our buddies what were planning on doing, but the reality is that by divulging your goals, you are less likely to achieve them. So unless someone is committed to helping you reach a goal, — your coach, team members, mentor — keep it to yourself. This way there’s more focus on achieving the goal and less time spent making excuses when the jabs begin.

5) When all is said and done, the exercise of goal-setting is not just helpful. It is a prerequisite for happiness. Research shows that when we make consistent progress toward meaningful goals, we live happier, more satisfied lives than those who don’t. So if you want to have a more exciting and rewarding racing season this year, I encourage you to begin writing down your goals.

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