Goal setting is one of the basic principles of exercise psychology. Despite its simplistic nature, correct goal setting is all too often absent in an individuals fitness goals. Goal setting is crucial for individuals to not only achieve, but experience success as well.
Here are some definitions needed for full understanding of the following content:
- Goal setting- "a process whereby progressively challenging standards of performance are pursued with a defined criterion of task performance that increases the likelihood of perceived success." (Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 3rd edition)
There are three basic types of goals:
- Process goals- goals that the individual has high amounts of control over. "If the effort is expended, success occurs with a relatively high degree of probability." Typically, these goals focus on the how of the task. Example: I will focus on exhaling through the tough part of my squat exercise today. (Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 3rd edition)
- Outcome goals- a desired end result that individuals have little control over. Typically, these goals focus on "what" of the task. Example: I will squat the most weight of my workout group today.(Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 3rd edition)
- Performance goals- "stated in terms of a self referenced personal performance standard." (Rather than outcome goals, where the reference is another individual/team). Example: I will squat 10 lbs more than I did on this set last week. (NSCA's Essentials of Personal Training, 2nd edition)
All three types of goals have their place in an exercise plan. However, as noted in the definition, process goals give the individual the most control. For this reason, I will focus solely on process goals for the rest of this discussion.
Why process goals are so important:
- Give direction and focus to the daily regimen
- Allow for success to be achieved daily
- Boosts an individuals self-efficacy (belief in ones own ability to complete a given task)
**Experiencing these effects are highly dependent on the effort expended.
These three effects of process goals allow for enjoyment of exercise through achieved success, and gives a higher probability to the formation of habit by giving the task a consistent direction and focus.
How to create process goals:
- Find an area that needs improvement, or additional focus.
- Break down the chosen area into separate components. Example: A squat can be broken down into many parts. Foot placement, bar placement, head position, neutral spine alignment, hand grip spacing, eye focus, etc. The list can go on and on.
- Find one to three areas (depending on the difficulty of the areas) to focus on for that day. Example: I will make sure I have my feet at least shoulder width apart, and I will keep my eyes focused on a fixed point in front of me today.
- Give the effort and attention to the process goals created.
- Once process goals are mastered, which may be done in as little as one day, create new ones!
Process goals are the old saying many of us have heard - "Get better at one thing today".
Create process goals. Experience success and avoid physical and psychological plateaus.
Anton Snyder, CSCS, NSCA-CPT
Human Performance Graduate Student at UW-La Crosse
Personal Trainer at Snap Fitness