Goal-Setting: Learn to Set Clear and Effective Goals

All human behavior is either consciously or unconsciously geared toward fulfilling some sort of goal. Goal-setting can be beneficial in sports, exercise, business, relationships and all areas of life.

It is important to understand how to set the right types of goals in order to ensure commitment and eventually reach achievement. When properly constructed, goals can generate a sense of direction and foster motivation.

Here are some tips to help you set effective goals and increase your opportunity for achievement. A goal-setting worksheet is also included to help you get started immediately!

1. Remember to set S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Specific– Goals should indicate precisely what is to be done. Avoid vague, general, or “do-your-best” statements.

Measureable– Goals should be quantifiable and/or tangible. Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress.

Attainable– Goals should be difficult enough to challenge the participant yet realistic enough that they can be achieved.

Relevant– Goals should apply to the participant and hold a significant level of importance to the individual. There should be a personal “why” behind wanting to achieve the allotted goal.

Timely– Goals should be grounded within a time frame. This creates a sense of urgency, thus increasing focus and motivation.

(Gould & Weinberg, 2011), (TA)

2. There are three types of goals within sport and exercise psychology. Goals can be focused on outcome, performance, or process. All three are important in eliciting behavioral change.

Outcome Goals– Focus on a competitive result (e.g. winning a game, finishing in the top 5 of a race)

Performance Goals– Focus on achieving standards or performance objectives independently of other competitors (e.g. running a mile in 6 minutes, bench pressing 200 pounds)

Process Goals– Focus on the actions an individual must engage in during performance to execute or perform well (e.g. squaring up to the basket and following through when shooting a basketball, keeping arms bent at a 90-degree angle while running)

(Gould & Weinberg, 2011)

3. It is important to set both long-term and short-term goals. Focusing only on long-term goals does not improve performance. A strictly long-term approach can be overwhelming and lead to discouragement if not linked with a series of short-term goals. Imagine a long-term goal as a staircase and picture short-term goals as the steps that make up that staircase.


Think of a goal that you would like to set for yourself and try filling out the Goal Sheet Template at the bottom of this post. Directions are included below to assist you in completing each part of the layout. Three completed sample Goal Sheets are provided as examples.

Directions for completing Goal Sheet:

The main GOAL is exactly that; It is the main thing that you wish to accomplish. It should be specific and can be long- or short-term.

The Subgoals are meant to help you plan better and should directly contribute to accomplishing the overall goal. They should specifically break down the efforts that you will make to reach the main goal.

The Mental Subgoal should be a goal that involves an adjustment or improvement in your thinking/mindset. The Physical Subgoal should be a goal that involves an adjustment, improvement, or focus on a certain physical action.

For instance, on the ‘Running’ Goal Sheet example that is provided, the overall goal is to run a full marathon. The mental subgoal is “Stay in the present moment and don’t be discouraged by how much distance is still left.” The physical subgoal is “Run at a pace of 8:20-8:40 per mile.”

Action refers to what you will do to achieve the physical/mental subgoal.

Measurement refers to how you will quantify the action or make it tangible.

Frequency refers to how often you will monitor the status of the measurement.


Goal Sheet Template

Sample Goal Sheet (Running)

Sample Goal Sheet (Basketball)

Sample Goal Sheet (Body Management)


Note: This template is just to get you started. You can fill out a separate sheet for different goals that you have. You can also add multiple mental and/or physical subgoals to one goal sheet. Feel free to adjust the model to your preference. The most important thing is getting started. You can do it! 





Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://topachievement.com/smart.html

Weinberg, R. S., & Gould, D. (2011). Foundations of sport and exercise psychology. Leeds: Human Kinetics.

One thought on “Goal-Setting: Learn to Set Clear and Effective Goals”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *