What Kind of Goals should you set?
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on January 14th, 2011

In response to my first blog about goal-setting, Isaac posted this comment: At 65, I decided to shift my physical activity from running to swimming. Before TI, I had a hard time swimming more than 25 meters. I set a goal of swimming 1000 meters. The TI DVD took me over the threshold, and I feel I should now add time to my distance goal.

Isaac shows examples of the two kinds of goals, qualitativesubjective measures of how swimming makes you feel, mentally and physically — and quantitativeobjective measures: how far, how fast, how efficient, etc. Both types are useful. Which you choose will depend on where you are in your development as a swimmer. Personality will also incline you toward one or the other. Isaac’s example can illustrate.

One thousand meters (1kilometer) is a round number. Few will think in terms of goals like 975 meters. Also, it’s a rare person –fewer than two in a hundred — who can swim that far. That makes it a worthy pursuit. Finally, in Isaac’s case, progressing from 25m to 1000m , or four thousand percent improvement, would provide anyone with a sense of accomplishment. A goal of simply swimming farther wouldn’t be as motivating as one that aims at a specific, and impressive, distance.

Also, Isaac substituted swimming for running as his fitness pursuit. Because 25-meter repeats aren’t ‘aerobic’ his goal of being able to swim 1000 meters also contributes to a Quality of Life goal, staying fit in a sustainable low-impact way.

But for virtually anyone who has been in Isaac’s place, the satisfaction of the number One Thousand quickly gives way to the daily satisfaction of the modest discoveries and breakthroughs that made it possible for him to swim so much farther.  At that point, you realize objective or quantitative goals are most valuable as a tool for achieving the deeper satisfaction of goals based on feeling better, physically and mentally.

The greatest value of these goals is that they anchor you in the present moment. Most of the goals I listed in my previous blog will take three to eight months to realize. Each is an exercise in delayed gratification. An experience-based goal is something that can reward me every second I swim. And as I better understand how to make them occur, even the anticipation of my next swim usually creates the happiness and pleasure they represent.

Isaac writes that perhaps he should now set a time goal. Once he times his kilometer his next benchmark will virtually suggest itself. If he swims it in 25 minutes then he could choose 24 minutes as a short-term goal and 20 minutes as a longer term goal.

A specific time-goal will suggest more bite-size metrics to aid him in tracking progress. To swim one minute faster, he must improve 6 seconds per 100, or 3 seconds per 50. With that knowledge any 50- or 100-meter repeat will yield useful information.  A 60-second 50-meter swim is the precise pace for a 20-minute kilometer. Those who swim untimed laps never have feedback that precise.

At the same time, Isaac’s chances of achieving his time goal will be much improved by focus on qualitative goals. Even a number goal that takes only 60 seconds to accomplish isn’t quite as ‘real-time’ as a qualitative goal you experience every single second of that 50.

His first such goal should be Feeling Ease – which can break down further into:

A weightless head

An arm that floats forward without bubbles

A feeling of slipping through the water

A relaxed kick

If Isaac feels each of these during each moment of a 60-second 50-meters, then his chances of stringing together another 19 such 50s are far greater.

4 Responses to “What Kind of Goals should you set?”

  1. Isaac Ohel says:

    Terry, you are so right. The first time I broke the 100 meter barrier, I felt at ease from the start till the end of that distance. I now strive to reconstruct this feeling at every lap. I can recall that the joy of long distance running did not come immediately either, and even though achieving ease in swimming is taking longer time, thanks to you and others in the forum, I am sure I will get there.
    Oh, the relaxed kick? It isn’t there yet. I know, Balance! In the spring, when I get back from Oaxaca (Mexico), I will find an instructor, and fine tune my DVD-based skills.

  2. Bob Needham says:

    Great post Terry

  3. Peter Fabok says:

    This post is a good example of the art of setting up the goals.

    Our goals are not rigid, they should be set to grow with us.

    Staying on the path of mastery means not only:
    1. to embrace and follow out the continuous process of learning, self-improving and achieving the goals,

    but also
    2. to learn how and when to set and redefine the goals effectively, so that they’d help us to stay on that path, to get most of our potential for creativity

    The point is that the goal should be ambitious and focus demanding enough in every moment.
    In fact, our goals reflect the level of “living dynamics” of our personality.

  4. […] Today’s post was prompted by a comment by Peter Fabok, TI Coach in Slovakia, on What Kind of Goals Should You Set: […]

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