by Matt Halloran
Ten years ago, I attended a lecture on goal-setting given by an Olympic bi-athlete. I will summarize two hours of speaking into one sentence: Goal setting is important if you would like to improve. This isn’t earth-shattering news by any stretch of the imagination. While most of us spend little time thinking explicitly about “goal setting,” we still use it with great success every day.
Here is an analogy that makes goal-setting and goal-tracking easier to interpret. Every day I get in my car with the intent of going to work. I take the same route and more or less park in the same spot and walk the same path to my desk.
The entire time I am on my way to work, my subconscious is keeping track to let me know that I am still going the correct direction and will eventually reach my destination. In goals terminology these are “checkpoints.” If, while on my way to work, I come across a traffic accident and am forced to turn off the normal route, I still have the same goal of getting to work, but my path has changed. Going to work is goal setting, just too routine to acknowledge.
Most people have never considered setting skiing-specific goals, and that makes sense, as most people are not competitive skiers. However, many of us have thought about how we can improve, and just haven’t set about the business of actually doing it. So how can we apply the seemingly simple example of getting to work to other areas of our lives…say, goal-setting in skiing?
First, we must define a measurable goal. I might say, “I would like to ski all the outer trails at Mt. Spokane without stopping.”
Second, we need to establish a timeline. To establish a timeline, I first have to define when I want to accomplish the goal and work backwards: “I will be able to ski the outer trails by February 18th.” That gives me six weeks to build my skiing endurance.
Third, we must establish checkpoints that guide the way to achieving the measurable or definitive goal. Checkpoints can, depending upon the complexity of your goal, be difficult to establish. For this example, they are relatively easy: “Starting this weekend, I’ll ski 2.5 km on both Saturday and Sunday. Then every weekend after that, I will increase my distance by 2.5 km until I have reached my goal.”
Finally, we need to plan for and accept disruptions to our path. Okay, we have our goal, a timeline and checkpoints. Let’s get started on our path and fast-forward three weeks. I begin the day with the objective of skiing 7.5 km but the weather is so horrible and I get so cold and tired that I only ski 6 km. Then on Sunday a leaky pipe needs repairing at home, so I don’t ski at all. While these events are frustrating, I can’t let them stop me from achieving my goal. Just like if I had to make a detour on the drive to work, I simply have to go around. Solution: add a week to my goal and ski 7.5 km the following weekend. Or, pick up where I left off the next weekend and ski 10 km. The important idea is that I don’t get derailed and give up!
Setting goals, whether they are based on performance, distance or technique, can enhance your enthusiasm and make you a better skier at the same time. Spend some time thinking about why you ski and what aspects of the sport are important to you, and that will help define your goals. Good luck, and hopefully I will see you on the mountain.