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S.M.A.R.T. Goals for 2013

Lessons from the corporate world

Chris Campbell | January 11, 2013

Get Motivated

It’s time again to think about some goals for the New Year. Coaches encourage you to do this every year, because goals are great motivators, especially on those cold and dark mornings when we’re all tempted to hit the snooze button and go back to sleep. Whatever may come down the pike in 2013, what you desire to get out of this sport is entirely in your hands. It always has been, and it always will be.

Start by asking yourself a few questions. Why are you here at the pool? Why do you want or need structured training? Are you targeting an event? A race? Weight loss? Are you decompressing from work? Is there something out there that you’ve never done before, but you’re itching to try? Do you have something to prove? Look at goal setting as a great way to prioritize activities in your life, whether they’re related to your family, your swimming or your job. How about a goal that can grow with you? The things we learn at the pool are often just as applicable outside the pool fence as within it.

If implemented properly, goals are something more than some vague or foggy notion. Consider the S.M.A.R.T. goal model, often used in the corporate world. A good goal is:

  • Specific. Clearly define your goal. Pick something you wish to accomplish. Keep it personal, and keep it within your control. Remember, they’re your goals. Not someone else’s. It’s not our job as coaches to define them for you or hold you to them. That’s your responsibility.
  • Measurable. How do you know if you’re successful in achieving your goal? How do you know when you’ve made it or how you’re doing along the way? Consider using the FLOGs at usms.org that comes with your membership: a database of your race times, and tracking your workout yardage. How many times a week did you make it to practice on time? Lay in some milestones to track your progress, and take personal ownership of your criteria for success.
  • Attainable. Is your goal realistic and appropriate for you? I’d like to swim a fast 200 freestyle, but I don’t think I’ll be beating Michael Phelps any time soon. However, breaking 2:30 for 200 meters is a good challenge for me. Swimming 12 times a week isn’t likely either, but making it to practice four or five times a week is good. The word challenge is key here. Remember, nothing truly worth having ever comes easily. A good goal, although attainable, shouldn’t be a cakewalk.
  • Relevant. Speaking of cake, I’d like to make the best chocolate cake in the world, but that has nothing to do with swimming. Swimming is what we’re about here. Make sure your goal is relevant.
  • Time Bound. Yep. A deadline. The nice thing about putting yourself on a clock or calendar is that it forces you to keep your goals realistic, measurable and attainable. A goal of lifetime fitness is a worthy thing, but it’s too easy to lose focus, because you’ve got a whole lifetime to do something that is vaguely defined. Keep the pressure on to keep up your momentum.

The Caveat

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that our swimming comes within a larger context. There’s this thing called Life that happens outside the pool. There are many things that get in the way of our swimming. Forces beyond our control may sidetrack us—family, work, health. As the old saying goes, “we cannot change the wind, but we can adjust our sails.” Stand firm, but be flexible. Know when to hold yourself accountable, and when to cut yourself some slack. After all, swimming is the sport of a lifetime, and a miss one season doesn’t necessarily mean Game Over. There are always opportunities to make sensible adjustments to our goals or to lay in new ones.

So pick a goal and take your best shot. You may have a coach who is supportive, knowledgeable and very creative. If you don’t have immediate access to one, or you’re having trouble defining a suitable goal for yourself, ask for help or go online. There are lots of motivated coaches out there, and we’d love to help you set a goal and get you on your way towards achieving it. Feel free to tap our expertise. It’s why we’re here.

So what’s your goal for 2013?

USMS Wave Seperator

About the Author—Chris Campbell

Chris Campbell is a long time swimmer and coach with Mountain View Masters. A veteran of psychic wars, he loves swim meets, is a shameless foodie, and takes forever to walk from one end of the pool to the other because he has to stop and chat with so many people.

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