THE DOC IS IN : The Formula For Success | Inside Kung Fu Magazine / March 2005

In sports, as in daily living, goal setting is critical for success. Goal setting for an athlete is a process whereby he progressively challenges his standard of performance with a defined level of task performances that increase his chances of success.

A number of reasons explain why goal setting affects performance:
a) Goals help prioritize an athlete's effort.
b) Goals increase effort because of the relationship between goal attainment and success.
c) Goals increase the experience of positive reinforcement through feedback given to the athlete.

For a goal to be more than a dream, it needs to be specific, measurable, prioritized and backed up by an action plan to get there. Process goals provide the solution. These are goals over which the athlete has complete control. If effort is expended, success occurs with a relatively high degree of probability. For example, a process goal for skills improvement would relate to form and technique: executing a particular kick, punch, or kick-punch combination correctly at each practice session.

If you decide to train for competitive muay Thai, a goal of 30 minutes of continuous running in a heart range of 160-to-170 beats per minute is much more specific and goal oriented than going "out for a run." The same type of specific process goals would be employed for anaerobic and strength conditioning. How frequently will you train? Daily, once, twice, or three times a week? Which days will include sparing, counters, rest? How will training results be measured?

Outcome goals, in contrast to process goals, are goals over which the athlete has very little control. Here, the focus is on the product, not the process. Typically, winning is the focus. Although winning is a sound goal, the likelihood of achieving it may be increased if the athlete has both a process and outcome goal orientation as opposed to a winning-only attitude.

In developing outcome goals, begin by outlining and defining the most desirable possible outcome. Begin with your "suppose." Suppose the best possible outcome did materialize? Next, remind yourself that this "could" happen. Remind yourself that a desirable outcome is "possible."

After having thought of your hopes as a definite possibility, begin to vividly imagine what the desired outcome would be like. Play the mental pictures of success over and over. With time, you will begin to experience the feelings associated with winning, just as if you had already achieved your goal: "That Winning Feeling."

Remember, feelings follow imagery. Feelings reflect whatever our nervous system accepts as "real" and "true." Feelings of fear, anxiety, and lack of self-confidence ultimately end in failure. Conversely, if we concentrate upon positive imagery and filling the mind with positive, desirable images, imaginations, and memories, we significantly improve our chances for achieving success.

The only cure for worry and self-defeating thinking is to make a habit out of immediately substituting positive, wholesome images for unpleasant "failure images." As long as you think in a passive or defeatist manner, hoping that nothing bad happens, there will always be something to worry about. In other words, fighting not to lose is not the same as fighting to win. Change your mental imagery and the feelings will take care of themselves.

If you want to make some improvements in your life, whether in muay Thai, in school, or on the job, it is critical that you have very real and vivid goals. Studies over the years have consistently shown that vivid goals have a strong motivational impact. Having challenging yet attainable goals can be energizing and provide a kick-start to your hopes and dreams.

"Only the mediocre are always at their best."