Have a goal

Goal setting in skiing

Goal setting is not simply setting “targets”.  Done skilfully it will help you get where you want to go. Very few people outside of professional sports folk understand “goal-setting”.

Decide where you're going

Standing at the Crossroads every highway looks the same.

We are programmed from childhood to think of goals as “targets”. Quantified amounts of something that we have to achieve, but which are usually set by someone else. Later in life it’s the school exams, or the University, and then the Boss at work. “Here’s your target, make sure you hit it”.

Most of my skiing pupils come to me initially with this general idea, although of course it’s tacit rather then precisely expressed. Almost none know about goal setting and what it can bring them when done well. But all is not lost, read on below the fold ….

Well, the good news is that, that is not what effective goals are. There is not even only one type of goal. They are numerous.

Dream Goals.

When goal setting for your skiing you can adopt a “Dream Goal” – indeed I recommend it. “One day I want to ski the Pas de Chevre below the Dru in the Chamonix Valley.” or ”One day I will ski every piste in this resort smoothly”.

Your dream goal is just that, a long term dream, something likely to be a long time a-comin’. But that doesn’t mean it won’t ever come. Your skiing dream goals are really important, but they do not perform well in helping you to reach them. They keep your gaze ahead of you, they can help motivate you, but they do nothing in the here-and-now to help you do the things you’ll need to do in order to reach them.

Outcome Goal.

In considering goal setting for skiing you can adopt “Outcome Goals” – indeed I recommend it. These are the kind of goals that sales managers think of as targets. “You must sell £10,000 worth of bloggos by the end of the month” (or you’ll be shown the door!).

Outcome goals can be motivational, or not. On the positive side of things, used properly they can give you reference points against which to compare your progress, like stepping stones across a river. But you have to be careful, if you set them wrongly, they can de-motivate. If you make lots of attempts and persistently find you are not reaching your skiing goals you can begin to believe you’re no good. What you should do, if this happens is change the goal, set yourself an achievable outcome goal.

Goal setting is not about things cast in stone. Your skiing goal is not sent from the Gods. It’s your goal, so use it to your advantage. You’ll want it to stretch you a bit, but not to breaking point for Heaven’s sake. We used to come across this kind of thing when we were training to be ski instructors; the trainers set the goal, didn’t fully explain what to do to achieve it, kept you battling away until you were tearing your hair out, and then criticised you for “failing”. A hopeless, hapless procedure.

Process Goal.

Most useful of all in your goal setting for skiing are “Process goals”. (Guess what – I recommend them !). These have outcomes too of course, every action does, but a process goal is concerned not with a targeted outcome, but with the enacting of all or part of a process that will help bring about the change you desire. It is a “doing” goal, not a “result” goal. Humans get good at what they do, remember.


So an outcome goal might be “Ski down red run number 7”, but to achieve it may require a process goal along the lines of “I’ll ski the next 200 metres just like I normally do, and then stop. My goal  is to repeatedly check, while I am skiing, to establish if I have my chest/torso facing straight down the slope prior to commencing the next arc.  Whenever I can I will attempt to notice this.”  That simple task is your process goal.

Then take a number of factors into consideration. Firstly be careful to note what your goal is, and what it isn’t. You have not set up your goal as “ski well”, or “don’t be scared”, or “make sure this or that”, or to make ANY quality judgements about your skiing at all. Your goal is simply to see if you can be aware of something (or of its absence). Not to DO it, just to have an intention and to be aware of what happens.

Ski a short length of the run and come to a stop at the side of the piste. Think back over that couple of hundred metres, and establish whether or not you were indeed able to notice your chest’s orientation just prior to changing direction. If you find that in spite of your good intention you did not notice, then your experiment has been an entire success and you should continue with it.

Under no circumstances should you berate yourself for anything – you have just noticed that you had not been able to notice. That is all you need. Do it again see if this time you do notice. If you again find you had not, that’s another success at noticing. You will get better at it.

Johanna Konta and her goal

If you can learn how to become skilful at employing process goals you will go a long, long way. The best example I have seen, perhaps ever, was our tennis star Johanna Konta at this year’s Wimbledon. ALL she used was process goals. Of course she had her dream, and much of it came to fruition, but she recognised and said, that the outcome of her efforts were not entirely down to her, there were other variables, as there are in your skiing. The BEST she could do was to identify her process goals and continue doing her best to execute them.

She was simply marvellous. I admire her hugely, and her coach.  Follow her precepts and you will not only develop a strong sense of direction, you will create a pathway and a system of improving that will take you on the journey you want, along the road you want.

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