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Setting, achieving goals takes more than a wish


I believe in goals.  All of us differ in our intrinsic motivation for achievement, and mine happens to be fairly high. For golfers and other athletes who are achievers personal goals are critical. Can you imagine going through college without the prospect of graduation at the end? It would mean drinking all that beer for nothing. My message: set goals and then work tirelessly.

            When we play golf we need a target to shoot at. A very specific target, that is. This is true for each individual shot, and it’s necessary for our entire game if we are going to get better. My attitude is the opposite of “stuff happens.” I want to make stuff happen.  It’s called an “internal locus of control,” and it says that I am responsible for my successes and my failures.  So, let me share some “secrets” of how to set and accomplish your golf goals.

            First, I highly recommend that you take the trouble to analyze your game and your present ability, both physical and mental. Examine every facet of your golf game in detail, coming to grips with your strengths and your shortcomings, or “opportunities.” Make a list, which will provide the basis of your set of goals. You need to write your golf goals down and refer them often. Please don’t be fooled into thinking that you need one or two basic goals, and that’s all to improve. You have to deal with every aspect of your game. When you go on an automobile trip you have your destination, of course, but you also need a map with your route. Likewise, for superior golf you need a “road map” that consists of a specific plan that is fairly detailed. Let’s say your primary goal is to take your scoring average from 93 (about a 20 handicap)to 86 (about a 14) over the next eight months. How are you going to do this? You need measurable sub-goals that might involve these four successes: making fewer mental mistakes; more skillful chipping; more accurate driving; and better putting.  Then you need to establish time-lines for each one of these. Plus, I urge you to gather a “support team.” Who will help you get your goal? Do you have a teacher? Is your spouse supportive of more practice time? Will you get expert club fitting? These are important considerations. It’s like an annual plan and budget in business. Remember, a goal without a plan is just a wish. And a goal without full effort is a wash.

            On the golf course the emotional and thinking targets are called “process goals.” These are more immediate, very short term goals that dictate how we play the game. We’re tempted to think in terms of what score we want to shoot, or what opponent we want to beat. But the truth is we can’t control any of that. We can’t control the final score; we can’t control how our opponent will play; we can’t control the unpredictable conditions; we can’t control the good and bad breaks. In fact, in almost every competition most of the variables are out of our control, and the only thing we really can control is how we manage ourselves when we play.  When we set about to attend to the “process” of how we finely manage our emotions, focus, effort, thinking and concentration, generally we will play our best golf. We can control how and when we think; when and which emotions we choose; the quality of the multiple decisions we make; and which attitudes will help us the most.

            Two certain advantages of setting your golf goals and making a game plan are that your practice will more focused and efficient, that you’re now on a proven, measurable path to improvement and your progress will give you positive reinforcement. Process goals are structured so that you measure your performance, not by the score or the outcome, but by how you demonstrate the ability to stick to your game plan and unwavering focus. Grade yourself on how well you did with the particular goal you choose (e.g. 100% on pre-shot routine), not  whether you shoot a personal best, beat your rival or even win money.  It works - trust me.