O Log - Goals

[29-Dec-03] 

    The end of the year seems like as good a time as any to look at goals; how did we do last year, what will we do next year?

    I think goals can be divided into two classes, ultimate goals (e.g., win a world championship), and proximate goals (e.g., add speed training to the training routine). I guess the more I've followed and thought about sport, the more and more I think that thinking about ultimate goals is a waste of time. I've seen new football coaches hired, and then trumpet their "five year goal to win the super bowl", and when I started O five years ago, USOF published a "five year growth goal". These ultimate goals seem nice, but seem a bit too abstract and meaningless when you get down to it.

    The only way thinking about an ultimate goal can matter is if it changes your proximate behavior. Anything else is meaningless abstraction. If I set an ultimate goal to "win a championship" next year, I'm not going to all of the sudden work harder. Every training day, every race, every thought, I try to work as hard as I can as it is to simply get faster and smarter. And its not like you have much control anyway. What about 15 other people with the same ultimate goal to win the same championship? 14 of them will fail. Not my sort of odds. It is important to set goals where you can force successes, and those would be proximate goals, at least for me. Then let the ultimate goals take care of themselves. I guess if you look at the championship and say -- "I'm the fastest here, a clean race and its mine", gives you the proximate goal of "concentrate". Or, I'm not the fastest, I will have to gamble, gives you different proximate behavior.

    I guess one big way where ultimate goal thinking matters is where you have to specialize your training (e.g., win a long championship or win a short championship), which gets back to the point of behaviour influencing. I'm not sure the US is deep enough for this to apply, and I know it doesn't apply to me. This year, I was one misread contour away from winning a short championship in my age, and that is my weakest discipline. Simply thinking of a proximate goal of higher quality technique training would have been a better use of resources.

    Well, this all seems so obvious once you think about it. But we hear alot about ultimate goals because they seem more glamorous, I guess.

    So, what about 2003? My one written goal that I remember was to make no more than a hour of booms for the season. Fail. This seems like a stupid goal. As an ultimate goal, it could be fulfilled by simply walking the courses. As a proximate goal of "concentrate every minute of every race", it has a poorly defined way to measure success, again with no mention of race speed. It does show an underlying strategic decision to value technique over speed, which has been a shift in my thinking over the past 2 years. I was very hesitant to make this change, as I am not comfortable with the economics, but I think what happens is that if you take a technique centric approach, the speed picks up, but the reverse may not be true. At least this has been my experience, I think.

    So, if I reword this more along the way I think about goals, it would be "go as fast as possible with the caveat of maintaining 100% contact and concentration -- change speeds as necessary. Measure success as a non-declining core speed adjusted for terrain, with a declining boom instance and net time lost to booms". I actually started doing this, believe it or not, starting basically with the Scottish 6 Days, so in some sense this was a success.

    Unwritten ultimate goals for '03. Make the standing team: Unknown. Make the A final of WMOC: Unable to get to race. (Proximate goal: win lottery).

    Unwritten proximate goals for '03. Lose weight: Success, 10 pounds. Add long runs to training program: Some success, the only available time to do so was after a race, so we add a training run and count the total of the race and training run as a "long run". Start speed training program. Fail. This I am most upset about. It was something I kept putting off, then got injured, and then had to do what I could simply to maintain fitness.

    Goals for 2004:

    • Add speed training to training routine, maintain rest of routine.
    • Lose 10 more pounds (ultimate goal 154).
    • Maintain current level of technique, mental insight of sport (I am unaware of a way to force improvement; I have to remember to keep thinking about what I have learned).
    • Avoid USOF politics at all costs.
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