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Author: Richard Symister

Rule #5: Go After One Goal at a Time Practical Goal Setting for Athletic Performance

In the first principle of practical goal setting, we started with an honest look at fitness motivations. We identified outcomes we “want,” outcomes we “need,” and broke them down into short and long-term goals (STGs and LTGs). In the second principle, we discussed training the brain to transform our desires into a keener sense of purpose, changing statements like “I want” or “I need” to “I will.” These subtle shifts in attitude take precedence in our order of training operations because mental perspective is absolutely in play during each moment, each movement.
Rules #3 and #4 loop in more systematic approaches to overall fitness goals. The S.M.A.R.T. training method (rule #3) relates your goals to what you do to practice them each day: transforming them into smart, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-limited goals. Periodization (rule #4) is a way of breaking down your many activities into individual parts, or periods, with each period taken up with a particular stage of development, a particular level of intensity, mapped to a progression that unfolds over time.
Our Rule #5 takes a step back to comprehend what we bring to the session in a given day. It’s another rule like #1 and #2, but something we may only be able to see after visualizing a coherent fitness approach.
We are athletes, warriors. We move, we do, and we want to have reached our goals yesterday. We do have breakthroughs, moments when different parts of the body integrate or synergize in new ways. Maybe we are always angling for those moments. Yet, paradoxically, we don’t find our way to them in the daily training session.
The Daily Goal
Rule #5 is about aiming for one goal at a time: your daily goal. Each day can be different. The virtue of this rule is in its grounding the work in the present.
The biggest reason to ground your training session in one goal is to have a better time. In a way, this approach breaks out of the abstract periodization system and zooms in to observe what is happening in each session. Though you’ve created a map, traveling the path is a moment-to-moment experience. Wouldn’t you rather enjoy it?
Devote each session to one goal. It might be foundational work, like:

  • Base strength
  • Sports-specific flexibility
  • Endurance
  • Agility
  • Nutrition

Impatience with training leads to frustration, a sense of wasted time, and at its worst—injury.  
You might now go back to Rule #1: List or recall the list of your Short Term Goals, make sure they are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-limited (as in Rule #3). You could go another step and plot them on a calendar, or even a basic periodization chart that alternates activities.
Once you’ve picked your goals, scale back your intelligence to one goal. Get into the body and move.
heal. move. evolve.