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The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned This Summer

For years I’ve had it wrong.

For years I’ve been telling anyone within hearing range — seminars, my teams, this blog, etc. — that there are four levels of goal-setting.

First comes thinking of a goal.
Second is writing down the goal.
Third is carrying the goal around with you.
Fourth is checking the goal every day,

Each of those levels put you further ahead of the competition.

Now I learn it’s not a complete picture. It happened at a camp this week, where I’m working with a great coach who shared a life-changing article. In it, Tom Keating, a legendary volleyball coach, writes that he asks his athletes to write down their goals for practice every day, AND to review them after practice to see if they’ve made any progress.

This is such simple genius, easily the most important thing I’ve learned this summer. After all, what good does it do to set goals if you’re not going to check to see if you’ve actually done anything about them?

This daily setting and reviewing adds focus to your life. It builds your mental game and reminds you of what’s important. It helps make a priority of your priorities. It adds accountability and motivation because, when your goals are shared with a coach or teammates, you can’t postpone action.

Earlier this summer, my team and I viewed a TED talk in which Derek Sivers warned against sharing goals with others. He pointed to research saying that declaring goals could actually be harmful because it gives you the illusion of making progress.

Keating’s idea helps guard against that. The daily review will let you know if you’ve actually done anything.

You can bet my team will work hard on this daily review.

To summarize, here are my new five levels of goal-setting:

First comes thinking of a long-term goal.
Second is writing down the goal.
Third is carrying the goal around with you.
Fourth is the daily writing down of a short-term goal that brings you closer to your long-term goal,
Fifth is reviewing your daily short-term goal to see if you’ve done anything.

I’m confident that these levels can make all the difference for my team — and for yours.


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