Effective Goal Setting for New Year and Beyond

If you are a mountain athlete – hiker, skier, biker, or climber – I’m certain you’re a goal-minded person. After all, summits are achieved only by those who perceive and believe in the upward journey and then persevere until the goal is achieved.

Still, the process of effective goal setting is nebulous for many people, and consequently, taking meaningful action and advancing towards an important goal is often frustratingly slow. As a performance coach for more than three decades, I’ve helped hundreds of athletes train their mind and body to achieve their goals.

One thing I’ve noticed is that the most successful individuals aren’t always the most talented. Instead it’s those who are most effective at setting very specific goals, experienced enough (or well-coached) to develop a rock-solid game plan for achievement, and who possess the mental agility to effectively course-correct around (or persevere through) obstacles or setbacks along the way.

Based on my rich coaching and climbing experiences, I’ve come to formulate a novel six-step goal-setting process that I share below. Leverage this six-step process to become a successful mountain athlete, as well as in non-recreational endeavors (career, education, etc.).

  1. Write down your goals. A goal not written down is but a dream, so it’s imperative that you record your goals in a journal or training notebook. If you don’t already, start a journal and record your goals and a game plan for achievement. Frequently record updates on your progress, and revise your strategy as needed. This journal will become a source of motivation, and in the future, a priceless keepsake that documents your daily efforts and adventures.
  2. Define your goals specifically and with as much detail as possible. Set both a bigger, longer-term goal (let’s call it the “mega goal”) and several intermediate “step goals” that you’ll need to accomplish along the way. For athletic endeavors, the step goals can be training benchmarks achieved, a race time, or grade of climb. Regardless of the activity, come up with a few meaningful process goals that you can work toward in the shorter-term to advance you in the direction of the mega-goal.
  3. Make your goals lofty and challenging, but keep them realistic. Setting an audacious mega-goal is great, as long as there’s a realistic chance you can achieve this goal in the next year or two. Self-awareness of your current abilities and what’s possible in the short and longer terms is important. An experienced trainer or coach is a great resource to help you properly scale your goals.
  4. Set target dates for your short-term process goals and longer-term mega-goal. Again, keeping things realistic is key. Lean towards optimistic deadlines for some of your short-term goals, but be sure the mega-goal has a reasonable deadline so there’s time for course corrections along the way.
  5. Enlist a partner to join you on the journey (toward your mega goal) or recruit a friend or coach to maintain accountability. Either strategy will add energy to your pursuit of the mega goals, and make it a bit easier to make the necessary sacrifices in the short term. And speaking of sacrifices….
  6. Write down at least one thing that you will give up in order to reach your mega goal. This last step is vital, and interestingly, it’s a step missing from most traditional goal-setting exercises. Consider what activities, possessions, or stale relationships you are willing to give up in your quest of a major goal. This revealing exercise might shed new light on what things you truly value. It will also open your eyes to the reality that achievement doesn’t just come by way of doing more of something or trying harder; it also requires that you eliminate and detach from things that might hold you back. Eighteenth-century British author James Allen aptly summarizes this sixth step by saying, “He who would accomplish little must sacrifice little; he who would achieve much must sacrifice much; he who would attain highly must sacrifice greatly.”

Eric Hörst

Eric J. Hörst is an internationally renowned author, researcher, climbing coach, and accomplished climber of more than 30 years. A self-professed “climber for life,” Eric remains active at the cliffs, traveling widely with his wife, Lisa, and sons, Cameron and Jonathan. Driven by his passion for adventure and challenge, he has established over 400 first ascents, primarily on his home cliffs in the Eastern United States. Still pushing his personal climbing limits at age 50, Eric’s focus is now on R & D of new training techniques, traveling and sharing his knowledge with new climbers, and coaching the next generation of elite climbers. The third edition of Eric’s best-selling book, Training For Climbing, was just released in July 2016.