5 Stage Plan to Set Goals Like an Athlete

I know a few, and have researched many past and current professional athletes. What I’ve noticed is they all have one thing in common- there’s an ultimate goal. Whether it’s to win a championship, a medal, make the Olympics, or become the best at what they do; professional athletes are often the reason why we are inspired. Setting goals is a necessary process in sports and life as it holds down the way we go about improving. This is why we can use a 5 stage plan to set goals like an athlete.  It’s important to understand that this is a little bit different to what most people would consider a ‘normal goal setting process’. Without a goal, training or life becomes aimless, a chore, and brings discomfort in day to day living. On the flip side, a concrete goal is what creates purpose, keeps us motivated, and helps us become consistent.


Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash


5 Stage Plan

When we’re taught about goal setting, often we learn to have SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based). In theory this is great, but it fails to bring total clarity and drive in our objectives. The 5 stage process connects our goals into our identity and what we love, which gives us an action plan to set us up for fulfillment. It’s how athletes such as Tiger Woods, LeBron James and Roger Federer are able to still have that motivation years into their careers.


Phase 1: Connect With Your Ultimate Goal

To achieve our ultimate goal, we must connect with it. Three questions connect us to our ultimate goal;

Who do we want to be?
Where do we want to go?
How do we get there?

For example, becoming an entrepreneur, being famous, or becoming a professional athlete are great “Where do we want to go” goals. The next step would be finding out who we want to be and what strategy we would use to get there. This often takes a lot of self-reflection and understanding of our current environment, whether or not it’s supporting the ultimate goal. Connecting with our ultimate goal can change as we grow and find more direction. It’s important to adjust as we move along and not worry about the finer details. Asking more questions to ourselves if it fits in with what we love outside of an objective will help you connect.


Phase 2: Define Who You Want To Be

We need to focus solely on who we want to be by breaking down our ultimate goal. Ask yourself what your current constraints and limitations are that’s stopping you. Look into these physically, genetically, and environmentally. For example, you want to be a professional athlete. Are you in the right environment to help you succeed? Do you need to gain more knowledge and skills to reach your ultimate goal? Do you need to build muscle or lose weight? Asking yourself these questions gives an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses faced to shape your own identity.


Phase 3: Set Your High Result Goal

Most of the time we set our ‘High Result Goal’ without implementing the first two phases. It’s completely normal, as the High Result Goal is more gratifying to think about, and exciting at the same time. The high goal should be something that’s completely challenging to us, but we still believe it’s possible. For example, a high result goal may be to publish a book, whilst the ultimate goal is to be a best selling author. It’s challenging, yet achievable. The more practice and work put in on the book, the more achievable the high result goal is becoming. Without the belief of achieving a high result goal, we aren’t able to navigate through the roadblocks and obstacles that come our way in reaching it.


Phase 4: Set Your Low Result Goal

We don’t always achieve what we set out to do. Setting the bar too high and consistently failing makes us feel like a failure and shoots down our confidence. Having a ‘Low Result Goal’ enables us to celebrate the wins and prepare for more. For example, your high result goal may be wanting to lose 15kg. A good idea would be to set your low result goal at 5kg, or a low and achievable target you’re happy with. A low target gets the wheels in motion and helps us stay motivated and on track to reach our high and ultimate goals.


Phase 5: Design Your Process Goal

When we set our goals, we need to understand what it takes to achieve them. The process goal is to do what is needed regularly enough to achieve what we set out to do. In other words, they are our habits and routines we have to help us reach them. For example, the high result goal may be to publish a book. The low result goal is to write 10,000 words. The process goal may be to write 500 words every day. By doing this, a habit begins to form and a routine is put into place.

Professional athletes get to the top by practicing each day and building habits and practices that help them achieve their ultimate goal. The process goal keeps our eyes on the present and away from the future. We can’t work in the future, nor change our past. Looking at the ultimate goal and thinking how far we have to go becomes overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to take an approach that focuses on one single thing we can do now to make improvements.


Achieving Greatness

LeBron James has a key motto, ‘#StriveForGreatness’. To achieve greatness as an athlete, the individual needs to stay focused and push themselves beyond limiting beliefs, be disciplined, and develop a high level of mental toughness. This is why we can use the 5 stage plan to set goals like an athlete which gives us the pathway to achieve peak performance. We can not only implement this in the realm of sports, but in other areas such as business, creativity, music, or any dream we have. The five phase process allows us to think and answer questions we may not have thought about in pursuing our goals. It gives us the confidence to keep performing while finding fulfillment.


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