How Do You Set Your Goals?

How do you set your performance goals? Conventional thinking is that goals should be SMART:

  • Specific.
  • Measurable.
  • Attainable.
  • Relevant.
  • Time Bound.

I usually come up with SMART goals for the season that center around achieving a specific scoring average, reducing number of putts, improving my GIR, etc., and I suspect yours look similar. But what about that secret goal you keep in the back of your mind that you’re afraid to publish because you might not get there. Should you put it out there? Don’t be afraid; do it! Everyone has these “stretch goals” and if you clearly envision them and formulate your improvement roadmap to hit them, even if they are long term and seemingly out of reach, you’ll ultimately feel more in control of your destiny and can take a more methodical approach and weather the inevitable ups and downs. And oh baby, if you hit them, watch out!

My new stretch goal, is to sustain a period of excellence over a short burst of time that tells me, I can still play to the level that I once did when I played my best. Specifically, the goal is to repeat a scenario I experienced once in my life in the mid-1990s when I played three straight rounds on three straight days at par or better. I was in the “Zone” for all three rounds and have never come close since then. Playing one round in the Zone is fabulous, but three in a row was incredible. I’m thinking of this because I tasted the Zone last week for a brief five-hole stretch, and loved it. Despite the quick exit, the touch has me juiced and motivated.

Changing your stretch goal because of current circumstances or the realities of life is fine as well. I try to keep my SMART goals in the current season (Time Bound), but the stretch goal is elastic. For example: In 2011, my stretch goal was to lower my handicap to zero from five. The lowest it had ever been was between a 1 and 2 back when I was in my 20s and playing a lot more golf than I do now. Was that a reasonable stretch goal? Maybe, but I quickly learned that a working desk jockey playing 35 rounds a year in his mid-50s and practicing once per week wasn’t going to hit pay dirt, so I adjusted. I am modeling after a guy on tour who is two years my junior (Vijay Singh). There is nobody more dedicated to improvement and excellence, but the truth is, Vijay cannot play as well as he did 10 years ago no matter how long he practices and how badly he wants to compete. I’m not telling Vijay to quit, and I love it when he goes low for a short stretch like he did at Northern Trust, but I don’t expect him to win a regular tour event any more.

So hopefully I will be entering the “Vijay Zone.” Perhaps a place where no man has gone before. Do you have a secret stretch goal?  Care to share?

4 thoughts on “How Do You Set Your Goals?”

  1. Brian,
    I like your approach to goal setting. I think the SMART method is, well, smart. Like you said though, most of us in the back of our minds want or are striving for more than we advertise. Perhaps some people do not perform as well under that sort of public expectation. However, being open with it and talking about it also makes it a reality, and may motivate you to work harder to achieve it. I’ve had some small interim goals this spring (getting fit, eating healthy), and am still refining my golf specific goals for the 2015 season. My longer term goal is to become a scratch, but at some point I need to reel that in and make it an imminent goal. I will keep you posted, or write up a separate post on it.


    1. Josh, I’m trying something new this year and focusing on process more than metrics, and hoping that getting immersed in the process will take care of the results. Figure I don’t need to be worrying about my GIR numbers coming down the 18th fairway of a tight match. Need to focus on making a good move and accepting the results. Probably should have been doing this all along but I’ve always liked to track stats. I’ll still keep them this year but they wont be the focus. Looking forward to seeing what you’ll be striving to achieve this season. Thanks!


  2. Brian

    I like you approach as well. It is important to make SMART goals because it keeps us focused with the little time we do have to spend on the likes. I also believe a whole approach is needed for amateurs like us (you to Josh) that includes mental and physical preparation. Lastly, as I get a bit older, it is important to keep it fun. To truly enjoy the game of golf. Of course, that is different for everyone, but if you are not having fun, then what is the point!


    1. Jim, you bring up two great points. I would hazard to guess that most amateurs focus purely on the physical improvement and would definitely benefit from working on their mental games. These are the folks you see at the driving range banging two large buckets with their driver. Second, you nailed it about making it fun. I have been guilty of this as well and have taken preparation a little too seriously at times. Happens mostly before going on a golf trip where you anticipate playing on some very nice courses and desperately want to play your best. Gotta remember it’s a game not work! Will let Vijay hold down that end of the equation. 🙂

      Thanks for the great reminders!


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