In the chronically underrated work of genius that is Michael Lehmann's film Hudson Hawk, starring Bruce Willis, Andie Macdowall and most importantly Richard E. Grant, the insane billionaire Darwin Mayflower declares unashamedly...
"...happiness comes from the achievement of goals..."
While I'm not sure that I entirely agree with the sentiment, there is an element of truth to it; and more pertinent to the matter in hand, if you're like me then having a goal will motivate you, and achieving that goal will bring both a deep sense of satisfaction and a yearning for something possibly a bit more stretching.
It is generally a couple of months before the start of the season that I generally start to think about my goals for the year. In my current circumstances, this has become considerably more complicated as the result of work, running, Commonwealth Games trials. Those factors together with the fact that I now live about as physically far from Bisley as it is possible to get without leaving the surface of the planet.
The classical way of thinking about goals is the SMART model, wherein goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely:
Specific - The goal sets out in unambiguous and objective terms what you hope to achieve and how you will know if you've achieved it.
Measurable - It is possible to make some kind of measurement or observation to let you know whether or not you have made progress towards achieving your goal or have actually achieved it.
Achievable - You are capable of reaching the goal that you have set yourself; although it should not be so easily reachable that it is a foregone conclusion. Sometimes it can be difficult to calibrate.
Relevant - If the goal is part of a bigger plan then it needs to be relevant to achieving the wider goal, and any activities undertaken to try and reach that goal need to be relevant to it.
Timely - The goal should either set a deadline for achieving the goal or describe how often / much you will do a particular action.
As a framework to get you started, it's not too bad but I do think that it has some flaws: firstly, it appears to be predicated on the idea of reasonableness of goals and the individual control that you have over them. I've previously commented that wanting to win a Commonwealth Games medal or a World Championship is a wholly unreasonable goal and one over which you have limited control. I argue that doesn't necessarily make it a bad goal, provided that you do break it down into more detailed, controllable goals which relate what you're going to do to achieve it. That said, you need to have an element of realism to your goals; if you've been shooting fullbore for only a couple of years, haven't every shot a possible and have never made it into the top 200, setting a goal to win the 2016 Grand Agg is probably a little overly ambitious.
Secondly, it doesn't really distinguish different levels of goals within any kind of hierarchy: you're going to have some strategic "outcome" type goals (the two unreasonable goals listed above, being good examples). At the other end of the spectrum, you're going to have some very specific and discrete goals; and finally there are going to be some in the middle, which we'll call "performance" goals. A valid approach should probably take these into account also.
The process of goal setting I advocate begins with setting out the highest-level objectives that you with to achieve, and the breaking them down from there. Here's my list of outcome goals in 2013 by way of example.
1) Win the Welsh Commonwealth Games trials; and
2) Come in the top 25 in all 3 Bisley Majors: Grand Agg, St. George's and HM Queen's Prize*.
I think that gets right to the point; however it has a number of flaws as a training plan. I don't outright control any of these goals; other competitors could shoot better than me, for example. It also doesn't really do anything for me. I could just as easily have written "Win HM Queen's Prize" and I'd be none the wiser about what to actually do about it. These goals need to be broken down further into something a bit more relevant. I'll talk more about that next week.
In the meantime, have a think about what you want to achieve in your shooting in the next shooting season.
* NB - In the SMART framework, these goals are very specific, perfectly measureable, entirely relevant, achievable (for me) and time-bound; however they are not controllable and so would often not be considered good goals. I disagree, for reasons which I hope will become clear over the next few posts.