Setting goals in hockey is something that we hear a lot about, but there’s rarely clarification, or instruction, about the best way to go about doing that. We hear it all the time, “ what are your goals?”
It’s kind of crazy because we hear people talk about setting goals and their importance, but never really receive any guidance about how to go about doing it. It’s like we’re just supposed to automatically know how to set goals in order to drastically change our life for the better.
Hockey is no different. I had coaches growing up who used to just ask, “What are your goals?”
And I remember thinking about it and just kind of throwing out a random answer of what I thought I wanted, but there was never a system behind it. There was never someone who sat down and said this is how you set goals, and this is why you need to set goals.
Goals are an incredibly powerful thing if you’re taught how to use them and actually act upon the process.
So let’s jump in and get started.
What Are Goals
The simple answer is that goals are things we want to accomplish in the future. And to be honest, this is probably how most of us think about them on a daily basis.
That’s the right answer but that’s also just a surface answer. There’s obviously a lot more that needs to go into everything in order to create strong goals that are not only achievable but will also keep you motivated to continue working towards them.
Whether it’s in hockey or life, we need to be setting goals that all have three defined characteristics.
They need to be inspiring. If it isn’t something that is going to keep you motivated and excited to be working for, you’re never going to be able to achieve it. When obstacles come up, are you passionate enough about your goal to keep pushing forward towards it?
It needs to be believable. I know a big part of goal setting is to push the boundaries, but it needs to be believable (at least to you) in order for it to be successful. For example, it’s probably not believable to say you want to play in the NHL next season if you are 16 and currently playing on a local midget team....
Your goals need to be things that you can take action on. Without the ability to take action, there is no way to track, or build, a process to achieve your goals. We need to be able to define what the actions are that we need to take to achieve our goals.
Why Do You Need To Be Setting Goals
As hockey players, there are a lot of things that can act as possible distractions. Plain and simple, goals provide us focus and direction. When you know what you are working for it’s easier to stay focused on what it is you really want. Jim Rohn, a well known motivational speaker, sums it up best.
“Goals are like a magnet - they pull. And the stronger they are, the more purposeful they are, the bigger they are, and the more unique they are, the stronger the pull.”
So in other words, if you aren’t setting goals as a player then you aren’t reaching your full potential because you don’t have a laser like focus on the direction you want to move in. The more defined, and clear, you are on your goals the easier it becomes to stay on track and continue to make progress.
Goals are also vital because they allow us to push through obstacles.
How many of you have ever started doing something and then ended up quitting or not following through?
I’m sure we all have at one time or another.
As parents or coaches, how many of us have heard our players say that they were going to go in the garage or basement and shoot extra pucks everyday to get better, and then a couple weeks go by and that bucket of pucks just continues to sit there unused?
The truth is that I’m sure most of us can share a story similar to that.
This is just an example of why goals become so important. They continually give us a reason to keep working even when things get tough. And, when done correctly, can be a quick shot of motivation to push through those tough days and stay on track.
One of the best, most relatable, examples I can give is working out. Think about yourself when you’ve decided that you needed to get in better shape and start working out more, or again.
For most of us, the first few days, or even weeks, are pretty easy because we’re inspired and motivated to make a change. And it also helps, that often times we see some quick results from starting to work out again. Whether that’s dropping a few pounds, or just genuinely feeling better about yourself… it feels good.
But then what happens? Three or four weeks roll by and all the sudden the excitement of starting something new has worn off and maybe the noticeable progress has started to plateau.
It’s the first major obstacle that we all hit. We start to lose our motivation and all the sudden it becomes easier and easier to find an excuse of why we don’t need to work out.
This is just one example as to why goals are so important. Without goals, it becomes easy to quit.
The whole point of having goals is to give you some backup and help keep you motivated, inspired, and moving forward.
I feel like learning about goals and how to incorporate them into your life are incredibly powerful because of exact examples like above.
It’s like anything else in life, if you can buy in and 100% commit to trying it, I promise you you’ll grow for the better from the results.
Because here is the real truth behind having goals. We’re all after the end result, but it’s during the journey that we learn the most from.
How To Set Goals
Now before we just starting throwing out ideas about things we want to do. We need to start with some reflection and a good self evaluation. It’s nearly impossible to grow as a player and person if you don’t know where you are currently.
From a hockey standpoint, think about yourself as a player. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
You also need to think about how bad you really want to get better. You have to know that with anything, it’s going to take a lot of hard work and commitment to really get better. So I always think it’s important to really think about the amount of work you’re willing to commit to before you start throwing out lofty goals of things you want to achieve.
Once you have time to reflect and feel like you have a really strong understanding of where you are as a player, then it’s time to start thinking about what you really want to achieve and work for.
Now is the time to pull out a piece of paper and start writing down everything that comes to your mind. What do you want to achieve? What are your actual dreams, aspirations, and goals?
This is the time to get everything down on paper. Don’t worry about if it’s realistic or not, just write down everything that comes to your mind about what you want to achieve. Once you have a list, then you can sort through it and figure out what you really want to work on making a reality.
An even better way to think about it is, what would you want to do if you knew that you could not fail? Or, what would you want to do and achieve to ensure that you never had any regrets.
Now that your list is done, take a break from it all. I think you should give yourself a minimum of a few hours, or even 24 hours, to let that list sit there. Once you’ve had a chance to get away from it for a bit, go back to it and look at your list again.
Most people will have a few things that will be easy to cross off. Either they aren’t even remotely realistic, or now that you’ve had some time to refresh your brain, you’ve decided it’s not something you’re remotely interested in.
With everything that is left over, start prioritizing each item on the list. Pretty soon you’ll have an organized list of the things that you’re passionate about and motivated to go after.
Now with this next part, I’m sure that a lot of you have heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals. If you haven’t, it’s an acronym for a system to follow when setting goals. We want to be able to create intelligent goals that our heart can get behind and our body will follow. Every goal you set should be able to follow this same system:
S - Specific - This is where we have to know exactly what we are working for. You cannot be vague in this part of the goal setting process. An example would be: I am going to shoot 10,000 extra pucks over the course of the summer (or 100 extra pucks for the next 100 days). This is specific. A bad example would be: I want to be a better goal scorer. While they are essentially saying the same thing, the phrasing of the first example is specific and leaves no room for interpretation. When you get specific with your goals, they become more powerful.
M - Measurable - Think about it this way, if you don’t track something how do you know if you are ever actually getting better? Each goal that you set needs to be able to be tracked and measured. If we use the example above, we know that if we shoot 100 extra pucks a day that we can track our progress. Saying that you want to be a better goal scorer leaves to many things open for interpretation. Sure you could possibly compare year to year how many goals you have been scoring but that won’t give you the measurable results that you need to really get better and stick with your goals.
A - Attainable - Our goals should almost feel like they are just out of reach in order to continue to challenge and push us forward. With that being said, they need to be attainable. Don’t set such a lofty goal that you know you have no way of reaching. An example of this would be to shoot 10,000 extra pucks over the course of the summer. That is a stretch, but really a very attainable goal.
R - Realistic - This portion of the goal setting process works hand and hand with the ‘attainable’ piece above. We talked earlier about how goals need to be realistic. Now, just because I said realistic doesn’t mean easy. If we stick with our example above, shooting 10,000 extra pucks is only attainable if we set a realistic goal for ourselves, like 100 extra shots a day. It would be unrealistic to say I want to shoot 10,000 pucks today, but you can make it realistic by saying that I am going to shoot 100 extra pucks a day for the entire summer to reach 10,000.
T - Time - Every goal that you set should have a time frame attached to it. Think about how easy it is to procrastinate on things if there is no deadline. The same idea holds true with goals. We need to set a time frame to everything we do. If we use the example above, then a realistic time frame would be to shoot 100 extra pucks for the next 100 days. That would, in turn, get you to your original goal of shooting 10,000 extra pucks during the summer. Putting a time frame on a goal keeps us motivated and accountable.
The last piece to ensuring that you’re successful with your goal setting is having accountability.
Accountability is vital to your success with setting goals. Think about it this way, if no one knows about your goals, what’s there to keep you accountable? Does that goal really have any power behind it? I would say often times, no.
There are two main parts to accountability: internal and external.
Internal accountability is important because at the end of the day, we are the ones that are going after our goals. Thus, we should make sure that we are taking responsibility for our goals. It ultimately isn’t up to anyone else to make sure that we achieve our goals.
The best way to ensure that you have internal accountability is to write down your goals so you leave no room for interpretation. When goals are specific and follow the S.M.A.R.T. format, they remove the possibility of be ambiguous.
The next best thing you can do for yourself is be brutally honest with yourself. Don’t allow excuses to come into the picture. Look at things from a black and white viewpoint. Are you on track? Are you sticking to what you said you wanted? In most cases, you’ll find with an honest self assessment that you’re either on track and working towards the end goal, or you’ve fallen off the path and process and need to either get back on track or reevaluate your goals to begin with.
External accountability is also extremely valuable for achieving your goals. Like I said earlier, if no one knows about your goals, then really how powerful are they?
The best way to create external accountability is to find someone who you really trust - a coach, parent, spouse, best friend - but is someone that will be tough and honest with you. Once you identify that person, or group, share with them what your goals are and ask them to keep you accountable. It’s truly amazing how motivating it can be to most people knowing that they are going to have to answer and update someone on their progress.
No one wants to feel like they’re letting anyone down.
Having an external source of accountability helps eliminate this feeling and can help keep you on track. The last part of having an external source of accountability is to commit to being completely honest with them. Remember, no one is perfect and we all have moments of struggle. But, if you are serious about achieving your goals then you have to be willing to take the good with the bad and you have to commit to being honest about your work and progress. Create a time frame of when and how often you are going to check in with each other about your goals. When you have someone holding you accountable, your success rate with improve dramatically.
I know it can be intimidating to share with someone your dreams, but get over the fear and get out of your comfort zone. Find someone to keep you accountable and make your goals and dreams come true.
I know this is a long guide, but I wanted to really spend some time to get into the details of goal setting. The hope is that you can read this and be able to go and start implementing these techniques into your life, and game, immediately.