Art of setting goals: Part 3


So far, we've covered two of three goal types.

Win or outcome goals are great for motivation and effort.

Performance goals are great for tracking progress over time. The problem is, neither win goals nor performance goals actually help an athlete focus on how to perform. Knowing one wants to win and know what stats are important to winning are not the same as knowing how to perform physically, mentally, and emotionally in order to earn a win.

In order to focus on how to perform and create the best opportunity to win, a third goal type is needed.

The third goal type, process goals, help an athlete (or coach) focus on how to perform in any given moment.

Process goals should exist for anything we do. We mean this literally. In practice, in games, in any endeavor in life, we should know how we want to perform (or act), and a process goal serves as a simple reminder of how to do this. The process goal is a focus target for the mind, which then tells the body how to respond. The key is that the process goal must be stated in to do terms. A process goal must not contain not messages such as can't or don't. The mind and body will only communicate effectively when focusing on what to do.

Process goals can be set for any emotional-set, mindset, or physical action. The process goal is a simple reminder of what to focus on. Coaches can help athletes by reminding them of process goals for certain activities. At the very least, every drill in practice should have coaching points that serve as process goals to cue the athlete's focus.   

Here are some examples of process goals. Notice, each of these process goals is set in the mind, but they cue different feelings, thoughts, or actions.


•  Be calm.

•  Play fearlessly.


•  See it then do it.

•  Be confident.

Physical action (movement):

•  Stroke the putt smoothly.

•  Swing aggressively.


A simple way to effectively cue a process goal is to create consistent self-talk messages as reminders of how to perform. Golfers can simply speak the process goal out loud or in their own mind. Golf coaches can help athletes do this by being their voice for them and helping the athlete realize that he or she can internalize the coach's words and say them on their own.

By using all three types of goals covered in this series, golfers can create a strong, thorough foundation for excellence. Setting win goals is motivating and spurs effort. Setting performance goals creates a focus on the types of performance standards that usually lead to wins and helps track progress over time. Finally, setting process goals helps athletes focus on how to think, feel, and act in any given moment. Taken together, the three goal types assist coaches and athletes on multiple levels in any situation.

We hope you've enjoyed this three-part series on goal setting. If you have comments or questions, please let us know. Also, soon look for some posts with videos helping illustrate these goal setting principles.

-- Jared M. Wood, Ph.D.
Sport Psychology Consultant
Champion Mindset Group