Last year I recommended setting process goals. Doing this shifts our focus to the learning process and helps us improve skills. Those skills could include physical strength, mental strength, or learning a new discipline in climbing.
Setting process goals that emphasize learning is important, but testing our learning is also important. Therefore, this year, set end-result goals. It’s important that goals inspire us. Otherwise we’ll lose motivation as we work toward them. Utilize the SMART acronym to set inspiring goals.
- S for Specific: The goal must be specific. Instead of saying we want to succeed on a 5.12a, 5.13b, or V11 pick a specific route of that grade. Doing this helps define the type of climb it is (sport, trad, boulder) and the specific techniques, strengths, and skills we’ll need to learn for that particular route.
- M for Measurable: This is easier to do in climbing than other parts of our lives. We measure success by climbing from the bottom to the top of the specific route we’ve chosen without hanging on protection or falling.
- A for Attainable: Goals need to stretch us, but not be so far outside our level of experience that they’re unrealistic. We need to believe that they’re attainable given our current level of experience, the work we’ll do to learn, and the time we can devote to the process.
- R for Relevant: Goals should be relevant to the direction we want for our climbing. If we want to improve our free climbing, then setting goals to climb mountains won’t help. Doing a wide variety of disciplines within climbing can be fun, but we’ll need to narrow our goals to the discipline that’s most important to us.
- T for Timely: I’ve advised climbers to be firm about what the goal is, but be flexible about when it’s achieved. Setting a deadline doesn’t have to conflict with this approach. Deadlines create a sense of urgency to do the work in a timely manner, helping us stick to our training schedule. Being flexible with when the goal is achieved means we don’t allow ourselves to get discouraged if we miss the deadline. Flexibility helps us stay curious about what we still need to learn.
Once we’ve gone through the SMART process we can do a few more things to help move us toward goal achievement:
- Written: Goals should be written down in a clear and powerful way. Don’t write “I’ll try to climb such and such route.” Write “I will climb such and such route before July 31, 2018.” An extension of writing goals down is to have a picture of the route, which helps keep you inspired.
- Accountable: Tell a select number of friends about your goals. Doing this creates accountability; your friends will constantly ask how you’re progressing toward your goals.
- Action plan: Work will be required for achieving goals. Identify the skills you’ll need to learn between now and the deadline. Schedule them on your calendar. You can share this with your select friends too, which gives them specifics for holding you accountable. Include quarterly reviews so you can reflect on what you’ve learned and what still needs to be learned. Doing this will reveal changes you need to make in your plan.
Remember, learning and testing our learning are both important. Setting end-result goals will test what you’ve learned. Make sure the goals inspire you. Then get inspired to do the work.