Everyone wants to be “successful,” but we’re all going to have different definitions of what that means. It’s all relative, but it feels good for us to accomplish things. We all talk about setting goals, but perhaps our focus should be on accomplishing goals more frequently. That means setting realistic goals, ones that will make us feel good about ourselves, help our lives, help us to become better people and help us to strive towards becoming the person we want to be. Those bigger goals happen as a result of small accomplishments.
When I was in high school, I’d set giant goals, like starting for the LA Angels at age 25. Damn. Here I am, 25, writing a blog and not starting for the Halos. But that’s okay – I was 16 when I wrote that and probably forgot about it a week later. Setting goals that you can’t do anything about for another 10 years doesn’t make sense anyway. Say your dream as a high school freshman is to make it to Harvard University. Simply setting that goal, then forgetting about it until college applications are due doesn’t make you better. Setting smaller goals, like studying 2 hours 6 nights a week, or getting straight As for the next semester, are goals that you can work towards.
When I was in college, my head coach, Dan O’Brien (now one of my teammates) would discuss goals with us all the time. He’d tell us to write a goal – then write tasks to achieve the goal. This made the exercise so much more valuable. If my goal was “field .970,” I’d find myself staring at it every day and not knowing what to do about it. But if my task is “take 30 ground balls every day before each game,” I have a plan and can take action. Sure, I could write “100 ground balls” and make it look more inspiring, but 30 was realistic and attainable for me.
Too often, we immediately add the word “end” before “goal” when talking about our plans. Sure, we can have our goals be focused on making it to the big leagues at 22, a million dollars at 25, a yacht at 26…but we lose the small accomplishments that we make every day. If you set 3 relatively small goals a month and reach all three, would you consider it a successful month? I would. For example, if my goals for December were to wake up 15 minutes earlier than usual, exercise at least 3 times a week, have at least one one-on-one conversation with each infielder by the end of the month…those would be super attainable. If I reached all of those I should feel happy, correct? Yes, of course, because I love the snooze button. A lot of people may consider those to be just ordinary habits that I am trying to get into. Well why can’t we create goals in order to form new habits? Does every goal have to be climb Mt. Everest backwards in one day? It shouldn’t be.
In baseball, it can be easy to get caught up in this. My freshman year, I’d write goals like “hit .330 with at least 10 doubles.” When I didn’t accomplish it, I felt like a failure. I learned that if I made my “big” goals about helping my team to win, and my small tasks under them as things I could accomplishments, I became a better baseball player and a better teammate. Suffering through the winter break workouts were for my teammates. If I didn’t take those extra 30 ground balls over winter break, I felt like the pitchers were going to be let down by me. If I didn’t do those extra reps of squats the day after New Years, maybe my legs would fade by May, and I wouldn’t be able to leg out the infield hit and RBI for my team. So, when I started creating goals in order to help my team and be a better teammate, my work and my personal accomplishments took off. That made me confident and it made me fearless when the games came. I knew that I was prepared because I had accomplished so many of these “small” goals, that when season came around there was no reason to fear making an error.
At the end of the day, I wanted to be remembered as a great teammate. My in season goals transformed from “get 8 hits in a series” to “get 3 sac bunts down in a series” or “speak highly of a teammate in every team meeting.” A salesman may want to make 200 calls in a day, someone striving to be a great son may want to call his parents 4 times a week.
I’m not a goal setting wizard by any means. I have had a lot of accomplishments in reaching goals as well as a lot of failures along the way. I have found out by trial and error, and by maturing, that most of the big long term goals we set will not be reached without the right amount of smaller goals along the way. And not just a lot of small goals, but the right kind of goals, the ones that you will pay attention to and that you will make you better.
“You only need to lay one brick to start building a wall.”