Goals: Appropriate and Attainable

Specificity. That’s what this really comes down to. High level performers set specific goals that give a clear direction to their efforts. In a solid goal setting program, there are no vague, directionless goals – the goals become like a ladder, pointing a constant, straight, unwavering upward path.

Goals set in this fashion will be appropriate and attainable, and will mostly be “performance goals” as opposed to “outcome goals”. A performance goal might be “Achieve a consistent 1.00 second draw with A-zone hits at 7 yards”, as opposed to an outcome goal such as “Win every local match.” I may talk about this a bit more in a later post – but for now, we left off last time with a promise to discuss those first two bits – appropriate and attainable. What do those mean to us, and how are they important in our goal setting??? I bet you can guess already….

As we build the intermediate goals that are designed to get us from where we are now to those over-arching, dream goals, specificity becomes more and more important. How about some definitions, to start with?

appropriateadj. Suitable for a particular person, condition, occasion, or place; fitting.
attainableadj. Capable of being attained or accomplished

In our ladder example, “appropriate” forms the sides of the ladder, pointing in a consistent, clear direction, while “attainable” forms the rungs, being the steps to higher levels of performance.

Appropriate goals make sense for, or “fit”, the person making them. They should “point” clearly to the desired end goal. They are not vague, nebulous ideas about something we’d “like to do, if…”. Say you’ve decided that a good intermediate goal would be to pick up a little more dry fire practice. Which goal seems appropriate? “Do some dry fire each day.” or “Do 25 dry fire draws each day.” Did you pick the 2nd one?

Nebulous goals don’t provide clear direction. If we keep that analogy of our goals being a pathway, or map, to our dream goals, nebulous intermediate goals don’t really show us where that path is. We could get to the end by following the shortest, straight-line path, or an infinite number of other paths that could range over the river and through the woods before ever returning to the end point. A goal like “some dry fire” doesn’t give us a means to achieve anything, because its not specific or descriptive. The “Do 25…” goal, however, gives us a definite means to achieve the goal – we know that once we’ve done the 25th draw that day, we’re done. We’ve achieved the goal for that day. This gives us a sense of accomplishment, and a feeling that we’re in the process of working towards that dream goal at every moment.

Attainable goals are simply goals that we can reasonably meet. Think about this – for anything other than a dream goal, does it make sense at all for a D class shooter to set “Win the Nationals this year” as a goal? Could it happen?? Well….. maybe? If no one else shows up to the match? What about setting a goal to draw on a target at 10 yards with A-zone hits – with consistent times of .75? That’s something a lot of GM shooters can’t even do!!! Those goals don’t fit, except maybe as long term dream goals – and even then I wonder about that last one.

What happens when we have un-attainable goals? We start off with the feeling that we’ll never achieve them, because they seem too far fetched based against our current self-image, or because we already know that we cannot meet the goal within the timeline we’ve allowed ourselves. That causes one of two things to happen – either we lose interest in the goal almost immediately (and therefore stop pursuing it), or we find ourselves eventually being desperate and obsessive trying to force ourselves to achieve this extremely high bar that we’ve set for ourselves. The former results in no progress, the latter potentially results in “burn out” and quitting, or worse – inflicting our now highly negative attitude on everyone around us as we try to drag them down to our level of non-achievement.

Attainable goals, on the other hand, give us the next stepping stone on our path. Some will be harder to achieve than others, of course, and not every one should be some sort of colossal struggle. They shouldn’t all be fluff, either, though it doesn’t hurt to have some fluffy, easy, cinch goals every once in a while. Attainable goals allow us to step up onto the next rung, and see our performance improvements quickly and consistently. If the rungs are too widely spaced, we can’t make the next step – if, on the other hand, they’re too narrowly spaced, we don’t get anywhere with each step, and progress takes way too long.

Setting appropriate and attainable goals not only helps us see consistent, concrete progress in our shooting. Much of the performance anxiety that we feel results from a notion that we only have this one, small chance to perform well – the stage that we’re about to shoot. Having a record of consistent progress helps to reduce this anxiety – we know that we’re constantly improving our performance level simply because we’ve been knocking down those intermediate goals. They also allow us to slowly change our self-image to match our new abilities, and to believe that we own those performance improvements.

Get out there and start climbing that ladder!

About the author


USPSA Grand Master, NRA Instructor, http://re-gun.com/about/

Permanent link to this article: http://re-gun.com/2011/05/goals-appropriate-and-attainable/

1 comment

  1. Tim says:

    Good post.

Leave a Reply to Tim Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>