Goal Setting Mistake #1 - Setting Only Baseball Goals
Players often set goals because it is a team exercise and that means that all of the goals focus on baseball. What about academics? What about family goals or goals for other relationships? As Michael Hyatt notes on one of his previous podcasts, all parts of our lives are interrelated and one area of our life will always effect the others. Think of the last time you couldn't go to practice because you had school work to catch up on or when your parents made you skip a game because report cards came out and they were less than impressed.
Before setting goals, try to clarify your priorities so you know what areas are most important in your life right now and set goals in all those areas.
Goal Setting Mistake #2 - Creating too Many Goals
Your list of goals should not be a bucket list of everything you want to accomplish in your baseball career. This can create confusion around what is really important and what your next step should be. I suggest 7 to 10 goals to address the major areas of your life, but any more and they will start competing for your attention and nothing will get done. In addition, it is best to focus on 2-3 goals during each part of the year. For your baseball goals, this will mean you will focus on 1-2 items during the early off-season. After achieving those goals move on to a new focus for the late off-season and have another focus (or two) for spring training, the summer season, and fall ball.
Goal Setting Mistake #3 - Goal is Not in Writing
Most people who set goals know that they should write their goals down, but it is amazing how many people skip right over this step. Writing your goals in black and white is critical because:
1. Goals need to be reviewed regularly and writing them out makes the review process easier.
2. Your goals should be in a highly visible place as a reminder of where you are going. Visible in your mind's eye doesn't count...they need to be visible to your eyes and this means they need to be on paper.
3. Writing goals down makes them more real. Everyone has dreams that they think about and talk about, but when you write a dream down it starts to become a goal.
4. There is a process you go through when goals are written. This process requires additional thought and clarity as you take a dream and put it on paper. Your dream becomes more specific in written form, you think about how you will measure it, and the dream becomes a goal.
The bottom line is that if your goals are not written, you will never come back to them.
Goal Setting Mistake #4 - Goal is Not Specific
Specificity in goal setting is critical for determining your action steps (see Mistake #9 in part 2 of this post). You need to know exactly what you want to achieve before you can determine how you are going to get there.
"I want to be a better hitter". What part of your offensive game do you want to improve? Ability to make contact? Power? Hitting with 2-strikes? Hitting off-speed pitches? Plate discipline? Your action steps will be very different if you want to improve your power compared to a player that is trying to improve plate discipline.
"I want to lower my ERA". Think about what area of pitching will most impact the number of runs you give up. Does your change-up need to be better? Do you need to throw your breaking ball more consistently for strikes? Do you need to work on holding runners? There are dozens of areas that could reduce the number of runs you give up and increasing specificity will force you to think about the areas where you are strong and the areas that need work.
Goal Setting Mistake #5 - The Goal is not Measurable
You need to have a way of measuring your progress toward a goal as well as know when you have reached your goal. Be very careful of which metrics you choose for your baseball goals . I warn all of my players to give a lot of thought to how they will measure their goals and steer players away from setting goals based on batting average or opponents' average. There are far too many variables that are outside of a players control when determining batting average. A hitter might do everything right, hit the ball hard 4 times, and go 0-for-4 that day because he hit the ball right at a defender each at bat. It is best to measure a goal with a metric that a player as complete control over. This concept led me to the development of the Quality AB Tracker which I encourage players to use as a metric in place of batting average.
Players should note that it is normal to feel some anxiety towards putting a metric on your goals. Specificity and measurability can scare people because more detailed goals lead people to think they can't achieve them. In addition, when you have a way to measure your goals the goal setter and others will know when you have fallen short of your goal. Ambiguity provides somewhat of a safety net for people's pride, but the goals are less concrete. Having a specific way to measure your goals will you allow you to see progress and provide you with motivation along the way. It will also ensure that you know when you get to the finish line so you can pat yourself on the back and move on to your next goal.