Got a goal? Tips from a high-performance expert

Mental healthArticleJanuary 17, 2022

Got a goal? Tips from a high-performance expert.

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By Kate Cross

Dr Jo Lukins is no stranger to the world of success. The psychology and high performance consultant and author of The Elite: Think Like an Athlete, Succeed Like a Champion has spent years working with great athletes and other high achievers, learning what makes them tick and helping them soar. She has amassed plenty of goal-related wisdom and recently Dr Lukins took the time to share some nuggets with me…

Q1: You’ve worked with high performers for decades. Have goals been a fundamental part of their day-to-day and a key factor in their success?

Absolutely! A clear sense of what you want to achieve and what needs to be done to get there is instrumental in success. Interestingly, not every high performer necessarily sees what they do through the lens of goal setting. However, if you have an outcome or benchmark in mind and a pathway to get there, I argue that’s effective goal setting!

Q2: Whenever I read about goals, I often come across the same sage advice – to set SMART ones (specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and time-related). But have you come across anything out-of-the-box or revelatory in the goals setting (and achieving) space?

I am certainly supportive of the SMART framework and recommend it as a helpful way to think about setting your goals. However, before selecting your goals, I certainly recommend reflecting on why you are currently not achieving the goal? Our goal setting is often about what we need to START doing, but it’s helpful to spend time thinking about what we need to STOP doing and things we need to do MORE of and LESS of. Unfortunately, too often I see all the attention towards the START element, and it misses much of the substantial value of reflection.

Q3: What are three things you should do when trying to achieve a goal?

  1. Be clear as to why the goal is important to you. What value will it serve you by achieving it? This is key for moments when our motivation wanes.
  2. Consider why the goal is currently not within your reach. Once you know this, you can plan the habits that will move you towards success. You will not always feel motivated, so you need willpower. As you won’t always have willpower, habits are your stepping stones to achieving.
  3. Evaluate your progress towards your goal. Within this evaluation, be KIND to yourself. On the days it’s not working so well, notice how far you’ve come and what you have achieved.

Q4: And three things you shouldn’t do?

  1. Try not to be unrealistic. Set goals that are out of reach rather than out of sight.
  2. Don’t ignore your body or wellbeing. Success is worth chasing, but the costs can be too high, so be wise and listen to yourself.
  3. Don’t chase other people’s dreams. Be clear about your why, and if it’s for the approval of others, then consider if it’s what you want.