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  • Writer's pictureCoach Knickerbocker

Ascendance to Achievement

This may come as a bit of a surprise but as a coach, and as an athlete, for that matter, I am not interested in setting goals.

I'm interested in achievement.

There's a difference.

The assumption is that goal setting or using a goal as a way to motivate one towards accomplishment or achievement works for everyone, across the board, full stop.

It does not, and I'm here to say you have permission to NOT goal set.

In any community of people that are striving towards something or on any team where athletes are getting better at a skill, there is usually a constant hum that there be a "goal", or several goals that lead to an ultimate result, or a goal that is THE result.

A personal goal.

A professional goal.

An athletic goal.

A team goal.

Blah, blah, blah.

And if you are a member of one of these teams that are striving towards a goal I'm going to bet that you have come across the acronym "S.M.A.R.T.", as in SMART goals?






Time based


Well, not to put too fine a point on it but, this is BS!

First let's just start with the acronym itself.

I really think someone just wanted to be able to spell the word smart.

Isn't it pretty obvious that you're going to pick something that is relevant?

And isn't it also obvious that you'll want to achieve it?

I'm sorry but, in case you missed the part where I said it's BS, I am not a fan of the SMART goal.

Predominantly because I believe that just starting out with a goal immediately limits what it is you can achieve. It sets up a false limit. It puts parameters and boundaries around the act of achievement. It creates an end point that you are trying to reach when in fact there is no end point.

Achievement, becoming more skilled at something, being a stronger more competitive athlete, is not an end point. It's a continuous process of ups, downs, highs, lows, wins, and losses. It's growth, and growth is boundless.

In addition, reaching the goal, actually accomplishing the thing you set out to do, can be anti-climactic. I can't tell you how many coaches I've talked to, and athletes for that matter who create a goal, spend energy and effort towards meeting that goal, only to reach it, have a moment of elation, and then ask themselves, "Now what?".

Let me be clear about the fact that if this works for you, goal setting that is, then go for it. If you respond well to goal setting and you feel accomplished once you have reached the goal you set out for yourself, who am I to rain on your parade.

Whatever works DO IT!

If this is you, stop reading and get back to reaching that goal!

But if you have struggled to meet a goal that you set for yourself, if you find goal setting to be time consuming without much of a return on your investment, if every time you set a goal you end up petering out before reaching it, then maybe, just maybe, it's not the way to accomplish your greatness.

There is no one way to accomplish anything, and therefore using one approach like goal setting, can be limiting. For me, and maybe for you, goal setting is not what it's all cracked up to be.

Your greatness is not necessarily wrapped up in a specific goal. Achieving your greatness is an everyday occurence and one that should be examined from many different angles.

If you can relate to this then you have my permission (not that you need it obviously) to try something new and different.

Maybe your greatness lies in an ascension. A plethora of many accomplishments, not all of which are attached to something that is measurable or time bound. Right?

Achieving is, as the Head Coach for Cal Men's Rugby states, "A never ending ascendance to greatness."

In the Japanese language the word "Kaizen" translates to "constant and never ending improvement."

This is what I'm talking about.

Sure, this could be related to having goals. I'm not saying DON'T have goals. What I'm saying is don't make the goal the end all be all of what it is you want to achieve. Goals can be used as stepping stones but the goal is NOT THE GOAL!

I think there are some people out there that think goal setting is the only way that one can work toward something and achieve it, but I'm arguing for a different approach. An approach that takes into consideration that not every person responds to goal setting in the same way. Not every person responds to goal setting period.

Live outside that SMART goal setting box and consider reaching your greatness as a path. A path that is winding, has elevation, is sometimes a jungle and at other times is a desert, but always a path that is continuously layed out in front of you.

Don't attempt to mark your accomplishment with a one and done approach.

Make your achievement "a never ending ascension to greatness."

Row hard, Row well, Compete, Have fun.

Coach Knickerbocker

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