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We all set goals throughout our daily lives, we identify things that we want and we set plans or smaller goals to lead us to our main objective.  In sports though, when we set goals we need to add a measurable element to serve us as feedback to show us how good our plan is working. For example, if we want to set as a goal to improve the application of a guard pass technique, we need to identify a measure to note progress towards that goal and know when it has been achieved.  Ways to measure can be observable applications of the technique during practice, and by defining the level of difficulty. The level of difficulty can be set during practice by selecting your training partners from lower to higher belts and eventually to a competition scenario.

However, some of the goals that we set are very outcome based.  We train everyday, we develop a game plan, we increase our physical and mental endurance and when we decide to compete, we recognize a clear goal, we want to win.  This type of goal is norm-referenced, it is not under control of the athlete, this means that the success of the goal is based on comparing performance to a norm group (i.e., other competitors).  The problem here is that we are not in control of what other athletes do and therefore we don’t know what standard is required to achieve our goals, making things very difficult to train towards this.

Other type of goals are self-referenced and come in two types: performance and process goals.  Performance goals are usually focus on numerical measures of performance. For example, instead of aiming to win a tournament, which is in part determined by the performance of other athletes, a performance goal might be to increase our percentage of sweeps or guard passing during training or competition.  The advantage of this type of goal, specifically in Jiu-Jitsu, is that it’s more under the control of the individual, the fight certainly is more than just a sweep or a guard pass but it sets the path for an outcome goal. Also, this can reduce anxiety because first we only need to worry about our own performance and second the perception of us being successful in achieving our goal is greater, enhancing our confidence throughout the match.

Process goals on the other hand are focused more on the way we want to apply a certain technique or strategy.  For example, when we are applying a guard pass we want to focus on the shoulder pressure and hip control while doing it but we don’t want to overthink it, so we use cue words,  like “tight” or “solid”, to remind us of what we want to achieve. In the case of strategy, we can use a cue word like “wait” or “patience” for example, to remind us that we need to shoot for the pass when our opponent switches grips.  In other words we use process goals holistically to remind us of all the details that the technique or the strategy entails.

In summary, defining the outcome that we want to achieve is just one part of the goal setting process that can only be attained if we focus on the improvement of our performance and quality of our technique and strategy.