Instead of Setting Goals do this…


Broken ladderHow are your New Years resolutions going?  I know we are only half way through the first month of the year, but if research around New Year’s resolutions, (which are goals) is even close to the truth, then most of you reading this article have already given up on them.  Maybe that’s a good thing.

There are a number of reasons why setting big goals is a bad idea.

  • They can narrow your focus so that other work is neglected in favour of the goal.  This usually means your overall performance suffers.  I see this in golf when someone puts all their focus on their full swing only to find that their short game suffers through neglect.
  • Deadlines cause anxiety, especially when your progress is slow.  The closer the goal date gets, the greater the anxiety.  Naturally, performance goes backwards.  Who needs time pressures when you play golf for fun and relaxation?
  • There is a temptation to cheat.  If you are focussed on hitting a certain percentage of fairways, you may start to consider a shot which finishes in light rough to be counted as a ‘fairway hit’.  Who are you fooling when you do that?
  • If your goal is a massive reduction in score or handicap, then narrow focus, time pressure and temptation to cheat might all be factors.  It is also highly likely that if you aren’t making the progress you intended, then just like a New Years resolution, you will completely disregard your goal.

Is there another way?

Yes, there is.

What is one small action you could take on a regular basis that is likely to improve your performance?  For golf, an option is to follow a practice plan which addresses each area of your development in a reasonably systematic way.

If you follow a plan for technical, mental and physical development for a year without increasing the number of hours you spend practicing, then you can guarantee you will improve.  The reason for the guarantee is that almost no-one does this.  Those who do, all benefit.

Your improvement comes from the actions you take on a regular basis.  You don’t need the anxiety of time pressure.  In fact removing time pressure might even allow you to improve faster!

Make those actions into habits and you will get better without feeling you need dogged persistence or iron-willed self-discipline.

A plan which addresses every area of your golf development overcomes the temptation to narrow your focus.  That way your putting improves as well as your chipping, pitching and driving.  As a result your overall score will drop faster than if you put all your focus into one area.

This works.  Whenever I set annual and plans for myself or other golfers, this is how I go about it.

So create your plan, or create one with your coach and then implement it.


“You can’t climb up to the second floor without a ladder. When you set your aim too high and don’t fulfill it, then your enthusiasm turns to bitterness. Try for a goal that’s reasonable, and then gradually raise it.”

Emil Zatopek, Olympic Gold Medallist


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Balanced practice



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