Stop Setting Goals!

By Jim McNaney

OK…bet that got your attention. Everywhere you look people are saying you need to set goals in life. While I am really not advocating not setting goals, I am saying that they have to have a plan. Noted American businessman, Steven Covey said “Goals are pure fantasy unless you have a specific plan to achieve them.”

Now that the courses are opening and we are getting our first swings of the season in, we are at the perfect time to make those specific plans to achieve our goals. Use the next few weeks to really think about what you want to achieve by the end of this season.
Making an actionable plan requires three things. First a SMART goal. SMART is a commonly used acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Second it requires a true timeline. Get out a calendar and make appointments for yourself. Finally it requires honest assessment of your progress.

Those are certainly not new ideas to many of us but in my 20 odd years in the golf business, I’ve seen it applied to golf improvement vary rarely. In fact, even though the Nation Golf Foundation does report after report asking golfers what they want to improve in their games, only 18% of all golfers have EVER taken a single lesson…let alone a series of lessons to reach their goals.
Sounds like fantasy doesn’t it?

To set a SMART goal for your game, take a look at your last season or two and honestly look at where you need to improve. Dig deeper than “I want to fix my slice.” Ask yourself where you need help and where you can make the most dramatic improvement in your scores. Is it hitting more greens? Is it getting up and down more often? While those are important, you need to know approximately what your percentages were in those categories last year. So let’s say you got up and down 15% of the time, a SMART goal would be say improve that statistic to 30%.

You may say that a 50% improvement is not “Attainable or Realistic.” Only with honest assessment can you make that determination. If you need help, ask an expert. Get with a GolfTEC Certified Personal Coach or PGA Professional and have them evaluate your short game.

Once you have set your SMART goal, you need to act on it. Put appointments in your schedule (whether its practice time, lessons or both) and make a sincere attempt to stick to it. Make that schedule for the entire summer. I understand things come up in our “real” lives but if you schedule them out, you will have a better chance of making them a priority. If you are going it alone, make sure your practice time is detailed with how much time you are working on putting, chipping, pitching, drills you will use or games you will play with yourself. After every round, track your results; however, don’t look at the numbers until you have a few rounds in. In fact, I recommend reviewing your results at the end of each month. Then you can use the results to set your plan for the next month.

Finally, be honest with yourself about your progress. If you are not progressing as quickly as you’d like, alter your drills, change your routine or ask for help. If you are progressing faster, consider stretching out the goal. Either way this last piece is critical to actually achieving your goal.

So stop fantasizing about getting better, make your improvement happen with a plan!

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