How does goal setting affect my striving for mental toughness? The better question is how does it not affect it? We discussed how self confidence breeds mental toughness and what better way to gain confidence than by setting and achieving your goals.
There’s an old saying that goes something like “ Set your goal to reach the stars, and even if you fail, you’ll still reach the clouds.”
Well, I understand the logic behind the saying, but for baseball purposes, I like being realistic about goal setting or anything else for that matter. Goal Setting in baseball need to be specific and reasonable. Like I’ll raise my batting average 10 points this next week or I’ll lower my strike outs to two this week.
Now that may seem a mighty small improvement, but think about it. A .250% hitter raising his average 10 points a week will have him finishing the season a .300%+ hitter, while cutting 10+ strike outs, which means you put the ball in play and as the old saying goes…anything can happen when you put the ball in play.
Why, in Goal Setting, set specific goals? Why not just say I’ll get better next week. Because that’s too vague and unproductive. You need a goal which forces you to focus, which will lead to a higher level of performance.
Let’s set up a typical plan for setting and reaching goals, resulting in better performance, confidence and mental toughness.
A. The goal you set must be challenging and yet realistic. To set a goal of pitching 1 shut out every week is possible, but unrealistic. There’s a difference between pushing yourself and invariably setting yourself up for failure.
B. Be very specific. Put an actual number on it. I will drive in 10 runs this week. I will drop my ERA to under 3.0 this week. I will steal 3 bases this week.
You may be the type that likes to look at the big picture. I will raise my batting average 40 points this year from .280 to .310. I will increase my RBIs by 30 from 50 to 80. I will win 2 more games than last year from 8 to 10.
This is perfectly alright to view the overall picture if that’s what motivates you. I would strongly suggest, for focus reasons, that you break your goals down into segments. Say 25 amount of RBIs by Regional’s, 50 by All-Star game, 80 by season’s end.
This keeps you focused and on track and if you have a great week and surpass your projections, that’ll make up for the down week where you miss your projection.
Make a plan on how you’re going to reach your goals. You can’t say “I’ll try harder to hit home runs.” You have to have a plan. I need to bulk up in order to hit more home runs. I will train a the gym lifting weights 3 times a week. See what I mean? A defined plan of action to attain your goal.
Reaching the Zone
When you’re in a streak where you can do wrong, your bats on fire and glove’s a magnet, you’re playing in the Zone.
Every athlete has times in his sport where he’s in the zone, but unfortunately it usually lasts a short period of time. Being well prepared is the best way to achieve success, be a turtle. Slow and steady to the top.
Being prepared doesn’t just mean having good practices. Every player should have a “Game Day” routine, which when he finds one comfortable, stick with it and repeat it every game day.
However, these practices are routines, changeable and adaptable. Not a ritual which is superstition and unyielding.
Here are a few suggestions for developing a routine which will prepare you to play at maximum efficiency getting into and staying in the “zone.”
Pre-game Check - Equipment
I don’t care if you practiced yesterday and haven’t touched your equipment bag since, double check your equipment. Make sure everything is there and in good working condition.
Goal Setting - Physical
If you feel good waking up at 7:00 am but sluggish if you get up at 9:00 am, set the alarm and get up at 7:00 no matter what. Do you perform any exercises during the day? Running, Pilates, Yoga. If you do, then continue doing Game Day.
Some athletes engage in meditation, relaxation exercises, watching game films. Do whatever you need to maintain a calmness, if watching cartoons calm you, watch cartoons.
Arrival at the Park / Stadium
Arrive at the park early. Nothing frazzles the nerves as bad as being late for a team meeting or infield practice.
Goal Setting - Physical
Warming up, fielding, batting practice are all activities which should be clearing your head of any clutter and begin focusing solely on baseball.
Assess your personal emotions. Am I too high, too stressed and need to lower my intensity or am I not focused enough, my mind is wandering.
Insure your equipment is in good shape, shoes tied, fly up, take several deep breaths, say a quick prayer if need be, it always was for me. Then ……….. Go out and execute.
As you have learned acquiring Mental Toughness is not easy or quick. It’s a culmination of various factors which have to be turned into skills and finely honed. But these are teachable skills and anyone with the desire can learn them.
Mental Toughness will be with you all of your life and will be a great asset if you choose to use it. I hope I helped in a small way to open your eyes, players and coaches about the importance of being tough.