The Woodland Watch: Setting Goals

What do you want to work on this season?

Earlier this week, I sent out the 2018 Fencing Season Survey and I got a response from almost everyone! Thank you for taking the time to fill out the survey and letting us get to know you a little better. The final question was “What do you want to work on this season?” and your responses were insightful and very exciting. Here are a few things that fencers want to work on this season:

”I would like to become more proficient with the dagger, would also like to be more aggressive when dueling.”

”Confidence. Footwork. Speed.”

”Bettering my own skill and honing in my attention span and evaluation abilities.”

And those are just three examples! I can’t be more proud of the things you all want to work on. It really shows that you have a desire to improve and recognize where you are in your fencing journey. I will do everything I can to help each of you take what you want to work on and make them a reality by the end of the season, or at least getting you moving towards it. So with that in mind, the first step is for us to learn how to take those desires and make them into a SMART goal.

What is a SMART Goal?

SMART is an acronym that you can use to guide your goal setting.

SMART goal setting brings structure and accountability into your goals and instead of vague resolutions, SMART goals create a clear path towards a desired objective, with milestones and an understanding of the goal’s attainability.  Every piece of your goal, from intermediary step to overarching objective, can be made SMART and gives you a better chance to succeed.

To make a SMART goal it must be:

  • Specific – General statements like “Win lots of fights” aren’t going to help drive success. Be very specific about what your goal is. Example: I want to help the fencers by writing a useful article every week.
  • Measurable – There has to be some real indicator of progress. This is a challenging part, but it can be something as simple as a number of practices to attend or a statistic that you’re aiming for. Example: Every week, I will post an article on Thursday at 7pm. I’ll keep track of every week that I succeed and every week that I miss.
  • Attainable – Given the time that you’ve got and what you can give to fencing, be realistic about what your goals are. One of the worst and most unhelpful things is when you create a goal that you can’t possibly reach given where you are currently or make a goal that isn’t entirely in your control. It may be hard to face your limitations, but they’re only temporary. Every goal you meet, will allow you to make loftier goals. Example: My weeks can become pretty busy, so I’ll only plan on writing one a week. If I can write more, extra credit. If not, at least I wrote one.
  • Realistic – You want your goal to include an indicator of how you’re going to get there, things that you will do to make it happen. Think practice and hard work, and also family/friend support. Your goal statement needs to be realistic to the things that you will do along your fencing journey. Example: As I maintain the website, I’ll spend a few minutes each day adding to the week’s article.
  • Time-related – We find that it’s good to associate your goals with the fencing season (which goes from March–October). You can of course make your goals any time that you want, but you need to a least include a set period of time that you will work on the goal and hope to achieve your goal by the end. Example: For each article, I’ll give myself a week to write. I plan to write an article every week until the end of the season (October) and then reevaluate if I will continue over the winter.

As you think about what you want to work on this year, try to turn it into a SMART goal. Take some time to think about why you want to make it a goal, how you’re going to do it, and when you hope to reach your goal. Make sure you write down your plan and your goal, so you can come back to it and keep yourself accountable. Goals that stay in your head are fluid and likely to change. Writing it down solidifies your goal and makes it more concrete. Here is mine written down:

“I want to help the fencers achieve their goals by writing one article each week until the end of October. I will work on the article throughout the week as I maintain the website.”

If you have any trouble setting a SMART goal and making a plan, please reach out to me and I will help you make a SMART goal. 

Work on One Thing at a Time

My last piece of advice is inspired from something I’ve seen challenging a lot of fencers lately.

For some reason, fencers believe that to improve they have to be working on a bunch of different things at once. Always switching things up and trying something new. Unfortunately, that’s just not effective and does more harm than good.

When trying to improve and get better, the more you put into the effort the more you get out of it, right? If you’re trying to work on 10 things at once, you’re not getting 10x the results, you’re getting 1/10th, because you are dividing your attention 10 different ways. If you really want to improve, stop multi-tasking and work on one thing at a time.

This doesn’t mean you can’t do all the other activities planned for the day or that you shouldn’t be aware of other areas you’d like to work on. The important idea is that one skill is receiving the deepest part of your focus. You should feel proud of improving that skill rather than worrying about all the other things you might be doing wrong or want to improve—once you’ve mastered that one skill, it will be time to move on to another.

My recommendation is that before you come to practice, even if it’s during the drive to Woodland, take five minutes and make a plan for what you will work on and how you will work on it. Then take another five minutes afterwards to reflect on what you did well and where you still have room to do better. You could even keep track of it in your Fencing Journal

If you can decide, “This is what I’m going to work on today,” and really dedicate that practice to that challenge area, you have a much better chance of actually improving that skill and feeling like you have made real progress when you leave for the night and reflect on how you did.

Whatever you do, I hope that you will be proud of how far you’ve come and where you’ll be by the end of this next season. Never hesitate to ask for help and work with your fellow fencers to achieve your goals. I wish you luck in your SMART goals and I’m excited to help you meet them!