The Importance of Goal-Setting

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

~ C.S. Lewis

When I look back on my life, one of the consistent themes seems to be “change” (slightly paradoxical, I know). Over the past 13 years, I have played for 8 different teams in 6 countries, learned 2 new languages, and picked up a new sport… and that doesn’t even begin to touch the surface of how I have changed as a person. Despite living in a constant state of movement and evolution, the one thing that has stayed the same for me since I was 5 years old is goal-setting. No matter where I am or what I am doing, I am always setting new goals and dreaming new dreams.

I truly believe that my regular goal-setting practice is a big reason why I have gone so far in volleyball, and why I am constantly willing to try new things. Whenever I talk to young athletes, the importance of goal-setting is the first thing I iterate, but I think it is a practice that serves absolutely everyone.

Why is goal-setting so important??

1. Growth

By setting new goals, we set a reference for where we want to be in the future. Whether the goal is to win a medal at a national tournament, to increase your vertical by 2 inches, or to keep a positive mindset even when things aren’t going well, setting a mark for where we want to be pushes us to grow and be better. All of a sudden, our actions have a purpose, and we can take deliberate steps toward a specific benchmark, instead of just doing things for no reason. Being in pursuit of something, no matter how big or small it may be, helps us grow as individuals, and it is incredibly satisfying when we arrive at the destination. Goal-setting provides a diagnostic tool to evaluate our progress in a given area.

2. Accountability

Setting new goals and being serious about achieving them makes us more accountable to ourselves and others. When teams discuss season/interpersonal goals, those become a focus for the whole group. They keep everyone on the same page. If someone isn’t subscribing to what the team is trying to do, it is easy to reference goals to get everyone back on track. When you set a personal goal and are honest with yourself, you will know if you are doing everything you can to make your dream a reality. You can then edit your process to make it happen.

3. Happiness

In her book The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin talks about how growing and learning are great sources of happiness. She says, “Writing a novel provided the “atmosphere of growth” that, I was becoming more convinced, was essential to happiness… The satisfaction gained from the achievement of a large undertaking is one of the most substantial that life affords.” When we learn something new, or are in pursuit of a new goal, we are growing, and this leads to a surge of happiness. So, if nothing else, simply attempting to achieve a goal can bring us joy and make us feel warm and fuzzy

4. Short-term goals help us stay in the present. Long-term goals give us something to look forward to.

Today, it seems like everyone is always looking forward to what may come, instead of being immersed in the here and now. Setting short-term goals (for the day, for practice, for the week) helps us stay in the present. It also brings a greater focus to what we are doing now. Constantly looking forward can be overwhelming sometimes, and taking the time to embrace what we are doing in this moment can be very refreshing. Long-term goals (for next year or the end of the season) give us something to build toward, and to look forward to in the future. These goals usually require more work and more patience, but bring a lot of joy when they are achieved. Setting both short and long-term goals allows us to appreciate where we are, while growing and building for where we want to be.

I have learned that the difference between good and great is in the details, and I would much rather be great than good.
— Sarah Pavan

There isn’t a day that goes by where I am not setting some sort of goal. I have some big long-term goals, like winning an Olympic gold medal, that keep me hungry, and constantly striving to do whatever it takes to be on top of my sport. I also set short-term goals to keep me focused on the details of my job, my relationships, etc.

Every single day when I go to practice, I set a goal because I don’t want any training session to be wasted. For example, I may set a goal of hitting high line on every out-of-system set indoor, or to be stopped once the hitter starts their swing when I peel on the beach. I also tell my coach what my goal is for that day so he can pay extra attention to what I am working on, and give me feedback during practice. This gives me a specific focus for every training session, and allows me to evaluate if I improved that day or not. If I did, that’s great. If not, then I have something that I can strive for the next day. I have learned that the difference between good and great is in the details, and I would much rather be great than good.

I hope this post gives you something to think about regarding your own goal-setting practices, and that it will inspire you to set a new goal for whatever you are doing today. If you do currently practice goal-setting, what are some goals you have made recently? Telling me may help keep you accountable

xo, Sarah


About the Author: Olympian Sarah Pavan, is a Canadian indoor & beach volleyball player, who most recently represented her country on the golden beaches of Rio. Sarah has been playing indoor volleyball for over twenty years, and has been representing Canada a the elite level since 2001.  Follow Sarah on her Instagram, on Twitter and online.