Goals are the ultimate motivator. For many climbers, the long-term goal is simply to climb harder or experience more, while for others the ultimate goal is to succeed on a specific “lifetime project” or to achieve a lofty grade such as V10, 5.13a, 8b+, or whatever. Such performance goals can provide sustained motivation as long as they are specific and not completely unreasonable (given your current ability). Still, it’s essential that you also set short-term or weekly goals that yield daily motivation (to train and climb) and a sense of progress toward your ultimate goal. When coupled, short- and long-term goal setting can propel you to your dream climbs and beyond!
Let’s examine the process of effective goal setting. First, let’s delve into performance goals—the most common type of performance goal is a desired climbing grade to achieve. This year you might set the (short-term) goal to climb 5.12a or to boulder V7, while your ultimate long-term goal might be to someday climb 5.13, V10 or what have you. I feel it’s also important to set a few specific climbing goals—what route would you love to send this year, next season, and as your ultimate lifetime project? Be specific, and do write down the names of the climbs; and then post them in places you’ll see each day. Do this, and the odds that you’ll achieve these climbs immediately moves in your favor!
Next you must set some training goals that will pique motivation and yield physical gains that you can see and feel. Training goals are most effective if they are concrete and measurable, as opposed to a less-measurable goal such as “to improve flexibility.” For instance, you might set a goal to do twenty pull-ups, lose five pounds of body fat, do five hypergravity pull-ups with 50 pounds around your waist, succeed at a 1-3-5-7 campus board sequence, or whatever. Over many weeks of training you will see tangible progress towards your training benchmark and this will elevate your motivation even more.
The beauty of training and performance goals is that there is always room for more improvement and you’ll never run out of classic must-do climbs to train for! Here are five tips to make your goal setting most effective.
1. Write down your goals—this makes them more real and far more achievable. Begin keeping a training notebook or climbing diary in which you can record your goals, workout plan, and climbing accomplishments.
2. Define your goals specifically and with as much detail as possible, then tell a friend (and ask for accountability). While measurable goals are best, it doesn’t hurt to set a few style or mental goals such as “to improve footwork”, “rest more effectively en route”, or “to climb more briskly and with more economy.” With such subjective goals, confide in a partner or coach and ask them to observe your climbing and decide when you have, in fact, achieved the desired style goal. Encouragement and accountability of a friend or partner is extremely important.
3. Make your goals lofty and challenging, but keep them realistic. Setting unreachable goals, like “to do a one-arm pull-up this year” (if currently you can barely do 10 two-arm pull-ups) or “to climb 5.13/V9 by year’s end” (if currently only a 5.11/V4 climber) is counterproductive and a real motivation-killer. Instead set incremental goals that will yield a motivation-generating “win” every few weeks.
4. Set a deadline for the accomplishment of each goal. A goal best inspires you into action when a deadline is affixed to the performance benchmark. Thus, goals such as “achieving 10 consecutive pull-ups by June 1st” or “bouldering a V5 by my birthday” will light a fire for action—a fire which burns stronger as the deadline nears. Conversely, goals without deadlines are flaccid and tend to inspire half-hearted action.
5. Write down one thing that you will sacrifice in order to reach this goal. This final step is vital and, interestingly, it’s a step missing from most traditional goal-setting exercises. Considering what one or two thing(s) you could give up to help attain your goal is a powerful exercise. This will open your eyes to the reality that achievement doesn’t just come by doing more of something or trying harder, it also requires that you eliminate or detach from some things that are holding you back.
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