Here are a few excerpts from a newsletter I have been contributing to…

by Matt Cuccaro, Ed.M.

HAVE A PURPOSE by making your goals SMART
Time and energy are limited and extremely valuable resources! In order to maximize these resources…have a purpose for what you do on a daily basis by setting a goal! “Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it, establish your priorities, and go to work”- H.L. Hunt (American oil tycoon).
Specific – The smaller the target…the better the focus. Be as precise as possible to set yourself up to succeed. Specific goals allow you to provide a clearly focused path to motivate yourself and be accountable for what you want to achieve.
Measurable – How will you know if you have done what you wanted? Make sure your goals have NUMBERS. It’s obvious how to measure height and weight…make sure to do the same when creating your goals.
Action-oriented – What will you do to improve? Teachers give you homework, coaches give you drills…what will allow you to improve and get you one step closer to your ultimate dream? Decide on an action and use it to reach the measurement you set for yourself.
Realistic – Change takes time and energy, so be realistic with yourself. If you set a small goal and achieve it quickly…use that confidence to challenge yourself once again. Better to start small and work big.
Time-based – Teachers establish deadlines for papers and projects. Learn to do the same for yourself. This will ensure you are motivated and accountable TODAY. Don’t get into the habit of waiting until tomorrow or not establishing a time/date at all!
The following example will ensure you are set up with a SMART purpose (WRITE DOWN YOUR GOALS AND PUT THEM SOMEWHERE YOU WILL SEE THEM EVERY DAY and evaluate them on a weekly or monthly basis)…
I want to receive a college golf scholarship to a top-50 Division I athletic program in 2011. My statistics show that my current limitation is my putting. I currently average 32 putts/round and want to get it down to 30 putts/round in the next 90 days. To improve my number of putts, I will roll 40-footers until I two-putt ten consecutive times every day of practice this week.

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Follow the Golden Rule x2
The Golden Rule asks that an individual treat others the same way they would like to be treated in return. By following this rule, one would show respect to others and gain the friendship of many. Why then, is it so difficult to do the same for oneself? Why is it so difficult to treat ourselves with the same respect we hope to receive from others? Phrases like “I can’t…” or “I am such a…” are certainly not the types of comments one would hope to receive from others, yet they are said over and over throughout the day either out loud or under one’s breath to self.
For the next week, become aware of and count the amount of times you put yourself down and limit your potential with these doubting and self-limiting phrases. As you start to notice these phrases attempt to replace the thoughts with something you would like to hear from a close friend or family member in everyday life. On the playing field, think of replacing the comment with something you would hope to hear from a coach who is there to support and enhance your performance. “If I work hard at this, I can…” or “C’mon let’s try that again”.
If one learns to follow the Golden Rule x2 (to others and self), life can become a more rewarding and fulfilling experience. Potential has no limit, until an individual places a limit on it.

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The Endless Road to Perfection is a Road of Constant Change
Life (and sport) is a transformation. Nothing stays the same, therefore, it is always changing. Stages of change research (Prochaska and DiClemente, 1997) highlights six stages individuals face when creating a behavior change. Although the stages are clearly defined according to the model, individuals may float up and down throughout the stages at any time.
1. Precontemplation – the individual is unaware or uninformed of an existing behavior
2. Contemplation – the individual is aware of a behavior and weighing the pros/cons of making a change
3. Preparation – the individual is creating a plan of action to make a change
4. Action – the individual is physically doing the work to make change happen
5. Maintenance – the individual is continuing to refine behavior to prevent a relapse
6. Termination – the individual has instilled the behavior as a permanent habit
Family, friends, teachers and coaches create a support system to assist individuals through the stages of change in order to assist them in reaching their ultimate goal. This support system is available to make individuals aware of ineffective behavior to push them from precontemplation to contemplation. Once the individual begins to contemplate change, their support system may assist them in the preparation stage to create a plan toward improvement. Once the individual reaches the preparation stage, the next three levels of progress are left largely in the hands of him or herself (action, maintenance, and termination). The support system might be available to provide reinforcement, encouragement, and support; but cannot physically do the training or make the effort for the individual to attain success. These final three stages of change are the most critical area for individuals to motivate themselves and remain accountable for their own progress.
Goal setting (Mental Edge topic #1) and Self-Talk (Mental Edge topic #2) are two of the most important skills that can be used to assist an individual to effectively navigate each level of the stages of change…especially the final three where most time is spent on a daily basis. Since life is a continuous cycle through the stages of change and the road to perfection is endless, individuals who focus more on the process of change and enjoy the struggle toward continuous improvement are the most successful over a lifetime. Therefore, the most successful individuals are those who 1. Consistently evaluate themselves and their performances, 2. Create a plan (set a goal) for how to improve, and 3. Establish the habit of staying true to themselves and their plans through reassuring self-talk and self-belief.

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