Mental Training, Uncategorized

Setting Goals: The Path to Success


I remember a motivational poster that said “Success is a journey… not a destination”. The journey to success is rarely a smooth uneventful path. It’s more like an arduous endeavor full of twists and turns and many ups and downs (no pun intended) odyssey. My experience has taught me that these unforeseen obstacles are more manageable if there are specific goals to achieve all along the way. In this discussion, I will reflect on why goals are so important and how to stay on a path toward success.

Many goals start off as a dream, especially for young children. We all had dreams of what we wanted to become as an adult and it often changes as we develop. This is a great start and shows some ambition in an individual. Most young children do not understand the concept of setting goals and what type of commitment it takes to achieve those goals. Of course, they have the dream of wanting to become something but they aren’t typically mature enough at a young age to understand what it takes. Many of the goals that are made for a child usually will come from a parent and what they want for their child. This approach in some cases has been successful, however, all to often, it can end in frustration for both the child and the parent. We see this in every sport, activity, business, etc. where parents choose who and what their child will become. Unfortunately, this can have some very negative consequences as the child matures.

Scott coaching Kailyn

As the child matures, they begin to have a much better understanding of what is truly important to them. Their dreams begin to evolve into realistic ideas and this is where goal setting becomes important in development. Many students begin to set their own goals and begin to take the steps necessary to complete those goals. However, it is helpful if the student has a mentor or someone who has achieved the same or similar goals to help guide the student along and map out the path to follow.


In my own experience, as a young student (before my gymnastics career started), I loved sports and was always very competitive. I somehow knew that one day I was going to be successful in sports. I believe I had a natural drive to achieve. Once I got involved with gymnastics (at the age of 10) it didn’t take me long to decide that this was the sport for me to pursue in a serious manner. I began to dream of being in the Olympics someday. I had a poster of the 1976 Men’s Olympic Gymnastics Team pinned up in my room and vowed that I was going to be like one of them someday (ironic, Bart Conner was on that poster and many years later, I became his teammate). This became my inspiration and I began to set goals of how to achieve my dream.

There are short-term goals and long-term goals that should be determined. The short-term goals are necessary to help a person stay motivated and on the right path to achieve the long term goal(s). These goals may include such things as learning new skills that may allow advancement to higher levels, a ranking status on a team, or qualifying to a special event. Similar to climbing a ladder, each step is a short term goal that leads to the ultimate long term goal.

Rythmic gymnast Floor

There are many factors that can affect the success or failure of achieving goals. The most important factors in achieving goals are determination and motivation. If the person is serious and has a strong desire, there is a great chance for success. Many times, sacrifices need to be made when attempting to achieve goals. More time working and less time playing is a common sacrifice. I had to miss my High School Sr. Prom due to preparing for an event – a difficult sacrifice for sure, but just one of many I have had to make.

scott speaking to students

When setting goals, especially the short-term goals, try to make sure they are realistic. I have seen cases where students set goals that are certainly not realistic to achieve in a short period of time and they shouldn’t be set up for failure. Set many achievable goals and this will help keep the motivation strong in moving forward. Coaches should assist the students in selecting these goals so they are sure to achieve success. For example, a student certainly should not learn to do a back handspring on the balance beam before learning to accomplish a back walk-over.

As I mentioned earlier, when I was young, I had a dream of participating in the Olympic Games. As I got older and began to take gymnastics seriously, this dream turned into a goal. As I progressed in the sport through achieving many short-term goals, I found that this ultimate goal of becoming an Olympian became a realistic goal. This reality was a large boost to my motivation which allowed me to eventually achieve that goal. We have all heard the phrase “dreams can come true”, I have lived it along with so many others that had such a childhood dream. If a person has the desire and passion to achieve something in life and makes the right decisions and sacrifices to achieve their goals, anything is possible!!

Scott Johnson Scanned Photos (10)


3 thoughts on “Setting Goals: The Path to Success”

  1. Coaches at elite levels are tough and need to be to push elite Atheletes to achieve goals. What words can the Athelete day to a top notch coach that they ( Athelete) needs different phrases of motivation. Or when coaches phrases become a defensive wall between coach and Athelete?

    1. Hi Laine, We see this behavior often in higher levels of sport. It is true that elite athletes need to be pushed and challenged. Most of this motivation, however, comes from within the athletes as Self-Motivation. There are many styles of coaching and each athlete responds differently. I do not believe that a coach should should communicate negatively or in a threatening manner to motivate the athlete. Champions can be created in a positive environment – I certainly was!!
      With this said, the athlete should never question their coach or make comments that may entice conflict. If there is a communication breakdown or the student is feeling hurt and uncomfortable with the situation, the parent needs to step in and address the problem. If the environment stays negative, the athlete will not be motivated to put forth the effort to achieve. In this situation, it may be time to explore other gyms or coaches. No gym wants to lose a great aspiring athlete.

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