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S.M.A.R.T. goals: The secret to Michael Jordan’s work ethic

Welcome to lesson 2 of my online goal setting course.

In the last session you learned:

In this lesson you are going to learn how to make professional workhorse goals.

In the upcoming third lesson we’ll cover the biggest problems goal-setters have that keep them from reaching their dream goals.

Jordan was a professional at setting goals, and he is our inspiration for our workhorse goals we cover today. He started from early on when he was failing in basketball and didn’t stop until he reached the top (or after).

I approach everything step by step… I had always set short-term goals. As I look back, each one of the steps or successes led to the next one. ~Jordan

If you remember from the first session, a workhorse goal starts out like a small step goal. Usually it is daily or over a couple days. We did an activity to break down a dream goal and connect it directly to our daily goals.

Here’s an example from an athlete that I’ve trained:

  1. Dream – Become a professional league of legends athlete
  2. Year – Be on an organized team trying for the LCS
  3. Month – Hit or Maintain Diamond 1 or Challenger
  4. Weekly – Improve at league of legends every day
  5. Daily – Play league today. Get better.

The daily goal is essentially a small step goal. But it’s not really very useful or motivating just as it is. In this session we’ll learn how to convert that into a workhorse goal by making it smart.

A S.M.A.R.T. goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and has a Time-frame. I always start out by grading a goal. So to begin improving a goal, give it a report card. My report card for goal number 5, the daily goal, above looks like this:

Pretty bad! We fail on almost all the attributes of a workhorse goal. We can do better. Start off with specificity. This is the most important part, and determines most of how well the goal functions.

Break down steps to their basic actions if you can. Don’t add too many actions into one goal! Don’t reference others in your goal! Keep it focused on yourself.

If your goal is to become a doctor… and you’re getting Cs in biology then the first thing you have to do is get Bs in biology and then As. You have to perfect the first step and then move on to chemistry or physics. ~Jordan

Revised: PLAY A LEAGUE OF LEGENDS GAME, PICK TWO THINGS AFTER THE GAME THAT I DID BADLY. PLAY ANOTHER LEAGUE OF LEGENDS GAME, FOCUS ON IMPROVING THOSE TWO THINGS.

Specific

In the example above, I chose to just expand on “Play league, get better.”

However, this goal is still not a very good goal. It could go in many directions depending on the role and champion.

You have to make it more specific. And to do that, we have to scrap it entirely and rewrite it for whatever champion or role you are practicing.

Here’s an example for a Janna player. It starts as, “practice holding my Janna ult longer in teamfights.”

Revised: PLAY A GAME ON JANNA, USE MY ULTIMATE TO COUNTERACT/INTERRUPT ENEMY ULTIMATES AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.

You could even improve this during champion select depending on the enemy team. Choose the ultimate you want to interrupt and make it the goal to ruin that persons life in the next game. Fun AND training!

Break down complex, ambiguous goals into tasks that have a checklist. Each workhorse goal should be close to a single action if you can.

“Get better at league” is a huge step; that’s why I reduced it to “get better at Janna ulting.” Make it more manageable! Coach yourself with goals.

Now lets look at measurable. I’ll pretend you are now a Janna player now and we’ll go through the rest of my examples with this goal.

Revised: PLAY A GAME ON JANNA. FROM 10 MINUTES TO 40 MINUTES USE MY ULTIMATE TO INTERRUPT AN ENEMY ULTIMATE IN EVERY TEAM FIGHT 3V3 OR LARGER.

Measurable

After a game it is possible to watch the replay, count the team fights, and count how many times you were able to hold your Janna ult then time it to interrupt an important enemy ultimate. You can see how close you were to completing your goal.

It’s hard to emphasize how important it is to make goals measurable instead of binary. Binary is accomplished versus not accomplished. Measurable is a little bit there, halfway there, almost perfect, achieved!

Seeing progress towards a goal is a key part of motivation. It’s a way to track progress and fine tune the goal to make it coach you better. Now that the goal is measurable, and you think you can do it, it is attainable.

Attainable

Sometimes a goal can be unattainable. For example, if you happen to be in a game with no interruptible enemy ultimates or initiations, you might have to adjust it a touch.

Also beware of referencing others. “Climb one tier higher in the ladder” is a common goal that might motivate you, but won’t help you improve. Your opponent has 50% control over the outcome of a match, and in a game like league you have 1/5 part in your side. Make goals you can attain regardless of the outcome.

Relevant

Relevance means make sure it actually trains you to get better. It is a coaching goal, and not an egotistical goal or an ego-soothing goal.

Are you practicing something you are already good at? Then it’s not as relevant as something you suck at. An efficient, relevant goal will try hit as much of the game as possible, improving your strategy, teamplay, and laning mechanics.

Let’s add in some more relevance to the goal.

Revised: PLAY A GAME ON JANNA. FROM 10 MINUTES TO 40 MINUTES USE MY ULTIMATE TO INTERRUPT AN ENEMY ULTIMATE IN EVERY TEAM FIGHT 3V3 OR LARGER. FLASH-ULT ONCE IN A SKIRMISH TO SET UP A SUCCESSFUL KILL/GANK.

Time-frame

Time-frame is an expiration date. It gives you a way to ditch the goal and move on. People don’t function well with a big pile of stuff to do in their inbox.

Workhorse goals should do their part to work for you, and when they are done, or if they didn’t work, then you chuck them out and move on to the next one.

Revised: PLAY GAMES ON JANNA FOR 2 DAYS. FROM 10 MINUTES TO 40 MINUTES USE MY ULTIMATE TO INTERRUPT AN ENEMY ULTIMATE IN EVERY TEAMFIGHT 3V3 OR LARGER. FLASH-ULT ONCE IN A SKIRMISH TO SET UP A SUCCESSFUL KILL/GANK.

Notice how time-frame is different than measurement. People who don’t set proper workhorse goals often combine the two, which makes them much less effective for motivation and improving your game.

Your turn. Start making smart goals today. You’ll get better at it every time you do.

Use a report card to break your goals apart and then go through the five steps and improve them with each category: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-frame.

All those steps are like pieces of a puzzle. They all come together to form a picture… Not everyone is going to be the greatest… But you can still be considered a success. ~Jordan

TASK

Now I’d like to hear from you. Visit your portfolio on the Portfolio Forum and do the following:

  1. Make a workhorse goal.
  2. Tell me why and how you made it, and what was hard or easy about the process!

Practice setting goals and you will get better at coaching yourself, you’ll improve your training, and if you construct them well your motivation will shift from “winning the game” to “accomplishing my goals.”