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Goal Setting: Why they need to be SMARTER

“A dream without focus is just a wish. A goal without a plan is just a dream”

Having a dream isn’t difficult to come up with. I had mine at just 11 years old.

“To go to the Olympics and represent Team GB”

At the time I knew it was a big ask, not many swimmers in the world make it to an Olympic Games. So, I set myself some goals and 7 years later I achieved my dream and became an Olympian at London 2012!

Goal setting: An action plan designed to motivate and guide an individual towards a goal.

Setting goals is a simple and effective mental tool to help take your performance to the next level. They are often very personal and meaningful to the individual and often referred to as a dream! 

Goal setting allows for 2 things: 

1. Offers the ability to be motivated and focused towards your dream.

2. Provides the road map to your dream by giving you steps to follow.

Sounds simple right?

It is, but it’s not easy to set goals well. A goal can’t simply be a blanket statement, it needs depth, clarity and constraints to give you something to work towards and be held accountable against.

Get better at turns

Get better at frontcrawl

Get better at starts

...are just some of the “goals” I have heard swimmers set in the past. These aspirations fall short of being a well thought out goals as they aren’t detailed enough, specific enough or challenging enough. Setting SMARTER goals is a great way to make sure they are most effective!

The SMARTER principle outlines the criteria for setting a well written goal.


IS YOUR GOAL SPECIFIC – The more you detail the specifics within your goal, the clearer your goal will be.

For example: Don’t just say you want to do a 100 freestyle PB, set a specific time you would like to swim it in.


CAN YOU MEASURE ITS SUCCESS – Your goal needs to be measurable in order for you to evaluate whether you achieved it or not.

For example: Saying you want to get better at dive starts is too general. Your goal needs to be more specific in order to evaluate whether you have been successful or not. Reaction time, entry distance and time to 15 metres, are all better ways to set a goal to improve your start.


IS IT AN ACHIEVABLE TARGET – Your goal needs to be achievable. There’s no good setting yourself a goal that is totally unrealistic.

For example: Stating that you want to go to British Summer Nationals in 100 freestyle next year, when you haven’t achieved the entry time to one of the qualifying meets.


IS IT RELEVANT TO YOUR DEVELOPMENT – Your goal should be in line with your dream and should play a significant role in helping you to become better.

For example: Wanting improve your 100metre freestyle time, but focusing on touch turns over tumble turns.

TIME BOUND IS THERE A TIME FRAME ON YOUR GOAL – Ensure that your goal has a deadline. Rather than putting pressure on yourself, this gives you a specific period of time to plan how you will go about achieving your goal.

For example: If you want to break 60 seconds for 100 freestyle, specify a competition that you would like to achieve this at/by.

EVALUATE DID YOU ACHIEVE YOUR GOAL – Once you put a time frame on your goal it is easy to identify if you have achieved it. If you did great. If you didn’t, what could you have done better?


WHAT’S YOUR NEXT GOAL – If you didn’t achieve your goal you might need to readjust the one you have! If you did, brilliant - it’s time to set another ‘SMART’ goal!

Click to download our SMARTER principles poster

Download PDF • 25KB

It is important to remember that goal setting isn’t an exact science. Just because you follow the steps to achieving your dream via a list of goals doesn’t mean it’s automatically attainable. But if you work SMART and have a plan to follow, you give yourself the best chance to achieving your dreams.

What are your goals? Let us know in the comments section.


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