Are You Setting Useful Goals?

By Winding Road Staff

May 30, 2017

We work with many drivers during the year, and a surprisingly large number of them don't know how to set goals for their racing. We think this is unfortunate because having the right goals can make racing more fun and more rewarding.

The most common error we see is that, when asked about their goals, drivers will respond "to win". That's great, but it leaves a few things on the table. First of all, for most drivers, it isn't a realistic goal in any given race. Let's say you're in a field of 30 drivers and you have qualified 9th. Yes, maybe you could win, but most likely you won't, because most likely the winner comes from the first two rows. In this case, your goal either does nothing for you because you know it is a wish not a goal, or you take it seriously and are disappointed, which may do less than nothing for you.

The big problem here is that drivers who simply set goals like "to win" often don't understand what goals are for. A goal is for critical feedback. You set a realistic goal so that you can analyze why you did or didn't achieve it so that you can improve.

So, a driver who typically finishes 10th, might set a goal of finishing 7th. Now that goal can be broken down into a plan something like a) qualifying 9th and b) moving up one place at the start to 8th and c) making a pass for 7th during the race.

Each of those plan elements can for the basis for feedback. If part of my plan for 7th was to qualify 9th and in fact I qualified 11th, why? Could I change something? And then, if I qualified 11th, how does my plan need to change so that I still finish 7th?

The other benefit of this approach is that if your goal is to finish 7th and you finish 5th, then you're really happy (assuming you took the goal seriously). If your goal was "to win" you are upset, which doesn't really help.

With the right goal, your team can be happy too, if you share the goal with them (generally a good thing to do for both accountability and motivation). If you have a plan like the one above, you can also be honest with yourself about whether 5th was the result of good performance on your part or circumstantial events like other cars breaking or crashing.

Winning isn't everything or the only thing. If you aren't first, you aren't last. These are aphorisms that don't help you to improve because they put you off from setting developmental goals. They are aphorisms spouted by people who have already improved to put their competitors off their game. Forget them and don't be afraid of setting useful goals.