Set Your Goals _AND_ Enjoy the Moment

This quarter’s DAB Action Day subject is the “Mental Game”. You can read all of the posts here.

The attitude that “Mental Management” is a bunch of hooha seems pretty common. Who wants to sit around and get all touchy-feely, spending time just thinking about agility? We agility participants are DO-ers, living in DO-land (heh), and any methodologies reeking of “self-help” can be construed as only for those that need “helping”, a sure sign of weakness.

I have to admit that Silvia Trkman’s recent post that was recently circulated around the interwebs really rubbed me the wrong way. She declared in a roundabout way that setting goals only sets you up for disappointment. That if you truly love your dogs and playing agility with them that you will just go out there and train, purely for the sheer joy of it and not ever worry about the results. That she is so unfathomably successful precisely because she doesn’t care.

Apologies in advance, and this is nothing against ST personally, but I call bullshit. The whole blog post, that so many people—including other big names in dog sport glommed onto—was basically a red herring. What I find particularly irksome is that she insinuates that setting and working towards goals AND appreciating the moments you spend training and trialing your dogs are mutually exclusive.

While I think Silvia has a talent for making people feel good about agility, and I applaud her willingness to embrace everyone and see their strengths, I feel that she is really manipulating people’s emotions here. Can SHE, Silvia Trkman of phenomenal physical and dog training abilities jaunt through the Alps with her dogs, do some supersonic dog walks just for kicks, sprinkle some fairy dust, wiggle her nose, and then go on to win World Championships? Clearly she can, and she has. However, I believe that she is one in a million, with her innate talents and abilities. The other 99% of us need a bit more structure to even consider accomplishing a portion of what she has done.

She goes on to say, “I try to train better and to get better because I love to learn, to progress, to improve.”

So here’s my question;

If you have no “yardstick” to measure your goals by, how do you know you are improving?

If you are in this sport, and you are competing, that means you have a competitive nature. Period. This sport chews up and spits out those who do not have the grit and the balls to endure brutal failures and come back for more. The backyard warriors out there do exist, and I think that’s fabulous. But they are not going to regionals or Nationals or World Championships. You don’t end up on that stage by accident, regardless of how talented you are.

To tell people that goal setting is a waste of time, to me, seems a bit flippant.

Having goals does not mean you are obsessed with winning. Through my growing education of mental management and goal-setting, I’ve learned that “winning XYZ event” is not a productive objective. Giving yourself yardsticks by which to measure your progress is how you do eventually “win” those events by way of working on the things you can control.

Just writing down what you want to accomplish, setting some general timelines and how you will get there, then checking back on those plans and adjusting accordingly can do wonders. It has for me.

I can go into what I’ve accomplished this year and who was very responsible for helping me along the way, but thats for another post. I will say that goal setting works. And it actually has allowed me to enjoy my dogs and my training more, because I know my plan, I know where we’re going, and that even if we don’t check off the box that says “Done”, that we have spent time working towards something. The dogs don’t care, all they know is that we are playing/working together and are having a good time doing it.

One thing I am sure Silvia and I would agree on is that you must always, always, always be positive, and you must love what you are doing. There are competitors who we all know who get overcome by results and it absolutely leeches the fun out of the relationship with the dog. There IS a balance there, and for most of us, just a bit of structure can help us focus on what is most important, and that is enjoying the journey with your dog.