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.


14 thoughts on “Set Your Goals _AND_ Enjoy the Moment

  1. Pingback: Set Your Goals AND Enjoy the Moment–A Pro-Goals Rebuttal | Dog Agility Blog Events
  2. Yeah, not setting goals is a bad idea for the majority of us. I’m sure she has goals, she just doesn’t see them as goals and she has enough experience that she doesn’t need to be as organized about it as the rest of us. She can show up at the training field without a specific plan and be productive. Most of us aren’t quite there yet. I think the main purpose of the post was to get people to lighten up and be less focused on results oriented goals and more on the process of training. Also saying something provocative like ‘throw away all your goals’ is a great way to get your article spread across the internet. But yeah, to me pursuing a goal is fun, no reason for enjoying the moment and pursuing a goal to be mutually exclusive. In fact I find a haphazard, disorganized approach to be more stressful but everyone’s brains are wired differently.

    • I totally agree with you. I guess I just find it a bit inflammatory (okay maybe thats strong but you get the point) that she’s saying this. Like you say, maybe that was her point. I just know people adore her, and to be honest, is it easier in the short run to just go out there and noodle around? Yep! But then months or even years from now people will wonder why they and their dog are a mess… Then again I could probably assume someone that open to suggestion would be on to the next agility fad by then. I shouldn’t let it bother me so much. 🙂

      • Despite what she says I’m pretty sure she doesn’t just go out there and noodle around. That’s the problem, she probably is very organized on some level but she just doesn’t realize it because it comes so easily and automatically to her. She doesn’t have to write it out and plan it because she’s had years of practice, has students, is totally immersed in the training process. I know my training goes a lot better when I got out to the field with some semblance of a plan. Noodling around is fun and it’s fine for a break but doing it exclusively is not going to move me forward.

  3. I think Sylvia is simply in her optimal place, responding to her passion, which doesn’t require efforted pushing or planning to do. It’s almost impossible NOT to do. You bound out of bed in the morning before the alarm, ignore aches and pains, nobody needs to cajole you, remind you what to do, give you pep talks, etc. It’s rare and beautiful, and I think she conveys that. I’ve been in that zone from time to time, and it’s just as she describes, and the best place to be. When we’re not hooked up to a perfect passion, we tend to set goals and do mental management techniques to keep us moving forward. It’s a valid technique and it works (I’m not putting it down in any way), but if it’s a struggle to do, then perhaps that’s an indicator that one’s true passion lies elsewhere. Mental Management can also become a passion if it helps you attain your goals.

    • Thanks Michelle. Though again, I dont see why the two—-being passionate and setting goals are mutually exclusive. I can do each independently of the other, yes, but why can’t I do both? Why does that make me or anyone else having less than “perfect passion”? I have to say I disagree. Agility takes effort, whether conscious or not. Training an animal to do such intricate behaviors reliably on stage doesn’t happen by accident. It takes focus, and for many of us finding that focus is part of the journey. I don’t think that means we are missing out or are lesser handlers or trainers…

      Thanks for commenting!

  4. I think you have a really good point. I was annoyed recently by a judge (who has border collies) telling a competitor (who has a seriously OFF breed, at least for Agility) that “it’s just about having fun with your dog” when the competitor had missed a Q by <1 second. It sounds kind of patronizing.

    • Thanks for commenting! Yep, I think you got what I failed to really pinpont—the tone was a little patronizing to me. As in “if you were at the level I was, you wouldn’t care so much.” Which I fear people will take as simply “just don’t try so hard”… Which in some ways CAN be useful feedback but it still has to be surrounded by SOME structure, right?

  5. Enh, there are goals and then there are goalss

    There is a big difference between setting goals that depend only on your own performance (“going to improve my timing so I stop accidentally pulling my dog off a jump with a mis-timed cross”, or “fix weave-popping problem” or “develop various skills I need to get smooth fast clean jumpers runs”), versus goals that in the end depend largely on how OTHER people perform, which is beyond your control (“going to finish in the top 6 in Regionals” or “going to qualify for the world team”).

    Just because it’s called an agility competition doesn’t mean everyone is out there to compete *against other people*. Competing against YOURSELF — seeing how well you can run and trying to always get better — is a perfectly valid goal, is it not, and potentially more satisfying. Also it certainly does not preclude *happening* to get good enough to beat a lots of other people LOL, only it happens as a *byproduct* not as the main point.

    • Exactly Pat! You are absolutely right–there are productive and unproductive ways to set goals. She even said in her post that she strives to improve and get better—against whom I assume she means herself. So, there it is. Lol.

      I did have to learn, with the help of the Clear Mind class, that setting goals you can’t control will set you up for disappointment. I have been coming to grips with the fact that “I want to get all my contacts” is much more productive than “I want to win” or just as bad if not even worse, “be faster than so-and-so”. I admit it, I do it! But I am coming around and our performance has benefited from it.

      I guess what it boils down to is that we all have different personalities and ways of handling the pressure and the competition. Some people may feel better just “having fun”, while some of us need ways to know we are progressing.

      Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts.

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