The Positive Coach’s 10 Stages For Setting, Working Towards, and Reaching Goals

I have been goal oriented for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid I would set goals for myself, large and small, and then work as hard as I could towards them. I remember posting “Claire’s Summer Goals,” on my wall during the summer between 5th and 6th grade. Years later, I still write my goals down today. 

Making goals come to life is my superpower and I wanted to see if I could put words to my process. Over the last year and a half, I have been examining my thought patterns and habits to solidify my process into 10 stages to share. It is a peek into my soul and how I view the world. My goal setting and action approach is one I use personally and also with my students when coaching. Below are my 10 stages for setting, working towards, and reaching goals explained with examples from my journey to become a Division I softball pitcher. 

  1. Inspiration– All goals start with inspiration. This means seeing something and saying “I can do that!” or “I want to change that!” The inspiration stage is about understanding your current identity and deciding who you want to be in the future and knowing your potential for growth. 

When I was 9 years old, I saw older girls in my town playing softball. Rachel Pacheco was an amazing pitcher and I wanted to be just like her. 

  1. Create– The initial part of the creation stage is understanding your personal values. This means asking yourself “What do I want my world to look like based on my values?” When you are clear about your values, you can create the environment needed for you to be successful. Some goals may involve a lifestyle change to reach them. Visualize the world you want to live in while on the journey to your goal. 

I loved to practice softball and pitching with my dad. I enjoyed practice more than playing in games so I knew I was willing to put in the effort it took to be a pitcher. I also had the support from my family to be successful.

  1. Experience– Clearly define the experience you want to have or the experience you want to give. This is your goal! Words have power so be specific when defining the experience and what success will look like. Then, figure out where you can gain or seek out experience. 

My goal was to be a dominant pitcher in my area and play Division I softball. 

  1. Action– Now that you know what experience you want and where to have it, go do it! Take lessons, practice, see what doing the thing is like. 

I practiced pitching six days per week and carefully chose coaches and mentors to help me. This meant waking up early before school to practice, prioritizing softball over other childhood experiences like vacations or hanging out with friends, but I was willing to sacrifice because I loved the game and was focused on my goal. 

  1. Rethink– After taking action, reflect on your experience. This stage is about asking yourself, “how did it go? Do I need to change something about my process?” Through reflection you can figure out what worked and what didn’t to continue forward. 

There were a few times in my journey where I had to rethink what I was doing. I faced many injuries in high school and had to be intentional about my practice schedule. I also had to change teams and meet new coaches along the way in order to progress. It was scary at times and not easy to make changes.

  1. Flow with the cycle– Keep working at your goal and apply what you learned through reflection. Trust the process, success will come.

Softball is traditionally a spring and summer sport, but in California we have the luxury of playing it year round. I used the fall to learn new pitches and practice them in games because a Fall Ball championship does not matter for a team’s record. In the winter, dodging the rain is the toughest challenge. I practiced as much as I could in any indoor facility that I could find to keep my skills up in preparation for the high school season in the spring. During the high school season I prepared myself to win a championship, but also wanted to be in top shape for the summer club softball season. College coaches do most of their recruiting in the summer at national tournaments so it was important for my skills to peak at the right time in front of the right audience. I lived this softball season cycle throughout high school. 

  1. Love yourself– Things will get hard when you are working toward your goal. Be self compassionate along the way. When you love yourself, personal growth and accomplishment happens. 

For me, loving myself came in a few forms. It meant celebrating the small wins with my dad. After a good or bad game or practice, we would sit in a booth drinking milk shakes and reminisce about the things that happened on the softball field. 

Loving myself was also taking time off from pitching to rest my body. There was a period of time one summer where my shin splints were so bad I had to lay on the couch for two weeks to rest my legs. This was incredibly hard, because it was the fall before my senior year, a critical time for recruiting. I was scared to be out of shape, but I had to be self compassionate. 

My Dad and I on Senior Day at Towson

Months later in November, I signed my National Letter of Intent to play softball at Towson University. Confidence in myself through highs and lows and faith in my training process helped me reach my goal. 

  1. Own your work– This stage is about giving the journey to your goal meaning. Owning your work can be as simple as telling someone your story or writing it down. It is important to share your story of all the hard work you put in so others can bear witness and support you. 

During college I started writing. I sent a cold email with a writing sample to Softball Magazine to see if they would be interested in publishing a column about the experiences of a Division I player. To my surprise, they liked my piece and said yes to a column. I wrote for Softball Magazine for years before creating a documentary for my master’s thesis about my softball journey. 

  1. Celebrate– After owning your story be proud of yourself! Remember how far you have come and the hard work you put in. 
Me with my professor and graduate school class at my documentary premier.

Watching my documentary film at its premier with my family and friends is one of my proudest moments. I was proud of the film, yes, but it also made me realize how far I had come. I started as a 9 year old pitcher in small town Half Moon Bay, to a softball player who traveled all over the US and Europe getting to do what I loved. It was an amazing journey that shaped me and I am forever grateful. 

  1. Forward– Leap into the next journey leading you back to inspiration. 

After my last season of playing softball in college, a high school softball team reached out to me because they were in need of a coach. I never imagined myself coaching, but I remembered all of the coaches who had helped me along the way, so I said yes and leaped.

I want to point out that sometimes the stages are intertwined. Stages 5, 6, and 7 are the hardest stages of the process. They require commitment. Stage 6 is the stage where most people get impatient and often give up. It is where the hard work behind the scenes happens over and over again. Stage 6 can feel lonely and sometimes you have to go back to stage 5 to rethink your process again to be able to move forward. If you can focus on the process, push through, and interweave loving yourself of stage 7, this is where the success comes. 

It is also important to recognize that there is no timeline for going through these stages. Some goals are long term goals and it may take years to complete all 10 stages. Other goals may take a week or a moon cycle. Each stage can also vary in the amount of time that it takes to be fulfilled. Depending on the goal, some stages can be so brief, you may not realize you went through them. 

My 10 stage process is a work in progress that I am sure will evolve even more over time. While I used a sports reference to explain the 10 stages, this process can be used for all types of goals. It can be used for quitting your job and starting your own business, creating a new community, or gaining a new skill. For me, having a defined action plan to follow makes my dreams feel more tangible and gives me the courage to go for it. I hope others can use the stages as a guide and benefit as well. We all have the power to create our own universe. This process is an outline and extra boost of confidence to do it.

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