The worst kind of self-challenge is to get “all” of anything right. Improvement tends to happen incrementally, by focusing on one aspect of a skill at a time.
For example, instead of aiming to improve your speaker points from 22 to 24, on average, it would be better to aim to improve your consistently lowest ranking (say Cross-Examination or Organization) by 2 points. Doing so allows you to focus. Even if you regress in other areas, as you power through mastering a specific skill, you are less likely to forget it in the future.
At Ethos, we use simple goalsheets to track progress. Here’s how it works.
1. Advantages of Goalsheets
Goalsheets constitute a license to coach, as coaches can see what students have committed to focus on, and can push in the right areas.
Goalsheets also serve as a cause for celebration, when a student may not do that well at a tournament by the tournament’s standards but blows a goal (like delivering a self-written 1AC, using 5 figures of speech, or getting zero “slow down” comments) out of the water.
Goalsheets provide mid-season checks, reminding us whether we’ve done what we set out to do, and motivating us on… while realistically defining success for a season. I’m far more interested in a student checking off all 3–5 seasonal goals than in “winning nationals.” (unless that was the goal… which is a silly goal).
2. How to Format a Goal
You need two main parts. First off, you need the goal itself. For example, “to stop getting slow-down ballots” or “to increase my speaker points from 22–24 regularly to 25–27 regularly.” The more concrete the goal, the better. “Improve my CX” is ok, but “CX like a lawyer, supporting my partner’s next speech every time” is better.
Secondly, you need a metric for the goal. How will you know when you’ve met the goal? For example, a team I’m coaching has a goal to “master figures of speech.” The metric for that goal is to use at least 3 figures of speech per person, per round, and to include figures in every brief. If that’s done, the goal will be fulfilled. It’s tough to aim for a goal you cannot measure.
3. Discuss It
Some goals are not realistic. Set goals you can achieve. I like to discuss goals as a coach, but partners and parents can do this as well.
One of the most important changes to a common goal like “win a tournament” or “win nationals” is to insert the word capable: “be capable of winning a tournament.” The statistical odds of actually doing that are so low, and the (garbage) judging makes it somewhat random at a certain point, so in my view the key is capability not actual result here.
Let’s also assume two people have resolved to “get 1st speaker” at the next tournament. Only one can, but the other may achieve the highest speaking ever! The other person’s speaking was completely out of their control… so the award just isn’t the right goal. A coach or even the team themselves can likely determine that this goal is met.
Here you go…
Here is a standard goalsheet template to work with. Take it, schedule a conversation with coach/parent/partner, and fill it out. 3–5 goals per team and 3–5 goals per person are the recommended limit.
Revisit the goals in January and make sure you still agree with them, while also checking in on current progress, and you’ll be off to a great year.
You’ll also learn a real-life business tool to boot. Hooray!