The game of baseball was a significant part my first 20 years. Whether organized and in uniform or informal in the back yard, I was captured by the game. I was even fortunate to play for a year in college and experience a warm weather spring training. Actually, it was more like a spring break trip to start the season, but I was playing baseball in Florida nonetheless—which sure beat working out in a gym in dreary, cold central Ohio.
Each year, the spring training scene plays out anew for professional baseball players. In February and March they descend on warm weather states like Florida and Arizona to kick-off a new season. Spring training represents a lot of things for a professional ball player—preparation, goal setting, and the chance to hone their skills to name a few.
In the course of the day to day, for the non ball player, there is no regular pattern of spring training. If you receive a yearly performance review from your employer, it may or may not include goals for the following year. There’s the annual practice of setting ‘new year’s resolutions’, which are often out the window by the end of January. But what if we adopted the practice of a spring training in our lives? What might that look like and what would the benefits be?
Show up ready to go
While spring training marks the start of the season, the offseason is full of physical preparation and training. Often this begins only shortly after the conclusion of the season. So by the time the new season rolls around, they show up to camp ready to go. What that looks like in a personal context is reflecting on the prior year (I’ll assume an annual cycle but this could work for shorter or longer lengths of time too.) Questions like “What did I do well?” and “What would I like to do differently?” can be very helpful. There is also the mental commitment to continue growing. Without the desire to grow and improve, spring training is just a vacation.
Be clear on your goals
The reflection time naturally leads to forward thinking and identifying things to accomplish in the new year. It is usually easy to identify big areas in life you’d like to improve. Statements like “be healthier” or “watch less TV” are good ideas and feel like goals, but if the definition for “healthier” or “less” isn’t clearly established, how will you know when you get there? The more clear you are on your goals, the easier it will be to stay on track and achieve them. You may be familiar with the S.M.A.R.T. approach to goal setting. I like to use this idea: the goal statement should be simple and specifically define success. For example, ‘be healthier’ becomes ‘lose 20 pounds in three months.’ The goal sets your sights on the finish line, and then calls to your creativity and motivation to get there.
Stay focused on the why
One of the advantages of setting goals is to clarify the things that are important. That clarity ultimately leads to harnessing your motivation, or, said differently, your why. For the baseball player, the motivation is to win the World Series, to be the last team standing at the end of the season. What are the things that are motivating you? A question like “How will my life be better when I achieve my goal?” can be very beneficial. Whatever your answer, make sure to capture that as part of your planning process so that when you hit the grind of the the season you can still remain focused on why this matters.
I don’t know what it is like to experience the professional baseball spring training, but I do know what it is like to do my own version. My 2017 goals are within my view even as I type this. Some of them I will achieve, others I will not. And as my season draws to a close I will prepare for the next one by going through this process again. If you’ve never done this before, I encourage you to start. If you’re a veteran, then you already understand the advantages. Either way, embrace the process and enjoy the benefits. You may not win the World Series, but chances are you’ll have a more successful season.