Setting Goals

I have a list of goals and a list of blessings on my bathroom mirror. I’ve been doing that for fifteen years… Now, enter the mindset coach (Sam Chauhan), and one of his techniques is that he wants me to email him a list of ten goals and blessings every morning. They often times mimic the current list I’ve got on my bathroom mirror, but it’s a new way to do it consciously. I start off my day realizing how blessed I am every day, and I’m beginning my day in a powerful, positive, thankful position.

Phil Hellmuth

This article contains some excerpts from the books, The Poker Mindset by Ian Taylor and Matthew Hilger, and Peak Performance Poker by Travis Steffen.

It’s a New Year and millions and millions of people make resolutions for the upcoming year. This quote by Phil Hellmuth in the book Peak Performance Poker demonstrates the power and importance of setting goals and embracing them every single day.

Unfortunately, millions and millions of people will also fall short of their goals. Most just don’t understand how to set goals in a way that will foster success. I’ve worked with two different poker authors and they both addressed the topic of setting goals in their books. As Travis discusses in Peak Performance Poker, goals should be specific and measurable. Ian Taylor talks about goal setting in The Poker Mindset which discusses the importance of making sure your goals are achievable.

Goals should be specific. All this really means is that your goals need to be detailed. It isn’t enough to say that you want to be the best poker player you can possibly be. How will you achieve it? When is your deadline? The more specific you are in how you define your goals, the better chance you will have in reaching them.

Goals should be measurable. If you can’t measure it, you won’t know if you’ve succeeded or failed. “I want to get in better shape” is not measurable. A better goal might be, “I want to lose 10 pounds within two months”. Unfortunately, as Ian and I discuss in The Poker Mindset, your goals in poker should never be monetary targets:

  1. You have limited power to achieve monetary goals.
  2. Conclusions are difficult to draw when you miss your monetary target.
  3. Monetary targets distract from your true goal.

Of course the objective in poker is to win money, but the reality is you have little control in achieving this at least in the short-term. Even over a year, variance can greatly impact your results. Your primary goal in poker should be to make the best decisions you can as frequently as possible. Setting monetary targets can actually be detrimental to your game. For example, say your goal is to earn X amount by the end of the month. At the end of the month, if you are short, you might play when tired, play in bad games, play too loosely, or try a lot of different things that lead to poor decisions to try and reach your monetary goal.

The best types of goals in poker should relate to the study of the game and maybe the hours you play. “I’ll watch one instructional video every day” or “I’ll read one poker book every month” or “I’ll avoid sessions over eight hours long.”

Goals should be achievable. This relates to the previous topic of measurability. To be achievable, your goals must first be measurable. You should be able to reach your goals, while at the same time ensuring that you aim high. Many people limit their ceiling because they underestimate what they can achieve. I often like to talk about how little one can achieve in a day or even in a month, but if you look at time frames of 1-3 years, people can completely turn their lives around. When my wife and I moved back to the US from New Zealand in 2003, I had no job, no house, no car, no kids, and some student debt. A few years later, I had a fully-furnished house, two cars, three kids, a publishing company, and several websites. I don’t know what I accomplished every month but I look back and my life has completely changed.

One of the best things about setting goals is that there is no downside, only upside. If you meet or exceed your goals, it gives you a great confidence boost and challenges you to set bigger, more-challenging goals. If you fail to achieve your goals, you will either be motivated to try that much harder or be forced to re-evaluate whether your goals were realistic. Either way, the fact that your progress is being measured can be enough to push you to greater results.

If you’ve already made some resolutions for the year, take a look over them and revise if necessary. If you haven’t made any goals for the year, now is as good a time as any. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind while you are working on them:

  • Make your goals specific and measurable.
  • Aim high.
  • Step outside your comfort zone.
  • Seek out resources that can help you.
  • Map out the road you need to follow to get where you want to be.
  • Hang it on your wall where you can see it every day.