How to Set Goals

A SMART goal is an effective goal

At the beginning of the year the “New Years Resolution” itch is setting in for most.  Resolutions are of course really goals.  Like most elite athletes, I have set my share of goals in my career: win a match, win a tournament, make the national team, and win a Paralympic medal.

Goals need not only be sport related.  I have also set and achieved the goals of moving out of my parents’ house, getting accepted to university, and graduating.  I give motivational talks in schools with the Esteem Team, a group of inspirational Olympic, Paralympic, professional and elite athletes.  We always share a concrete and simple tool to help make sure that goals are as effective as possible.

We apply the SMART acronym to make sure that we set smart goals.

S: Specific

M: Measurable

A: Action

R: Realistic

T: Timeline

The SMART acronym helps change a hypothetical goal from “I want to get stronger” to “I want to bench press 250 lbs. on or before January 1st, 2014.”  The goal “I want to bench press 300 lbs. by tomorrow” would also get weeded out, since it does not satisfy the Realistic SMART requirement.  An immediate Action (A of SMART) could be to hit the gym three times per week.

Goal setting does not have to be complicated, but the targeted results of effective goal setting can be staggering.  Anyone who has ever set a tough goal and achieved it knows how good it feels.

As you embark into 2013, I will leave you with two more things to consider.  Business consultant Peter Bregmen advocates for not setting goals at all, but strategic directions.  Musician and entrepreneur (creator of CD Baby) Derek Sivers advises us not to announce our goals – if we do, it feels like we have already done a lot of work; keeping them to ourselves might motivate us more.

Whatever your plans for 2013, remember:

You don’t know what you can do.  Try and surprise yourself.

This Thing Around My Neck

Photo by Matthew Murnaghan/Canadian Paralympic Committee

It has been just over a month since I returned home from London.  Since then, I have wanted to write a blog post summing everything up, but the words have not been flowing.  Part of the reason is that, I often have to use my blog as a way to keep in touch with all my supporters and let everyone know how I am doing on the international circuit.  This time, the Canadian media did a good job of keeping everyone updated on the journey Marco and I slammed through – check out the links at the end of this post.

Everyone did an amazing job cheering me on over Facebook and Twitter throughout the Games, even with my short updates.  It was so great to feel that huge support behind us each morning, as I checked my email and social media from the Paralympic Village.

I am still trying to track down video footage from our bronze medal game.  It was filmed, but does not seem to have been broadcast in Canada.  Although the Canadian print media covered us well, CTV didn’t seem to capitalise on showing the video of our story.  I will get a hold of it one of these days.

Since being back with the medal, I have had lots of speaking opportunities and chances to share our win.  It feels amazing to have more respect, opportunities, confidence and expectations flowing in.  It is also of course daunting.  I want to make sure that I use the medal to create as much value as I can.

So, I have been asking myself: Why do people love medals so much?  It is clear why we athletes love medals – it is what we are so selfishly working towards for our entire competitive career.

Then, I met a journalist this weekend, photographing me at Variety Village’s 16th Annual Active Living Conference – where I was speaking to a great audience of up and coming sport leaders – and showed him my bronze medal from London.  His eyes lit up and he said: “Wow, I haven’t seen one of these since I met Mark Tewksbury years ago!”

With those few words, I realised that medals are the prizes that we elite athletes are striving towards, but they are also tokens from one of the most amazing international movements on our planet.  They are so hard to get, but when someone captures one, we sometimes forget that they are all connected.

They are connected to each other, in that all elite athletes have an energy about them that is contagious and seems to radiate from the medal itself.  More importantly, international medals are connected to the families, friends, early coaches, local sport clubs, schools, communities, businesses, teammates, sport scientists, elite coaches, sponsors and surroundings of the athletes who win them.

Since getting back to Canada with my bronze medal, the most profound experience I have had is reflecting on all of the other people who played a role in our win.  A great coach once told me: “Being a successful athlete is about doing a great job taking care of all the little things.”

I love sharing my medal because it came to me because of so many others.

My parents, the early coaches who encouraged me to take up sport, my teammates who pushed me and my boccia skills to the next level – and then the next one – the elementary and high school students I have spoken to over the years, the businesses like Moksha Yoga and Compudata Systems that believed in me, the media who covered our journey, and Dalia who shifted my focus on how to live healthy with a winning mindset every day, all helped me take care of the little things.  They won that medal for us.

Marco and I just chucked the balls.


Canadian Media Coverage of the BC4 Boccia Pair

Sarnia Observer – Sarnian wins Paralympic bronze

Vancouver Sun – Josh Vander Vies of UBC captures Paralympics boccia bronze

CBC Sports – Canada’s elegant boccia team

TSN – Canada captures bronze in Boccia at Paralympic Games

15 Top Canadian Athlete Blogs

As an athlete, I have been lucky enough to meet, and be inspired by, incredible people.  Many of whom are athletes, on my own team and in other sports.  As I juggle my studies, training and personal life, I take a look at the exciting accomplishments of other Canadian athletes for fuel and perspective.  Below are 15 exceptional blogs, in no particular order, by Canadians who are taking on the world, often times simply for the joy of sport and the small glory of seeing how far they can push themselves.

Have a look through the links, and be sure to follow these inspirational Canadians as they push for their goals.

Thomas Hall (Olympic Canoe/Kayak)

Ryan Semple (Olympic Alpine Skiing)

Rosanna Tomiuk (Olympic Waterpolo)

Paula Findlay (Olympic Triathlon)

Megan Imrie (Olympic Biathlon)

Lisa Ross (Olympic Sailing)

Josh Cassidy (Paralympic Athletics)

Alexandra Orlando (Olympic Rhythmic Gymnastics)

Joshua Riker-Fox (Olympic Modern Pentathlon)

John Hastings (Olympic Canoe/Kayak)

Heather Moyse (Olympic Bobsleigh)

Benoit Huot (Paralympic Swimming)

Fiona McKee (Olympic Badminton)

Nicole Forrester (Olympic Athletics)

Canadian Paralympic Wheelchair Curling Team

Do you have a favourite athlete blog – Canadian or otherwise?  Please share it with us in the comments below!


Trees Path

By Max Erhmann c. 1920

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.

Take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

For a history of the poem and its author, see Wikipedia.

My Dad shared this poem with me a few years ago, and it remains one of the groups of words which have inspired me the most. If, like me, you now feel a strange sense of renewed power, please share it with those around you – it may do the same.