Goal Setting and Visualization

Gabriel Wheeler
Dec 11, 2018

As the season comes closer and closer to an end opportunities to become a better swimmer are more and more valuable. I want to inspire all swimmers to find purpose and meaning in what we do every step of the way. Swim practice is never just at the pool. The more practice you do in and out of the pool, the more successful you will be. You can practice swimming anywhere: By doing stretches, watching swimming YouTube videos, playing other sports, and even (and especially) by setting goals and dreaming about them…

When I was ten I wanted to break 30 in the 50 yard free more than anything. But for some frustrating reason it seemed out of reach. After one meet I did the 50 free and touched with a 32.50 Naturally at this age I was discouraged. I couldn’t get what I wanted and started to lose trust in myself. Nothing I did was working. However, like the great mentor that he was, Coach Adam pulled me aside in the middle of the season and gave me some advice. For the next 13 years of my swim career I took this advice to heart and continued to do this with great success. He said to me:

“When you get home tonight write on a piece of paper your goal time. Tape it above your bed. And every time you go to bed look at that time. Think about it. Visualize it. Close your eyes, leave your room, go to the pool, and swim that race. Hear the water. Hear your teammates and coaches cheering for you like they’ve never cheered before. Hear the starting buzzer. What does everything smell like? Taste like? Feel like? Use all your senses and see this race. See your dive. How many strokes are you going to take? How many dolphin kicks are you going to do? What is the race going to be like? What is the perfect technique? What does it feel like when you look at that time on the board and realize you did it? Once you visualize all of this open your eyes, look at the time once again, and sleep on it.”

I rushed home, grabbed the biggest sharpie I could find and scribbled a 29.99 on a piece of paper and taped it above my bad. For 2 months I looked up and saw that time. I visualized that time. I visualized about the perfect race. I visualized about technique that got me that time. The piece of paper constantly reminded me of what I wanted to achieve. 2 months later at the final summer league swim meet on my last race of the season I swam the race I wanted to swim. I touched the wall looked up and saw a big 29.96 glowing on the board. I achieved my goal!

(Image 1: Example of one of my goal sheets I looked at every night my first year in college.)

Realistically though everyone can’t achieve every goal that they set. So what happens when you don’t achieve your goal? For all of the 13 years I wrote down my times on the ceiling I usually didn’t achieve them. Is this a bad thing? Not at all! Setting tough goals is never a bad thing. I personally loved setting tough goals because even when I didn’t achieve them I knew my goals were a constant reminder to push myself harder and harder. At the end of the day all that matters is what you did to achieve your goals. Did you practice as much as you wanted to? Did you ask questions to your coach after every set and every race? Did you remember to have fun? If you are proud at the end of the day of the work you put in then you did something brave, something heroic, and have nothing to be ashamed of. Always remember: If you take three steps forward and two steps back, you’ve still moved forward.