Maximing Your MMA Mind: Setting Mental Goals

Fight Medicine / September 11, 2013 - 6:07pm

Credit: Will Lenzner,

Previously we discussed the first step in improving MMA performance with mental preparation here. This article examines the second key to becoming an elite purposeful performer: goal setting. Stay tuned to learn about the third of three keys: embracing the now.

Goal setting is a common practice amongst the world’s greatest athletes, and it’s a crucial factor in your quest to become an elite purposeful performer. Treat it as your road map to guide your efforts and actions. During those mornings when your body aches and your motivation drops, your goals will help redirect your focus. Following an exhausting day of training, goals will remind you of your commitment.

Fear of failure, laziness and lack of awareness are just some of the reasons many athletes resist goal setting. This article reveals a simple and straightforward approach to setting goals and holding yourself accountable. To gain a competitive edge in your field, make goal setting a daily routine.

Road map

The first step is to determine where you’re going. Not where you want to go, but where you are going. In crafting a purposeful and elite state of mind you must direct your intentions with ownership, for only you control your destiny.

Begin by targeting an attainable destination point for this year. Examples could be as varied as a winning percentage, competing for a title, or making a varsity roster. With your sights on that destination work backwards in your mind to identify significant events along the way (a.k.a. mile markers). Your mile markers stand as measurable objectives for you to self-evaluate your progress. Write these in a calendar and refer to them weekly.

D.A.T.G.O. model
Once you’ve targeted your destination and identified your mile markers, you’re ready to create a culture of challenging and motivating goals and habits. These can involve competitions, personal challenges, and daily tasks.

Begin by creating a D.A.T.G.O. model, which stands for Day Action Task Goal Outcome, to track, measure and evaluate your progress on specific performance-related areas. If you want to strengthen your single-leg takedowns and devote focused time practicing them, or you want to execute more multi-strike combos and guard escapes during a fight, incorporate them into your D.A.T.G.O. model. I’ve plugged these example goals into the model below.

The focus for each day is written in the Action row, and simply reflects the chosen emphasis in your training. The Task row identifies a technique-specific aspect for your target goal, and the target goal is written in the Goal row. The actual outcome of your goal is written in the Outcome row. Each daily focus reads from top to bottom.

The example goals above reflect three ways you can maximize their value using different approaches. On Monday, tracking performance with single leg takedowns is easy because it’s post training and you’ll be free to measure and evaluate. Whereas Tuesday’s focus on strike combos during a mock fight, and Wednesday’s goal of guard escapes during all competitive scenarios, are clearly more difficult to measure. Because it’s difficult to track progress during these competitive scenarios I suggest you rely on a friend, or use something to write on between rounds or training segments.

Put it all together

As best you can, mesh your calendar of events with your D.A.T.G.O. model, be creative. The purpose is to align the two so that they complement one another and prepare you to perform your best throughout. In the end you’ll have a robust, structured and vision-centered platform to support your development as an elite purposeful performer.

Goal setting is a purposeful practice habit you should perform every single day. Purposeful practice habits support your ability to flow and perform free in the competitive arena. They help trigger your body’s muscle memory and facilitate your path into a competitive zone where performing feels effortless.

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