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Renowned psychologist applies sports lessons to life

Suggests six keys to completing personal goals

Individuals may look to sports heroes for athletic how-tos, but a top sports psychologist outlines lessons appropriate for anyone striving to achieve a goal. Terry Orlick, PhD, has counseled thousands of Olympic and professional athletes, but says the principles that work for those athletes’ goals also apply to business and everyday goals.

Orlick, author of In Pursuit of Excellence, explains that achieving personal goals, even those that seem impossible, can be achieved by maintaining a positive perspective and focusing on the present.

"People often set long-term, far-off goals without focusing enough on the present. But it is the present that gets us to the future in the way that we wish to get there," Orlick says.

According to Orlick personal goals can be achieved with six key principles:

  • Set everyday goals. Instead of focusing on a long-term goal, which can often seem overwhelming, Orlick suggests setting specific and relevant daily goals and focus on pursuing them, one step at a time. "Long-term goals can help motivate and guide you, but you also need lots of modest or achievable daily goals that take you progressively closer to your desired destination," Orlick explains. He adds that focusing energy on taking small steps that are within one’s personal control is the best approach.
  • Choose commitment. Before committing to a goal, Orlick suggests evaluating whether it is important enough to warrant your focus and dedication. A person is more apt to endure the demands that come with meeting aspirations when they choose to commit to a goal. 
  • Set short-term and long-term goals. To make the task of completing long-term goals less daunting Orlick advises establishing a series of short-term goals, with specific target dates for achievement, that are directly relevant to the ultimate goal. "Achieving a goal, even a short-term one, makes you feel competent and inspires you to pursue your next goal, thereby helping you maintain commitment and build self-confidence," Orlick comments.
  • Make adjustments. According to Orlick, there should always be room for adjustments to goals. "When people fall short of the goals they set, they must remember that unmet goals, plateaus, times of seemingly little or no progress, and even periods of backsliding are natural," Orlick explains. He advises that people should refine their focus, adjust their goal, and stick some short-term goals or immediate steps in front of it. 
  • Believe in yourself. Performance is a result of a person’s visions and expectations of themselves, which can be achieved through focus. "If a person sees themselves as having something of value to offer, as having a contribution to make, as having great potential, then this will be their reality," Orlick says. He adds that excellence in any field depends largely on people believing in their ability to arrive at their desired destination. 
  • Question goals. Orlick suggests people define their key goals: their dream goal, realistic goal and goal of self-acceptance. With these in place, people should then ask themselves why they chose these and what it takes to get there. "After you have the big three goals in place, everything else revolves around daily goals for mental readiness, best focus and best effort to build the physical, technical, tactical, and mental skills that are required to be the best," Orlick adds.

For more information, see  In Pursuit of Excellence.


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