My 2013 goals may appear impressive, but taken on face value they are poorly framed goals. Have a look at them and see if you can work out why:


1. Win over a decent sample (+10k hands) at NL50
2. Qualify for a WSOP event
3. $10k profit across live and online play
4. Play less than 15 sessions a month
5. Cash a live $1k tourney
6. Make a live final table
7. Turn a profit for tourneys on Pokerstars.FR
8. Watch at least 3 cardrunners vids a week
9. Stay at silver star for the whole year on Pokerstars.COM
10. Get a five figure score

See these posts from Jared Tendler’s thread for some basic level discussion of why these goals suck and how to improve them
I think the most important points are that with all of these medal type goals (results orientated) there is a lack of any mission type goals (process orientated) that will get me there.

I want to go a little bit further here and stress why setting a goal be it process or results orientated in itself means very little.

I see some vague process orientated goals like:
‘Play my A game throughout my cash sessions’
‘Increase focus when deep in tournaments’
‘Focus on one leak per week during study’

Goals need to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. You have probably heard the acronym before. These process goals do not fit the bill do they? This is part of the reason that I am glad the current psychology of poker thinking has moved from rejecting results orientated goals to accepting that results orientated goals can be helpful.

So is one of my result-oriented goals, ‘Get a five figure score [during 2013] any better? It is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely (I have enough four figure scores and the bankroll to enter the right tournaments to assume that it is achievable and realistic). But taken in isolation my goal to get a five figure score is pretty meaningless, difficult to achieve and arbitrary, even if it is SMART.

As Jared suggests you need mission goals to go with the medal goals, I wrote the following mission goals to accompany the 5 figure medal goal:
Attempt to qualify for at least one Sunday Major when playing Sunday sessions
Review one tournament I played a week
Watch at least 3 Cardrunner MTT strategy videos a month

The trouble is that while no doubt these missions will help any attempt to achieve the medal of a 5 figure score, they aren’t very specific.

I quite like a suggestion from another coaching programme that goes a bit further. It encourages medal goals like 5 figure scores, but for every medal goal you need to write a few sentences saying how you are actively going to pursue the goal and also write the reason why you want to achieve the goal. If you want to commit to a goal and give yourself the best chance of achieving it, you need a plan for how you are going to get there and the motivation to continue to pursue it. For my goal, in the last few months I have been actively playing more tournaments that either have at least 5 figures up top as well as working on my early accumulating chips tournament game. I want to achieve 5 figures because it feels like the next logical milestone to achieve (after plenty of 4 figures and final tabling Sunday Majors (other sites)).

Finally a word on the arbitrary nature of goals and the problem of setting challenges in stone. It is not helpful to think of goals as pass or fail endeavours. If the goal makes sense and is motivating and you are taking positive action towards it, that is something good in itself. If I ship a tourney for $9k do you think I will be disappointed that it is not 5 figures? Hint NO! You need to measure your advancement towards goals and be realistic with how positive the progress is, even if the actual goal is not reached that may be a great achievement. Also be flexible, my NL50 goal is one that I probably should change as I am finding it hard enough posting positive results at NL20/25. There is no shame in changing goals particularly if pursuing them would hurt your bankroll or disrupt your overall progress. However, I do think goals should be challenging, something that is missing from the SMART advice.

Good luck with your goals. Set yourself a challenge, but think about if and how you are going to stick with it.