The Art to Mastery Through Effective Goal Setting with Clinical Psychologist, Jeff Greenwald

Jeff Greenwald believes that for players focused on improving their game and enhancing match performance, mastery can be achieved by looking inwards at the habitual practice of small goals which will ultimately lead to the improvement of bigger performance goals.

Jeff begins: Our brains are wired to create novelty in the one way they know how; by setting out personal goals and striving to achieve them as we navigate through life. We are creatures that are hired wired for survival in a world focused on success, ambition, financial security, optimal performance and what others think of us. In our day-to-day lives, results are created and built into the mind, causing us to have this internal battle that focuses on the outcome, instead of engaging with the process. Prioritising the mastery of something is hard to achieve without finding satisfaction along the way. Any goal that we set or want to achieve must be balanced with a deep focus and engagement in the mastery of such goal in order to increase results.

Naturally, the majority of people are more extrinsically focused, say for example, getting a promotion at work, achieving a certain level of wealth, winning a tournament or achieving a certain rank. Those who are intrinsically oriented follow a path set out for success guided by small goals along the way, temporarily setting aside the bigger goal and finding the joy in smaller tasks which will ultimately lead them there.

If we can reorient our mindset to visualise mastery rather than success, that is where we will achieve true fulfilment, this can be done by replacing outcome goals with process goals. On court, we could use the example of an outcome goal as hitting a deeper serve. The process goal we could replace that with is getting out on court to practice serving for 20 minutes three days a week.

We are at an advantage in tennis to make these goal changes as naturally, you are here reading this because you enjoy the sport and want to excel in it, you began the sport and your brain creates novelty through playing. At some point along the way, those excelling in the sport i.e. professionals or young tournament players that I asses become overawed by the pressure of achieving extrinsic goals, and in turn, undermine the importance of achieving intrinsic goals. I will ask a lot of athletes and young tournament players if they are enjoying the sport and they’ll respond by telling me they are stressed out by the prospect of losing. How I change this mindset is by tracking my clients with a metric system that creates a new conversation around skill mastery and through that, creating better outcomes.

I talk about something called a flow state which is a condition entered into by the brain which is driven through intrinsic goals. It is relevant for performance as it creates a new internal condition. Through balancing the intrinsic and extrinsic mindset, we trigger the process of getting into the flow state, therefore increasing the likelihood of achieving our desired outcome.


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