I'm sure you've read countless articles about how important it is to set goals for yourself in order to be successful. This not only applies to bodybuilding but to any area of life. Goals help to motivate you by putting your desires into concrete form. It helps to write your goals down and put it somewhere where you will be reminded of it constantly. Talking about your goals and focusing on them will make you more aware of what you need to be doing to make your goal into a reality.
However, as important as goals are, many people don't know how to properly use goals in their life. One common mistake that many people make is to set a goal so big that it is out of touch with reality to the person setting it. It's good to dream big but you must believe that the goal is obtainable or you may psyche yourself out before you even begin.
One way to do this is to set up small goals or stepping stones on your way to your big goal. When Lee Haney was still competing as an amateur bodybuilder, he did not set a goal for himself of winning the Mr. Olympia title a record breaking 8 times. That would have been too inconceivable for a young bodybuilder from South Carolina to really believe.
What Lee did instead was to set up small goals for himself. I'm sure that he fantasized with the idea of one day becoming a professional bodybuilder and being featured in the magazines but he didn't use that as his primary objective.
After Lee won the Teenage Mr. America title in 1979, he took a year off to increase his muscle mass and get bigger in order to compete with the big boys at the Mr. America. When he returned to competition at the 1980 Mr. USA, he was one of the biggest competitors at only 20 years old and he placed 4th in the Heavyweight class of the USA.
Lee learned from this experience and knew he needed more work before returning to the competition stage. Even though his goal at this time was to win the Mr. America and the Mr. Universe before turning professional, Lee did not focus on that until he first won some qualifying events.
Being out of competition for over a year, Lee had to requalify for national level competition before he could just jump into the Mr. America contest. So, Lee's first goal was to win a national qualifier which he did by winning the overall at a regional contest in South Carolina. After this unanimous win, Lee set his sights on the NPC Junior Nationals that year.
Lee steam rolled over the competition at the Junior Nationals, easily winning the heavyweight and overall titles. It was only after this decisive victory that Lee decided to give it his all at the NPC Nationals. Competing in the first ever 1982 Nationals, Lee again dominated by winning the Heavyweight and Overall titles again.
As part of the American team sent over to compete in the IFBB World Championships, Lee again dominated the contest by winning his class and defeating the huge Gunnar Rosbo and Ralf Mueller. Now, Lee was the Amateur World Heavyweight Champion. He had gone from a regional contest winner to Junior National winner to the best amateur bodybuilding champion in this country to World Champion all in less than a year's time. During this journey, however, Lee never once focused on any competition except for the one that was directly in front of him.
When Lee Haney turned professional the following year, he again did not immediately set the goal of winning the Mr. Olympia title just yet. First, he competed in the World Professional Bodybuilding Championships. Placing a respectable third place, Lee went back to the gym with the goal of winning his first professional contest before entering the Mr. Olympia competition. He accomplished his goal by winning the coveted Night of the Champions contest three months later. Now, he set his goal of entering the Mr. Olympia contest.
When Lee entered his first Mr. O contest in 1983, he again placed a respectable third place and made a very good showing. However, he was far from satisfied and, having gone through the experience of competing in the biggest contest in bodybuilding, Lee was now hungry for first place at the Olympia. He accomplished that goal when he won the title in dramatic fashion in 1984.
Lee still wasn't thinking about breaking Arnold's record when he came home with that Sandow trophy. However, after winning the title a second time, a third time, a fourth time, etc, etc, Lee began answering questions on whether he would break Arnold's record of 7 Olympia wins. Soon, this was Lee Haneys next goal, win the Mr. Olympia title a record breaking 8 times! Lee eventually did do this by winning the title until he retired in 1991. And to think that he started out as a local regional bodybuilder. Remember, everyone needs to start somewhere. Begin setting small goals for yourself and just watch your accomplishments start to pile up.