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Set Learning Goals Like A Pro

18/07/2019 by Patricia Cardner

Purposeful Practice for Poker front cover

Have you ever wondered if there is a best way to study all of the poker books and courses you’ve purchased in a manner that will ensure that you maximize what you learn? It turns out that there is and it hinges on your ability to set and achieve learning goals. In fact, there are numerous ways that setting proper learning goals can contribute to your success. In this article, I’m going to break them down for you and share a recipe for setting and achieving learning goals that virtually guarantees results.

The process of setting specific learning goals will encourage you to take the time to think about where you want to go with your poker career (or hobby). By getting clear on what you want to achieve, you’ll be able to better discern which areas you most need to concentrate on and improve. When you set clearly defined learning goals which are measurable, you’ll be able to see how much progress you are making towards what is likely to be a long process.

Research shows that the process of working towards a valued and challenging activity that yields results is beneficial in many ways. It not only guarantees that you will improve your poker game, but it also builds confidence and increases motivation. In order to most efficiently set learning goals, keep the following principles at the forefront of your mind:

Express your learning goals in positive terms. Construct your goals in such a way that your focus is on what you will be doing as opposed to what you’re going to stop doing. “I’ll improve my c-betting” is an example of a positively stated learning goal. Contrast this with “I’ll stop making c-betting mistakes.” If you focus on improving your c-betting, you’ll naturally make fewer mistakes and keeping a positive focus increases motivation and reduces anxiety.

Determine your learning priorities. When you’ve purchased an array of books and courses, it can be overwhelming. I know I have had the tendency to skip around between learning materials myself and it is not the best strategy. A better tactic is to make a list of your learning goals and then put them into some kind of logical order. For example, learning pre-flop ranges should take priority over c-betting because it is difficult to improve post-flop play if your pre-flop ranges are lacking precision. Setting priorities in this fashion will prevent overwhelm and improve your focus.

Make your learning goals small. Stanford University professor B.J. Fogg suggests that the best way to make sure that you achieve all of your goals is by going exceedingly small. Fogg says that we can effectively transform our behavior by focusing on attacking one small goal at a time. This is because the human brain is very accepting of very small changes and has no need to rebel or put up defenses like procrastination.

Let’s say that you’ve decided to work through a book you’ve recently bought and your goal is to study it for one hour each day. This goal may be too large if you’re just getting started. Fogg’s approach calls for going really tiny - like committing to 10 minutes each day. Of course, you can do more, but by making sure you hit this minimum, you will naturally build up the study habit. Over time, you’ll be able to expand the amount of time you can spend studying quite dramatically.

Tie your goal behavior to a specific trigger. Once you’ve prioritized your learning activities, it’s time to tie them to a trigger that will remind you that it is time to start studying. A trigger is an existing behavior to which you can attach your new tiny learning habit. All you have to do is decide when you will do your target behavior, and then tie it to a regularly occurring activity so as to create a “reminder” trigger. Perhaps, after your morning coffee, you immediately go to your desk and study for 10 minutes.

Set timelines and deadlines. It is critical to outline a schedule for your learning activities that you are committed to sticking to. Otherwise, it is easy to procrastinate. Tracking your activities and seeing that you are meeting timelines and deadlines is also quite motivating. There is nothing like seeing that you are making progress to keep you going.

Set specific, measurable goals. If you consistently fail to meet a measurable goal, then you can analyze why you are having difficulties and adjust your learning plan. If you fail to set specific and measurable goals, you’ll have a difficult time course correcting.

Ultimately, setting learning goals is all about systematization. All you have to do is identify and prioritize your goals while creating the strategies that will allow you to reach your learning objectives. By taking one small step at a time, you can make achieving your goals a foregone conclusion.

If you enjoyed this article check out Dr. Patrica Cardner’s and Gareth James’s new book: Purposeful Practice for Poker