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Goal-Setting in Poker and Life

With the holidays around the corner, you may have goals for the new year on the top of your mind. Setting the right goals and putting in the work to achieve them is easier said than done; 80% of Americans’ New Year’s resolutions fail by early February. Fortunately, navigating the goal-setting process with the strategic mindset of a poker player yields a higher chance for success. Here’s how to select, plan, and achieve your goals in poker and in life.

Why is goal-setting important? 

The most important aspect of achieving your ambitions is finding measurable, achievable, divisible, and scalable goals to work toward. If you want to save more money in 2022 than you did in 2021, pinpoint the exact dollar amount you want to save. This allows you to break down how much you need to save each week or month and easily track whether or not you’re on pace to meet the goal. 

A goal of saving $10,000 in 2022 is scalable because there is no limit to the amount you can expand the goal in future years. When you are further in your career, learn ways to reduce spending, or have paid off your mortgage, you’ll be able to up this goal to fast-track your path to financial independence.

In poker, you have a goal with every hand you play. You might have a middling-strength hand where your goal is to be able to show your cards without making more bets since only better hands will call you. You might have a drawing hand where your goal is to either bluff out an opponent or to see another card to attempt to make your draw. Or you may simply have a hand that is so likely to win, your sole focus is to get as many of your opponents’ chips into the pot as possible. 

So why is goal-setting important? Regardless of what your goal is, playing poker gets you in the mindset of identifying your objective early and taking a series of small actions to reach a significant target. As with life, each hand in poker can propel you further in the tournament, helping you reach your ultimate goal while sharpening soft skills along the way.

Smart goal planning

Once you have a smart goal, you’ll want to plan out the steps you need to take to meet your personal goal. The nature of your planning will depend on the type of goal you set. A fitness goal may have a very linear exercise plan, while a job assignment may require you to work in spurts when clients need you most.

One technique that helps keep you on track for your smart goal is to tell your friends and family about your intentions. This will give you regular reminders of your goal and add an extra layer of incentive to show your loved ones that you are the type of person to follow through on your plans. 

Writing out a road map for the deliverables you need each week to reach your goal in time is a great way to structure your strategy and an easy way to incorporate goal-setting. Let’s say you want to learn coding within three months to help you excel in a new role. Your first week deliverable could be identifying the best training course, weeks 2-8 could involve spending 10 hours per week working through the course, and your plan for the final month could be to ask your boss for a project involving automation or data analysis to cement your learning. 

When you play poker you’ll always come to the table with a game plan, a personal goal. Sometimes the plan is as general as using your preparation to apply poker theory. Other times you’ll be familiar with your tablemates before sitting down. You might plan to sit on the left of tough opponents to see their actions before taking your own, or to show certain players bluffs to put them off their game. 

Playing poker will prime you to approach your smart goals proactively and plan for success. 

Goal tracking and evaluation

Once you have started working toward your personal goal, the best way to check in on yourself is to track your progress and evaluate the data you’ve gathered. You can update your results on a goal-tracking app and look back on what weeks or sessions yielded the most growth. What were you doing differently in September when your spending was 20% less than it was in October? 

Tracking makes working towards your goals more fun psychologically, as the process of record-keeping gamifies something mundane. Poker players track their results obsessively, either through software or tracking apps. Since poker is played against a rotating cast of opponents, win rates are always in flux, and keeping meticulous records gives you a sense of how well you’re doing over time.

Data also helps poker players improve their games. Players regularly compare their stats (how often they take certain actions in certain situations) to the best players to get a sense of when they are situationally imbalanced. When you play poker, you learn how to capture and interpret the results of your actions to develop personally and build towards your goals.

Reflection and choosing a new goal

After you stop working toward your goal, whether or not you achieved it in full, you can learn from your experience by reflecting and deciding whether to prioritize a new goal. Think back to how you felt at each stage of the process, how realistic your goal was in retrospect, and how effective your planning was.

If the next goal you want to achieve is related to what you worked toward, consider what is transferable or modifiable from your past goal. A goal of seven coffee chats with company leaders can borrow the timeline and outreach process from a previous goal of fundraising $X. Ultimately, goal-setting is a skill that can be strengthened and enjoyed with a systematic and reasoned approach.

To learn more about the logic, strategy, and soft skills that drive poker and help you reach your goals, sign up for Poker Power’s community lessons. We welcome women of any ability (including total beginners) to learn the game of poker in a fun environment with their peers. We’ve saved you a seat. Are you ready to see what the power of poker can do for you?

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