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Posted 03/09/2022 in Category 1

Do the short-term goals we set now lead to success down the line?

Do the short-term goals we set now lead to success down the line?

We all crave success now – we all want to win now. But success now is difficult to come by if we have not prepared properly to succeed, despite the yearning from fans and followers. In basketball or American football or ice hockey; teams have to earn a playoff spot by winning games earlier in the season. At university, students earn grades by completing work across the semester. 

But how willing are we to pay the early price now to gain success later? How willing are we to be patient, understanding and accepting of the little goals that bring the larger goals later? One problem we run into is what do I spend my time on now considering all the little ways in which I could spend my time? Most athletes have limited time, energy and focus, and the rise and fall of these elements means we cannot maximise all the time. So who do we solve the problem about where to spend our time, energy and focus? And how do we remain patient now for the long-term gains later? But, of course, in sport, there are few guarantees. 

Beck and colleagues examined this gap in the literature using evidence from the National Hockey League. In any team, as Beck explains, team members have knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics. In sport, however, we lean on the most talented players to win the championship now while the team fails in the long run. The investment now steals from the possibility of future success. 

The prudent coach or manager therefore needs to assess now to implement change that will augur towards success in the long-run. This trade-off might need to be explained to the coaching staff, players and management to help secure an ever-increasing rise toward continued success. Beck and colleagues argued teams can be successful when they allocate resources when they are most needed and limit resources to ‘lost causes’. Within allocating resources is the self-regulation among team members. In self-regulation, individuals are striving to achieve goals; however, this regulation can also be at the level of the team. Maybe we are not always searching for the right combination of knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics; we are assessing what the team possesses and working from there. 

Beck and colleagues predicted that allocating resources to discrepancies in goal performance would lead to improved performance in the future. Using date from 5 National Hockey League seasons, they showed NHL teams used goal-performance discrepancies to allocate a key resource. For example, their most valuable players playing more than less valuable players when needed might lead to success now, but there could be a cost later. This is the trade-off in a long season.

Practically, Beck and colleagues argued, we might need to avoid overallocation of resources when these resources are unnecessary for the long-term. One way to make better sense now of how we allocate resources is the review of a current performance to identify strategies that were effective and ineffective in their allocation of resources. Teams could harness the resources saved now, for later. The more efficient a performer becomes, the more efficient the team becomes. The best person for the job is not always the best person from the last job. After all, a person’s time and effort are finite. Matching the demands of the game now to the resources among your staff might be the finest choices made for the long term. 


Beck, J.W., Schmidt, A.M. & Natali, M.W. 2019, "Efficient proximal resource allocation strategies predict distal team performance: Evidence from the National Hockey League", Journal of Applied Psychology, 104, 11, pp. 1387-1403.

Image by Keith Johnston from Pixabay