Goal Setting In An Unknown Environment

February 19, 2021

By Rachel Findler

How can you goal set in an unknown environment like there is now? Welcome to my world. As an extreme skier every time we plan a ski expedition the entire environment is unknown and can change in a split second.

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Imagine heading out to ski a mountain that has never been skied before. It’s very daunting. Even if a mountain has been skied before it will be completely different to when it was last skied. The amount of snowfall will affect the mountain shape, the direction of winds can strip a mountain of snow or load it up, the glacier you have to cross changes every minute with new crevasses opening. Your way in can be completely different to your way out. The weather can change in a second as well as the avalanche conditions. Then there are the human elements. Even a professional skier has fatigue days when the body just does not cooperate. So, now you understand how this unknown environment is normal for us skiers. So how do we set goals?

What is your priority goal?

This is what will be the deal breaker when any decision is made. Is it financial, emotional, growth focused etc? For us extreme skiers our top priority goal is:

1.    Get home alive.

2.    Ski the desired mountain.

So, while our sport of extreme skiing may seem risky it is actually very calculated. This top goal will always trump any other goals we had in mind. Even trump our egos! Every question we ask ourselves we have to think “will that option get me home alive”.

Be Flexible along the way to your goal.

Our conditions constantly change in the mountains. A storm can come in 12 hours ahead of schedule, the avalanche conditions can change with the altitude that we climb, people in the group may struggle with fatigue. We have to adapt to each change. We know it will happen so no one can be surprised when a change is needed. Maybe we need to take a new route or try again another day.

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Constant Assessment

We have to constantly assess the environment for changes and adapt in order to achieve goals. Therefore, when planning our route, we mark areas where we will stop as a group, reassess and discuss if there is a need for a change of plan. Can you set a timeline where you come together as a team to discuss the environmental changes and come up with solutions? Excellent communication is required at this point as well as honesty. Every opinion is welcomed without judgement.

Go for it or Go home

Failure or success are both OK. The number of times we have to turn around and go home is frustratingly high. But coming back to our goal of “getting home alive” we have to make the right call. In these uncertain and constantly changing environments, we may have to turn around and try again another time or change our goal entirely.  

Whether we succeed or not in the mountains, it's a great learning experience for the next adventure and a lot of fun!