Author Steven Covey coined the phrase 'Begin with the end in mind' in his legendary book, 'The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People'. He suggested picturing your last day on Earth, and what it is you'd like people to remember for having done with your life. Then, go out and dedicate your life to achieving exactly that.
This makes it easier to make good decisions on a daily basis, and it gives you motivation knowing that these daily acts are taking you one step towards where you ultimately want to end up.
Taken to the world of athletic development, beginning with the end in mind will help you to follow more purposeful workouts and provide motivation in helping you see exactly what your hard work is leading you towards.
How would an athlete create this level of clarity in their training?
First, I'd set up some elite standards to work towards. Two simple examples could be:
30 Yard Dash
Male - under 3.6 seconds
Female - under 3.8 seconds
Male - 10 or more strict reps
Female - 2 or more strict reps
Standards can be set for other strength exercises (bench press, squat, etc), agility testing (5-10-5 shuttle, etc) along with a range of sport-specific power and endurance testing.
Step 2 would be to look at all your test scores in categories that are key to success in your sport, to determine where you are farthest from being elite in relation to your peers (same age, sport, gender, and even position within your sport). This is where you're going to focus the most time and energy in your workouts.
Repeat this, to a lesser extent, for the 2nd greatest need, and so on down the line.
The level of exercise should match your current skill level. For example, if you're working to hit 10 strict pull-ups and currently you can do one, use a band for assistance until your strength level improves. Also, add in other grip and pulling strength exercises that you can progressively build up over time.
Speed development is a bit more complex - in that you can't just add 5 lbs all the time to hit your goal - and requires some more technical training to improve. But there is a path there, as well.
Periodically, say every season or so, re-testing can occur to track development and to determine how effective your current workout plan is. Celebrate the improvements, and use the shortcomings as motivation to train smarter and harder in the future.
It is literally that simple.
The end product is you becoming a complete athlete. One with no weak links that can lead to potential injury, or that can be exposed by your opponents who scout you and see where you can be taken advantage of.
This means that once you are towards an elite level in one category, you stop dedicating all your time on that and move on to something else.
If you bench press 300 lbs but are slow and get injured all the time, putting all your energy towards getting to 325 is a poor use of your training time.
Same for the athlete who is incredibly fit and never tires in a match, but focuses their training on endurance even though they lack strength and struggle with footwork.
Or the basketball player who can jump to the moon but is rail thin and has no mobility.
The great athletes do exactly what Steven Covey preaches, which is to courageously look at where you want to end up and see with true humility all the ways your current situation will cause you to fall short if you don't change course.
Then, you go about the long and painful process of making your world exactly what you want it to become.