Long ago I learned the value of incremental progress. A process requiring patience and attention to detail. Incremental progress takes the approach of having a plan with an end sight in mind.
For example: In the sports of Power and Olympic Lifting competitive athletes know the exact dates of their meets and their current numbers. Within these 2 key aspects of the plan in place, the athlete will plan from the meet date to the first day of the new cycle aimed at prepping them for the meet. For instance if they have a meet in June and it is currently January, the athlete will start their plan from the June Meet Date and look backwards all the way to the current January start of the cycle.
In this example the athlete knows the numbers they currently have, approximately the numbers they should achieve at the meet and the time frame. Certainly we can call this a goal but it goes beyond just having a goal. For these athletes they have spent time day in and day out training making incremental progress towards this day. Often the next meet is not their last but a stepping stone to their next. Along the way the focus on a planned an incremental progress. Along with their coach they have a damn good idea of what each day from January 1st to June 1st will look like in terms of their training including exercises, weights, sets, reps, rest, nutrition, sleep, etc. at least on an elite level.
In my experience and through my training we focus on making incremental progress. In Kettlebells it may be a 1 size increase in bell week by week for 4 weeks, an increase of 1 set per week or even 1 rep per week during that 4 day period. It depends on the movement and overall goal.
In Olympic Weightlifting it may be 1-5 kg from week to week within a movement complimented by a proper adjustment of sets, reps and volume. Typically as the weight increases the sets and reps decrease as a whole, the law of supply and demand and an inverse relationship.
The point is do not rush your training, do not feel as if each time you need to test your limits. Instead focus on building brick by brick, layer by layer, making incremental progress. Schedule and plan back off days and weeks. This applies to all athletes not just elite and probably even more so than those whom train hard while working a regular job and having a life where their sport does not pay them in money but in other more intrinsic rewards.
The Elite perform as such not because they hammer or grind or crush or push and test but through incremental progress and intelligent design. It is fine to push, grind, hammer, test, etc. but have prepare for it so when you do you set a new PR and have something to build off of, a foundation moving forward