January 17, 2021 0 By Rick

“If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable” – Seneca

2020 is gone – good riddance. It’s a new year, and we can make 2021 whatever we want. It’s a blank canvas that you get to paint. And this is where goal-setting comes into play. I’ve written about goal-setting before, and many will be looking to set new goals for the year. By now, you know that goal-setting is a great way to boost performance and productivity. Yet research cautions that this might not be as simple as it looks because no two goals are alike or appropriate for every situation. And setting the wrong goal in the wrong situation will actually hurt your performance. Decades ago, Gary Latham and Edwin Locke determined that setting a goal is one of the easiest ways to increase motivation and enhance performance. Contrary to what was believed in the late 1960s, Locke and Latham found that setting goals “increased performance and productivity 11 to 25 percent” and that “big goals lead to the best outcomes.” Today, big goals are called “high, hard goals.”

High, hard goals
It turns out that big goals eat small, medium-seized and vague goals for breakfast. When you set high, hard goals, you pay more attention, become more persistent, work more effectively and are more inclined to try again when you fail. Locke and Latham also identified another essential component you need to succeed – commitment. According to Latham, “You’ve got to believe in what you’re doing. High, hard goals work best when there’s an alignment between an individual’s values and the goal’s desired outcome. When everything lines up, we’re totally committed—meaning we’re paying even more attention, are even more resilient, and are way more productive as a result.” And when that happens, we enter flow.

Flow and clear goals
Flow – an optimal state of consciousness – makes us feel great and perform at our best. It enables us to reach high, hard goals, which leads to more flow. But to get there, we also need clear goals. Getting into a flow state requires triggers, and clear goals are one of the most important triggers we have. I’ve mentioned high, hard goals and clear goals, but what’s the difference between the two? Well, it’s all about timescale. Think of high, hard goals as more like a mission statement, i.e., goals that may take many years to reach. Think of clear goals as being the small steps you take while pursuing your mission. Let’s say you want to be a successful film producer. That could take quite a while to achieve, i.e., it’s a high, hard goal.

Steps you need to take
To reach that goal, you may need to take a set number of film courses before you can work as an apprentice/intern and gain practical experience. These are clear goals, each of which you must accomplish. It’s the clear goals that show us where to focus our attention. When goals are clear, motivation increases, unnecessary information is eliminated, and we move deeper into flow. Don’t ignore the importance of the word “clear” when setting your goals. It’s not time yet to focus on the high, hard goals yet. Doing so will only distract you from what you need to do now, preventing you from moving into flow. Do you get the picture? Don’t let the end result interfere with what you need to do now. When goals are clear, you know what to focus on and what to do. So, how do you set clear goals? By using reverse engineering.

Small chunks and grit
Once you’ve set your high, hard goal, use reverse engineering to work backward and break it down into small, manageable chunks. It’s these chunks that will become your clear goals. You want just enough stimulation to focus on the now. So, goal-setting is a combination of setting high, hard goals over the long term, clear goals in the short term and knowing which goal to focus on at which time. Short-term attention is on the clear goal (the task at hand) instead of getting distracted by the high, hard goal (the reason you’re doing the task). If you get this wrong – and many people do – you won’t reach flow. And remember, flow will enable you to reach your goals. Never, ever underemphasize the importance of clear goals. You can set daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual goals. This will require several types of grit (yes, there’s more than one type). You’ll need the grit to be your best when you’re at your worst; the grit to overcome weakness; the grit to control your thoughts; the grit to conquer fear; and the grit to recover successfully. In summary, define your main goal, reverse engineer into smaller goals and accomplish the smaller goals until you achieve your main goal. 

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” – Seneca