How to Easily Set and Achieve HARD Goals

Why is it that some people seem to be able to easily set and achieve hard goals whilst others cannot?

Research has shown there is a difference between those who make changes happen and the ones who don’t. The most successful are able to create a vision so powerful they have no option but to make it a reality. In fact, these people are able to experience their vision as if they have already achieved it.

You might be asking yourself how is this relevant to me?

If you have a vision but are struggling to make it come to life, you may find this approach helpful. This works whether you are looking for a massive life transformation or something simpler. It’s an approach that ensures success.

Identify what is going on for you right now

Are you stuck focused on what is wrong with your job? Do you spend your days feeling frustrated about what is or isn’t happening? Are your motivation and energy levels low? Are you worn down by the daily grind or still upset by past events? Or, are you ready to look to the future but don’t quite know how to move forward? Have you already taken steps to make a change but have lost focus and have given up?

Identify what you want

If you find yourself having difficulty creating a vision of the future, you may be bogged down by past events. This will make it difficult for you to see into the future.

You can identify this is happening if you find yourself saying “in the future I want a XYZ that doesn’t have this [aspect]” or “I don’t want [that] in my new XYZ”. If this is happening to you, simply change your words from “don’t want” to “want”.

Once you have clearly articulated what you want, set some HARD goals.

Set HARD Goals

HARD goals are those elements that connect your vision to your emotions and values, bring your vision to life, identify your level of commitment and create the challenge and motivation to make them happen.

This approach to intensification of visioning has been used by successful people for generations. The approach has been described and written about in the book, Hard Goals by Mark Murphy.

Mark describes the following 4 key areas as vital to creating a compelling vision:

1. Heartfelt

Delve into how your goal makes you feel. If you can’t imagine it for a big goal, then practice attaching emotion to small goals such as “I’m going to finish this challenging task within 2 hours”. Before you embark on this goal, ask yourself “why do I care about finishing this within 2 hours”. Notice what comes up for you and include it as part of your goal.

It turns out there are three areas that are motivating: external, individual and personal. It is most helpful if you can identify what is personally motivating. This means identifying exactly how you benefit personally from completing this goal. Once you are used to attaching feelings to your smaller goals, then do the same for the bigger vision.

2. Animation

When we picture the future we often come up with static images that are devoid of movement and emotion. A more powerful approach is to animate the picture. For example, if we are seeing ourselves in a new career, it is helpful to imagine commuting, arriving, greeting your colleagues, imagining working, imagining coffee breaks and water cooler conversations, talking to clients and so on. The more detailed you get the more alive this vision becomes.

3. Required

How important is this to you? What is your level of commitment and what’s the payoff? When we consider making a significant change in our lives there comes a time when we have to commit. Yet we often procrastinate. We promise ourselves “I’ll start tomorrow”. Yet tomorrow rolls around and we make this promise again… and again… and again. If you are experiencing this, then you haven’t yet worked through what the payoff is and how valuable that is to you.

There are a few ways you can do this:

• identify the risks and impacts to you and significant others;

• what is the personal cost of not doing it;

• are there any financial costs or rewards;

• what are the benefits to me, my friends, my family or anyone else;

• re-frame the costs as investing in your future.

Once you know the payoff is greater than staying put, your motivation and sense of urgency will rise.

4. Difficulty

When we remember our most meaningful achievements, the ones that stand out for us are those that had the most challenge or difficulty.

If goals are too easily achieved the payoff is lower and it is difficult to notice any sense of achievement. Should they be too challenging, we become stuck or overwhelmed.

Identifying and setting the level of difficulty will depend upon whether or not you believe you have the capacity to make your vision a reality. The ideal is something that gets you outside your comfort zone yet gives you the experience of learning and taking risks as you move towards success.

When I look back on my personal and professional life, the achievements that I feel most proud of are those where I was able to clearly articulate HARD goals. My success came when:

• I felt emotionally involved with the goal

• I experienced it as if it was happening now

• I knew the investment was worth the payoff

• I was motivated by the challenge

When I read the research detailed in Mark Murphy’s book, I felt as if it were describing how I have been able to achieve the success that I have experienced and continue to experience in my life. Becoming a coach and mentor is my current hard goal.

In conclusion

If you’re struggling to make career changes or to grow your business to the next level, it may be time to create an exciting vision and set some hard goals. Taking the time to consider the four areas: heartfelt, animated, required and difficulty level could be exactly what you need to create momentum and direction.



This article was written by Rachel Hill, Coach, Mentor and NLP Practitioner at RachelHill Consulting Ltd. She is passionate about working with people to help them discover what they love to do, creating strategies and supporting them to take actions to turn this into reality. Get in touch with her if you would like to talk about your career change or job transition

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