hardgoalsHard Goals: The Science of Extraordinary Achievement by Mark Murphy is an excellent book on goal-setting, well worth reading by any ambitious person. The title is intended as a filter: if it scares you off, you shouldn’t read this book, because there are no easy ways to achieve hard goals.

There are, however, many mistakes you can make in goal-setting that will delay and hinder you and make your goals harder to achieve. This book points out these pitfalls and how to avoid them.

For example, Mark Murphy has the best critique of the “SMART” goals test that I’ve seen.

If you don’t know that reference, SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-limited. There is nothing bad about those common-sense criteria for goal-setting, but the SMART technique does not ensure that the goal will motivate you. Since the purpose of a goal is to motivate and guide action,  this is a serious weakness.

Murphy addresses this issue head on in his book. He says goals should be “Heartfelt, Animated, Required, and Difficult,” hence the acronym “HARD.”  I find this acronym to be hard to remember (!) but I completely agree with the points made under each heading. You need goals to be compelling so that they spur action. Using this approach, Murphy offers a lot of helpful advice to help you achieve your goals sooner rather than later or never.

For example, he shares six “tricks” for making the long-term value of something be immediately compelling. These have names like “put your present costs into the future” and “put your future benefits into the present.” You saw an application of this idea in the last newsletter on the “Anti-Procrastination Tactic.” Murphy shows how this approach can be used more widely.

I prefer my own way to teach goal-setting, which integrates the immediate objectives (which are more like SMART goals) with the long-range “juicy” goals (which are more like HARD goals). But I learned a lot from this book, and I think you will, too.

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Jean Moroney

Jean Moroney teaches workshops on "Thinking Tactics" to help managers and other professionals get more mileage out of their thinking time. This article originally appeared in her free email newsletter: Subscribe at http://www.thinkingdirections.com or email subscribe@thinkingdirections.com.