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THE SECRET TO GETTING FROM WHERE YOU ARE TO WHERE YOU WANT TO BE
By MARK MURPHY
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2011Mark Murphy
All rights reserved.
Whenever I talk to somebody about his or her goals—whether that person is trying to change the world, grow a company, or lose a few pounds—one of the first questions I ask is, "Why do you care about this goal?" (Don't worry, I'm not without some social graces; we actually have a conversation first.)
Some people look me right in the eye and say, "It doesn't mean anything to me. It's my boss/spouse/doctor and so forth who cares." I've lost count of the number of CEOs who've answered with, "Well, it's our Chairman who really feels this goal is important...." And how many kids, when asked the same question, would answer, "It has nothing to do with me. I'm only doing it because my parents are making me"?
"Why do you care about this goal?" It's a simple question, and a frighteningly accurate way to predict whether or not somebody will abandon his or her goals at the slightest roadblock. The people who will pursue their goals regardless of the challenges will answer with something like, "This goal is my passion, it's what I'm here to do," or, "I love my children too much to not accomplish this," or even, "What I really care about is the finish line; I'm totally pumped to get to the payoff."
But when people say, "My boss/spouse/doctor/chairman is the one who really cares about this goal," or, "I'm doing it only because I have to," all signs point to the negative. It's right there in their words: these people lack any real emotional connection to their goals; the goals are not heartfelt. In fact, emotionally, such a goal is not even really that person's goal; it belongs to somebody else.
When you ask someone this question (and I encourage you to test it out for yourself), listen to the proper nouns and pronouns you get in response. If ownership of the goal is taken with a me, mine, my, or I, even though the goal may have originated with someone else, it's a strong sign that person will see that goal through to the end, no matter what gets thrown in the way.
But if the person mentally assigns ownership of the goal to a boss, spouse, doctor, chairman, or whomever, which you'll hear in words like his, hers, the company's, my teacher, or the boss, then you know the person is just not feeling connected to the goal. You can also listen for the emotional words that are said (for example, pumped, excited, can't wait, fired up, and so forth). Expressing intense feelings usually portends better results than emotional detachment does. Just remember, nobody ever washed a rental car (which means that if you don't own it, you're not going to put much effort into it).
You'd do just about anything for the people you love—your kids, spouse, best friend, family, significant other, and so forth—because you have a heartfelt connection to them. You don't just know these folks; you know you really care for them. But what if you were asked to do something for a passing acquaintance or even a total stranger? Most likely you'd exert some effort because you're a nice person, but most people would risk and sacrifice much more for a loved one than they would for an acquaintance or stranger. Doctors give more comprehensive care to people they feel more connected to. People give more money to charities when they feel a heartfelt connection to the recipients. Research has even shown that sales generated at Tupperware parties can be significantly explained by analyzing the strength of the personal connection between the host and the guests.
With all due respect to Sting, if you love somebody (and thus have a heartfelt connection to them), you're probably not going to set them free. Because of that heartfelt connection, you're going to follow them to the far corners of the globe, dripping blood, sweat, and tears to help them in any way you can. And that's precisely the kind of heartfelt connection you want to feel toward your goals. You want to love, need, and be deeply connected to your goals; you want to feel like you'd chase a goal to the very ends of the earth in order to fulfill it.
Just to be clear, it's not all about emotions. You absolutely need the analytical part of your brain to create and achieve a HARD Goal (as you'll clearly see in the "Required" and "Difficult" chapters). Certainly you should calculate the precise amount of weight you need to lose, the dollar amount by which your sales should grow, what mile mark you need to hit to be marathon ready, and how many classes you need to attend to experience the optimal level of challenge. But while you can create the most analytically sound goal in the world (with just the right degree of difficulty and so on), if it's not heartfelt, if you're not emotionally connected to it, if you aren't ready to chase this goal to the far corners of the globe, then you're more likely to abandon it than you are to accomplish it. Goal-setting processes often get so hung up on the analytical and tactical parts that they often neglect the most fundamental question: why do you care about this goal?
In the early days of my career, I advised seriously troubled organizations (the ones teetering on the edge of bankruptcy). And believe me when I say they needed some seriously HARD Goals to fight their way back. I could always tell if the company had a sufficient foundation from which to launch a successful turnaround just by walking around and asking employees, "Why do you care if this company succeeds or fails?" If I heard a lot of people say, "Because I'll lose my job," or "I need a paycheck," or something similar, I knew the company probably wouldn't make it. But if I heard something more heartfelt like, "I've poured my heart and soul into this place, and I'm not gonna let it fail now," or "Too many people are counting on us," or "Our customers need us to survive," then I knew we had a great shot at a comeback.
By the way, every politician that wants to survive knows that caring, emotional intensity, and heartfelt connection all mean the same thing: voter turnout. When people are emotionally connected to an issue or leader, when they feel heartfelt enthusiasm, they'll move heaven and earth to guarantee its success. But when they're apathetic—that's very bad news indeed!
If your goals are important enough, if they're HARD, then at some point you're going to hit a stumbling block, because every goal worth doing is going to test your resolve and ask you to decide if you really want to keep going. And at that moment, if your commitment to that goal is sufficiently heart-felt, you'll saddle up and plow right through. But if it's not, if there's no heartfelt connection, well, that's why your local gym is overcrowded with resolution makers in January and empty by March.
In the past few years there's been a spate of books on how to be happy. Not deeply fulfilled, emotionally resilient, high achieving, or doing something truly meaningful and significant with your life, but rather, happy. (Doing really easy stuff like gorging on pizza while drinking beer and watching Blade Runner would make me happy, but that's not exactly a recipe for self-respect or a life well-lived.) In one of these happiness books, the author tells a story about a woman who loved reading literature so much that she decided to pursue her doctorate in the field. According to the story, the woman got into a good program and started taking classes. However, she quickly discovered that it was hard. There were grades, deadlines, papers, rewards, punishments, and so on. She eventually said, "I don't look forward to reading anymore."
Now, the author of the book was making a totally different point in telling this story, but here's what I took away from it: that woman didn't have a deep enough emotional connecti
Excerpted from HARD GOALS by MARK MURPHY. Copyright © 2011 by Mark Murphy. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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