Set a ‘HARD’ goal in 2018

By Gale Mote / Guest Column

I admit that I gave up on New Year’s resolutions a long time ago. I stuck with them for about 12 hours and then, like a rubber band, the forces of habit snapped me back to my comfort zone.

Goal-setting is different than making a half-hearted commitment over a champagne toast. To really accomplish anything worthwhile, you need to have a goal – to know where you are going and why, and most importantly, to know when you have arrived.

Effective goals bring greater clarity to our decision-making. We have the courage to say “no” to what is not urgent or important, and to focus our time, energy and resources on activities that move us in the direction of the finish line.

You’ve probably heard of setting SMART Goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Oriented. These are all classic principles important to incorporate into your goal-setting tool kit.

I would like to offer another model from Mark Murphy and Leadership IQ called HARD Goals: Heartfelt, Animated, Required and Difficult. Let’s explore each in more detail.

Heartfelt means that you really care about the goal – it’s important to you. Murphy says, “A HARD goal has to be something which promises you more value than any other goal imaginable and therefore you are not going to let anything get in the way of making it happen.” In the year ahead, what is something you want really badly? How passionate are you about this goal? Is it a nice-to-have or a must? Get passionate!

Do you remember interviewing for your dream job? You practiced the interview questions. On the day of the interview, you stoked your brain with positive affirmations – “I am confident,” “I am an awesome fit for this role.” You could literally see yourself shaking hands with the interviewer and smiling as you walked away from the building, knowing the job was yours.

Animation is making your goals come to life in your imagination. As an example, when Howard Schultz founded Starbucks, he visualized it as a “third place between work and home.” Steve Jobs referred to the iPod as “1,000 songs in your pocket.”

To do this, you must first create a vision of what it will feel like to accomplish your goal. Then you need to animate it with a vivid mental picture that might include color, emotions, size, shape and movement. Finally, you need to write down what you imagine. Writing imprints in the brain and will reinforce the mental image you’ve created.

Tomorrow is the killer for most goals. While it worked to keep little Orphan Annie optimistic, procrastination will not help you realize your goals. Required means exactly that – achieving your goal is a necessity, not an option. The anticipation of achieving the goal has to be so much more attractive that what you are doing today.

Make a list of all the benefits of achieving the goal and bring them closer to you. Stay focused on them as you move confidently, one step at a time, in the direction of your vision.

Change is not easy. There will be obstacles. Identify what might get in the way of you achieving your goal and think about how you will meet that challenge. Create a sense of urgency to keep the momentum.

Difficult means setting a goal that will force you to tap into your inner strength and bring the best of yourself to the task at hand. Of course, you don’t want it to be so hard that you quit before you even start. Think about the accomplishments that you are most proud of in your life. Did they come easy or were they difficult to achieve? When you reach a HARD goal, you will say I gave it my all and it was worth it. I put in the time, made the sacrifices, paid the price and now I feel this tremendous sense of accomplishment. It’s a natural high.

Best wishes for an amazing year ahead where your HARD goals become a reality!

Gale Mote is a trainer, organizational development catalyst and coach in Cedar Rapids. Contact her at