1: Yes, the research is clear: Goal-setting improves our performance.  

But there’s more to the story.

“Simple as the idea of goal setting might seem, there’s trouble in the particulars,” Steven Kotler writes in his brilliant book The Art of the Impossible

“What the research shows is that not every goal is the same, nor is every goal appropriate for every situation and—most important—the wrong goal in the wrong situation can seriously hinder performance and actually lower productivity and motivation.”  

There are three types of goals, Steven tells us: (1) massively transformative, (2) high and hard, and (3) clear goals.  

Each type of goal corresponds to a different timescale.

A massively transformative purpose (MTP) lasts a lifetime. A high, hard goal may take years to achieve. And clear goals are accomplished one day or minute at a time.

The bottom line? We must know which goal to focus on when. “Across the shorter timescales of the moment, attention needs to be on the task at hand (the clear goal) and not the reason for doing the task (the high, hard goal or MTP),” Steven writes. “Getting this wrong can block flow—depriving goal setters of the very boost in performance we’ll need to achieve those goals.”

Over the next three days, we will do a deep dive into each type of goal and when and why we should focus on each.

We begin with a massively transformative purpose. This is the BIG dream we are chasing. It becomes the overarching purpose or mission statement for our life.  

Steven breaks it down:

“Massively means large and audacious.  

“Transformative means able to bring significant change to an industry, community, or the planet.  

“And purpose? A clear why behind the work being done.”  

2: The big question for today? How do we actually identify our life’s purpose? It sounds intimidating.  

But it doesn’t have to be, Steven tells us.

We begin by taking out a pen and a piece of paper. We write down fifteen massive problems we would like to see solved. These are issues in the world that bother us. Frustrate us. We shake our heads: There must be a better way!

Some examples include “hunger, poverty, or, my personal favorite: protecting biodiversity,” Steven writes. He suggests being specific. “Instead of just ‘protecting biodiversity,’ he writes, “take it a step further and add in the details: ‘Establish mega-linkages to protect biodiversity.'”

This exercise can be done quickly. Perhaps fifteen or twenty minutes. Again, it does not need to be a big, overwhelming project.

This is where it gets interesting. Steven recommends doing this exercise in concert with another activity to identify what we are passionate about. A question we explored last week.

Once we have our two lists: (1) the massive problems we care about and (2) the topics we are passionate about, we hunt for the overlap. The magic is in finding “where our core passion intersects with one or more of these grand, global challenges—a place where our personal obsession might be a solution to some collective problem.”

The place where our passion overlaps with a grand social problem?  

That is our purpose.  

We’ve just made a breakthrough on our path to discovering the mission statement for our life.  

We now likely “have two or three core passion/purpose combinations,” Steven writes. “This is the sketch outline for our our MTP’s (massively transformative purposes). Now all’s that’s required is to turn those ideas into core mission statements.”

3: Two final points: First, once we have our MTP, we now use it as a “first filter,” he suggests. When projects come our way, if it doesn’t advance our mission statement, then it’s a “no.”

“This is critical,” Steven writes. “It doesn’t do much good to do all this work to increase motivation, only to squander it on the frivolous. MTPs, utilized properly, aren’t aspirational, they’re filtrational; they weed out the work that doesn’t matter.”

Second, Our MTP is “a great foundation for a commercial enterprise. Don’t sleep on this detail,” he recommends. Because if really want to cultivate our passion and purpose, at some point, we will need to find a way for that passion and purpose.

More tomorrow!


Reflection: What are fifteen massive problems I would like to see solved? What are the worldwide issues that bother and frustrate me?  

Action: Take fifteen minutes and write them down. Now look for the intersection between this list and my passion recipe. This is my purpose.

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