1: Yesterday, we discovered the mission statement for our lives.

Our Massively. Transformative. Purpose.

Now what?

High, hard goals.

“Big goals significantly outperform small goals, medium-sized goals, and vague goals,” says Psychologist Gary Latham, considered one of the godfathers of goal-setting theory along with Edwin Locke.  

High, hard goals are Gary and Edwin’s technical term for big goals. Which are the second type of goal Steven Kotler outlines in his terrific book The Art of the Impossible.  

Steven tells us there are three types of goals, each of which corresponds to a different timescale. A massively transformative purpose (MTP) lasts a lifetime. A high, hard goal may take years to achieve. The third type of goal, a clear goal (which we will explore tomorrow), is accomplished daily.  

2: How do High, hard goals differ from massively transformative purposes (MTPs)? High, hard goals are all the “sub-steps” on our path to achieving our purpose. We take our MTPs and break them into smaller chunks. “High, hard goals are our longer missions, the ones that can take years to achieve. They’re the big steps toward our big dreams,” he writes.  

“I want to write a book or become a doctor or start a company—these are all high, hard goals,” he notes.

Another example: An MTP would be “discover sustainable ways to end world hunger,” Steven observes, “while a high, hard goal is a major step along that path, such as ‘Get a degree in nutrition or ‘Create a nonprofit that uses insect-based proteins to feed the world in a more sustainable fashion.'”

Goal-setting is a key element of motivation, along with drive and grit. And high, hard goals play a key role in increasing our motivation. They “jack up both attention and persistence, which are two factors critical for sustained peak performance,” Steven notes. “And they’re critical because high, hard goals are as advertised: difficult mountains to climb. The grind is real. That’s another reason why that extra attention and persistence matter.”

So, how high and hard should these goals be? Steven advises that we need to find a balance: They “need to be challenging but attainable.” Suppose we’re always “stressed out” about how hard our goal is to achieve. In that case, we’ll “wear ourselves out long before we can achieve it. Plus, the real aim is self-efficacy, that fundamental increase in capability and possibility, the new and improved version” of ourselves that we get to become after achieving the high, hard goal.  

3: Steven has one final recommendation regarding high, hard goals: keep them to ourselves. While Gary and Edwin “originally believed that making our goals public increased motivation, a series of additional studies by NYU psychologist Peter Gollwitzer showed that talking about a goal significantly lessens your chances of achieving it,” Steven writes.

When we tell others about our high, hard goals, we create what’s called a “social reality,” and this has a negative impact on “real reality:” Telling someone about our goal gives us “the feeling that the goal’s already been achieved. It releases the dopamine we’re supposed to get afterward, prematurely. And with that neurochemistry comes the feeling of satisfaction. This is the issue. Once we’ve already felt that high, it’s difficult to get back up for the hard fight required to actually earn it.”

More tomorrow!


Reflection: What are the high, hard goals on my way to achieving my life’s purpose? What are the big steps toward my big dreams?

Action: Journal about the answers to the questions above.

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