I love goals. I always have.
I remember setting cross country mileage goals the summer after 8th grade, when I was just an 85-pound skinny kid. Honestly, I was scared of not succeeding on the freshman cross country team in high school. So I set varying daily goals that rolled up to my overall summer goal of running 500 miles.
Every day I advanced towards my goal of 500 miles by tackling the simpler goal of running x miles each day. It worked! Simple steps, daily achievement, and… success! I met my overall goal of succeeding on the high school cross country team. In fact, I ran for the Varsity team in my freshman year!
What started that summer continued the rest of my life. I absolutely love goals.
I’ve found there are two facets to effective goals.
Edwin Locke is possibly the most cited researcher in psychology. His landmark meta-analysis of 110 goal-oriented studies found one thing: Goals Matter. Simply writing down goals correlates to high performance. I can’t think of a better use of a post-it note.
Maybe it’s the recovering actuary in me, but I think Locke + Amabile = Magic.
Locke = figuring out what to focus on and setting a measurable target.
Amabile = breaking down that target into small, incremental pieces, focusing on tackling those pieces day by day, and taking a moment to celebrate what you’ve accomplished each day. Worry about the piece you need to do today, not the end goal.
That last piece is meaningful. It’s easy to fret over what is left to do! It’s easy to forget to celebrate what we accomplished today. I like to remind myself that completing one step to a larger goal is a reason to do a happy dance.
This pairing of Locke and Amabile research has changed everything for me.
Set the overarching goal. Celebrate the incremental daily progress.