How to make your goals happen is adapted from Joe De Sena’s new book, the Spartan Way. Pre-order the book now to get a set of free gifts from Joe.
How do you make your goals happen? It starts by making them worthy.
Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck says how you acknowledge success plays a key role in creating intrinsic motivation. Dweck has spent decades examining why some people are motivated to achieve more than others and defines her research within the simple but powerful idea that people have one of two mindsets. Those with a “fixed mindset” assume that character, intelligence, talent, and abilities are as rigid as a rock and cannot be changed; and success will come to those blessed with the right smarts, skills, and strengths. People with a “growth mindset” believe that talents and capabilities can be developed, and they see failure not as evidence of incompetence or weakness, but as a challenge to themselves to stretch and improve. Most of us adopt one of these two mindsets when we are children. From then on we apply “fixed” or “growth” thinking to our daily behaviors, which colors our relationship with success and failure.
As part of her investigation into this topic, Dweck carried out a study with 128 fifth-graders. The students were separated into groups and given a simple IQ test. One group was told it performed really well and was praised for being smart. The other group was told it performed really well and was praised for effort. The researchers then asked the kids if they wanted to take another easy test or opt for a harder one. The majority of those kids praised for their intelligence jumped on the easy option, while 90 percent of those praised for their hard work were up for the more difficult challenge. Why? Dweck says the “smart kids” didn’t want to appear stupid so they decided to hedge their bets by doing an easier quiz. The praise they were given told them they had an innate intelli- gence and they wanted to protect this view of themselves. The children who were praised for their effort, however, reasoned that if they put in even more effort, there was a good chance they might achieve better results. They saw themselves as being in control of their success, while the others, who were told their intelligence was fixed, saw themselves as hav- ing no control over their success.
Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right,” and the premise here is more or less the same. If you enthusiastically believe in your ability to succeed, you are more likely to persevere with passion and reach your goal.
Make Your Goal Worthy of Your Enthusiasm
For decades, organizational psychologists Gary Latham and Edwin Locke have analyzed more than one thousand studies on motivation and task performance for their research on goal setting. They found that simply telling yourself to “do your best” is ineffective for reaching your goal. Ninety percent of the time, having a special goal that could be measured (such as beating your last 10K time or doing ten more burpees today than you did last week) and was difficult led to better performance than easier, less specific goals.
If the challenge isn’t difficult enough to seem significant to you, they argue, how could that motivate you to work harder? Enthusiasm is fueled by significant challenge and the reward of feeling great once the goal is achieved.