When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.
I had lunch yesterday with a favorite friend who heads up an organization that is vital to the future of a major portion of our city. Like so many other community based initiatives these days the needs and opportunities far exceed the resources needed to do all that could be done.
As is always the case my friend has to establish priorities and then implement realistic plans that will do the most for those she serves. In situations like these the key is the ability not only to secure funds but also to motivate talented volunteers who can lend their hands, hearts and minds to help assure success.
Unfortunately too many think that getting people engaged and productive is easy but they find it is not. When goals are set they must be challenging but also realistic, people will soon walk away if the goals are so difficult to reach that they get frustrated by the lack of progress. Here is an article written some years ago by Heidi Grant Halvorson Ph.D. that I wish those whose job it is to rally the troops will take to heart.
The 3 Biggest Myths About Motivation That Won’t Go Away
People can have remarkably keen insights into their own behavior. Then again, people can also be remarkably wrong about why they, and everyone else, do the things that they do. And some of those people turn out to be motivational speakers and authors. No doubt their intentions are very admirable—many genuinely want to help others to reach a higher level of success. But too often, they simply end up reinforcing false notions (albeit intuitively appealing ones) about how motivation works. Here are three of the most firmly entrenched motivational myths:
Just Write Down Your Goals, and Success is Guaranteed!
There is a story that motivational speakers/authors love to tell about the Yale Class of 1953. Researchers, so the story goes, asked graduating Yale seniors if they had specific goals they wanted to achieve in the future that they had written down. Twenty years later, the researchers found that the mere 3 percent of students who had specific, written goals were wealthier than the other 97 percent combined. Isn’t that amazing? It would be if it were true, which it isn’t.
I wish it were that simple. To be fair, there is evidence that getting specific about what you want to achieve is really important. It’s not a guaranteed road to fabulous wealth, but still important. In other words, specificity is necessary, but it’s not nearly sufficient. Writing goals down is actually neither—it can’t hurt, but there’s also no hard evidence that writing per se does anything to help.
Just Try to Do Your Best!
Telling someone, or yourself, to just “do your best” is believed to be a great motivator. It isn’t. Theoretically, it encourages without putting on too much pressure. In reality, and rather ironically, it is more-or-less permission to be mediocre.
Edwin Locke and Gary Latham, two renown organizational psychologists, have spent several decades studying the difference between “do your best” goals and their antithesis: specific and difficult goals. Evidence from more than 1,000 studies conducted by researchers across the globe shows that goals that not only spell out exactly what needs to be accomplished, but that also set the bar for achievement high, result in far superior performance than simply trying to “do your best.” That’s because more difficult goals cause you to, often unconsciously, increase your effort, focus and commitment to the goal, persist longer, and make better use of the most effective strategies.
Just Visualize Success!
Advocates of “positive thinking” are particularly fond of this piece of advice. But visualizing success, particularly effortless success, is not just unhelpful—it’s a great way to set yourself up for failure.
Few motivational gurus understand that there’s an awfully big difference between believing you will succeed, and believing you will succeed easily. Realistic optimists believe they will succeed, but also believe they have to make success happen—through things like effort, careful planning, persistence, and choosing the right strategies. They don’t shy away from thinking “negative” thoughts, like what obstacles will I face? and how will I deal with them?
Unrealistic optimists, on the other hand, believe that success will happen to them, if they do lots and lots of visualizing. Recent research(link is external) shows that this actually (and once again, ironically) serves to drain the very energy we need to reach our goals. People who spend too much time fantasizing about the wonderful future that awaits them don’t have enough gas left in the tank to actually get there.
You can cultivate a more realistically optimistic outlook by combining confidence in your ability to succeed with an honest assessment of the challenges that await you. Don’t visualize success—visualize the steps you will take in order to make success happen.
“A goal properly set is halfway reached.”
Mom was getting swamped with calls from strangers. The reason? A medical billing service had launched an 800 number that was identical to hers. When she called to complain, she was told to get a new number. I’ve had mine for twenty years,” she pleaded. “Couldn’t you change yours?”
The company refused.
So Mom said, “Fine. From now on, I’m going to tell everyone who calls that the bill is paid in full.”
The company got a new number the next day.
The argument you just won with your spouse isn’t over yet
On a recent flight, an elderly passenger kept peering out the window. Since it was totally dark, all she could see was the blinking wing-tip light. Finally, she rang for the flight attendant.
“I’m sorry to bother you,” she said, “but I think you should inform the pilot that his left-turn indicator is on and has been for some time.”
Boy is this true!!! The problem with telephones is that they never nap when you do.
Upon arriving home in eager anticipation of a leisurely evening, the husband was met at the door by his sobbing wife. Tearfully she explained, “It’s the druggist – he insulted me terribly this morning on the phone.”
Immediately the husband drove downtown to accost the druggist and demand an apology. Before he could say more than a word or two, the druggist told him, “Now, just a minute – listen to my side of it. This morning the alarm failed to go off, so I was late getting up. I went without breakfast and hurried out to the car, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t lock the house with both house and car keys inside. I had to break a window to get my keys.
Driving a little too fast, I got a speeding ticket. Then, about three blocks from the store I had a flat tire. When I finally got to the store there was a bunch of people waiting for me to open up. I got the store opened and started waiting on these people, and all the time the darn phone was ringing its head off. Then I had to break a roll of nickels against the cash register drawer to make change, and they spilled all over the floor.
I got down on my hands and knees to pick up the nickels – the phone is still ringing – when I came up I cracked my head on the open cash drawer, which made me stagger back against a showcase with a bunch of perfume bottles on it, and half of them hit the floor and broke. The phone is still ringing with no let up, and I finally got back to answer it.
It was your wife – she wanted to know how to use a rectal thermometer.
And Mister, I TOLD HER!”
Middle age is when you’ve met so many people that every new person you meet reminds you of someone else.
“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”
Stay well, do good work, and have fun.
Management is not responsible for duplicates from previous dailies. The editor is somewhat senile.
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