Writing goals down and sharing your goals with select people has been widely publicized for years as integral elements to goal achievement. But without the correct mindset, as you take on the tasks to achieve your goals, all your efforts of documenting and sharing may fall by the wayside. What you think about while doing the tasks that will lead to your goal can have an enormous impact on your chances for success.
In the book Ultra Mindset, Travis Macy highlights research into goal achievement from social psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson Ph.D. Grant suggests there are two main types of thinking you need to be more effective at for completing goal oriented tasks, be it challenging or monotonous.
Thinking of your goals in WHY and WHAT terms will help you be more successful in achieving them.
When performing mindless, boring tasks, which don’t require much focus, think in ‘WHY’ terms. Keeping your attention on WHY you want to achieve the goal will help get you energized, stay motivated, or avoid temptation.
The next time you are out for a walk in the cold or heat, raking leaves, filing paperwork, doing data entry and your motivation to continue starts to wane, focus your thinking on WHY you are doing it.
I remember when I did my first Ironman. The day before the race, they had some guest speakers at the expo. One of the speakers was a world-class triathlon coach and he told the audience that we better know our WHY for wanting to complete the Ironman.He went on to say that there would be several times during the day (10-14 hours for most people) that we will ask ourselves WHY we are doing this and if we didn’t have a clear-cut easy answer, there is a high chance that we would quit the race.
If we spent the day focusing on WHAT we were doing (swimming, biking and running), which for much of the time is not enjoyable, our thinking would have shifted to, this is boring, I am tired, or I don’t want to do this anymore. Fortunately, I had a clear-cut answer ready but it was a good reminder to keep thinking about my WHY throughout the day, especially in tough moments.
For you it may be when these reports are submitted, I will be paid, or when these leaves get racked up, the lawn will look nice, or when I book all these appointments, I will greatly increase my chances of making a sale.
When tackling something particularly difficult and unfamiliar or anything that takes a long time to learn, it is important to think about your goals in WHAT terms. Directing your thinking on the WHAT allows you to focus on the steps needed to complete a take in order to solve the problem or fully complete that task.
In the book, Macy shares an example of a time when competing in a multisport adventure race, they were they transiting from biking to kayaking. In their rush for a quick transition, they focused on the WHY, i.e. move fast so we can win, when they needed to be focusing on the WHAT.
Methodically pack up the kayaks so there is an even distribution of equipment, weight and most importantly leave the map out on the deck of the kayak, as the navigation would be challenging. In their focus on the WHY, they hastily packed their kayak and accidently stuffed the map into one of the hard to reach cargo holds.
They didn’t realize this mistake until they were hours past the finish location of the kayak section. Backtracking caused them to lose valuable time and ended up costing them the race. When they should have been thinking about what they were doing, they were thinking about why.
Action: Become aware of which type of thinking to use when. To practice this write a list or situations for WHAT thinking (detail oriented talks), List situations for Why thinking (common boring, drawn-out tasks).