The Harvard Business Review published a very interesting study last week entitled, "What separates goals we achieve from goals we don't?" In it, the authors say that while delayed gratification is a good thing because it allows us to enjoy more in the future, their research shows that this is not the case in reality. In fact, if we simply kept our eyes on the prize, and focused all gratification on that prize, our likelihood of reaching it would be lower than if we spent some of the rewards along the way. They share three things that are worth considering if you want to be more successful...
(1) Have fun
In their research, the authors found out that gym-goers did 52% more repetitions in their weight lifting if they focused on enjoyment than if they focused on effectiveness. The authors recommend that if one wanted to be fitter, they should focus on exercises that they find fun, and not simply one which provided fastest results. In my own experience, I have also found this to be the case. I am concurrently running an academy which helps mid-career executives find a job in the supply chain industry; and once they are employed, they get to attend classes to level them up with the workings of the industry. Being in the media and political spotlight, there are many stakeholders, each wanting us to move in a certain direction. If I take the job too seriously, and throw my whole weight onto it, moving it along the lines of all the stakeholders, I would be a nervous wreck. Instead, I focus on the individuals looking for jobs, and the employers who are open to employing them. It brings me immense joy in seeing a match between the two, when one finds a job through our efforts. That's what's driving us, and interestingly enough, it is also producing the right results.
(2) Reward yourself along the way
Having a large target is important, but you need to plan for intermediate goals. And then reward yourself along the way. The authors found out that students worked longer on their math assignments if they were allowed to listen to music, eat, and work with different coloured pens. Although these seem to be distractions from the task at hand, they actually help support the effort, and keep the students on-task for much longer, with better results. I see this at work all the time. Growth Consulting was set up last February. We have grown from strength to strength, reaping better business results this year than last. Yet, at each juncture, we stopped, celebrated, indulged a little on ourselves, and then moved on. Such rejuvenation is important because it also allows us to take stock of how we are progressing, and what we need to do differently to get to where we ultimately want to be. If we only had one big goal, there is no way to sustain the activities. By having mini-goals along the way, and celebrating them, you inject new energy into the project which keeps you on-task much longer and much more effectively.
(3) Reflect on immediate benefits
In their studies, the authors found that people ate 50% more healthy food when they focused on taste than when they focused on health benefits. By accentuating the immediate benefits - taste - people are better energised to continue down the path of eventual success. Going back to my academy role, we have a huge target of becoming a major industry player with a very unique value proposition which utilises design thinking to create a living, learning environment. That is such a huge multi-year target that can only be achieved through the concerted efforts of many people. Being a lean organisation, we are unable to pull it off unless through concerted reflection of the immediate benefits of each step. By stacking the immediate goals, one upon the other, and focusing on what makes them meaningful, and what energises us, we are able to ascend and meet future business needs. It may be long, but it does not need to be arduous. By reflecting on the meaning of immediate benefits, and appreciating these benefits, we will be able to build on a tsunami of effort, leading quickly to your main intent.
It's how you get there
No one is saying the destination is not important. Indeed, if you didn't have a purposeful intent, then your actions will seem quite trivial, and that would not be sustainable. Yet, having that large intent does not help to get you there. You will need to break them down into manageable chunks, each of which is fuelled by its own rewards. You must collect those rewards, because these help you to not just celebrate milestones, but also to recalibrate and move onto the next milestone. Ultimately, it is not just where you go that matters, but how you get there. By focusing on the fun, the benefits and the rewards, you will make the journey that much more viable.
Here's to your success!