The HARDer your goal, the better!

Do most of the worldwide goal setting strategies actually work? The honest answer would be no. The majority of these strategies (some may be called myths as well I suppose) are not getting people where they really want to be. For example, many people set New Year resolutions. Interestingly, researchers have identified that of those who set New Year resolutions, 85% will have abandoned their resolution within 90 days of the dawn of the New Year. This is just one example of how goal setting goes wrong and how we don’t achieve our true potential.

If we talk about vision, the SMART goal concept is one that comes to our mind most often.

The SMART goal methodology, originally created in the 1950s, is most commonly defined as SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ACHIEVABLE, REALISTIC, and TIME-BOUND. If you are still bound to a SMART goal concept, it is now time to refresh your knowledge.

SMART goals are useful for completing a task, but it is not highly practical for great accomplishments that go beyond an individual task.

If we ask ourselves if ‘SMART’ goals are going to help us to achieve great things this year, they will help you realize your potential, but they would not really allow you to achieve something of real significance in the workplace or life.  Now does that mean this concept is all bad? Absolutely not. There are instances where SMART goals seem to work. However, sometimes they hinder us from achieving our full potential.

Therefore, Mark Murphy introduces the HARD Goals concept.

A HARD goal is a new way of thinking about goal setting; it could be called a new science of human achievement.

If you think about the great achievements you’ve had in your life, we look back at those with amazing pride and say, ‘You know what? That was something really special.’ Think about a couple of those achievements and pick the favorite one. Now ask yourself, was that accomplishment easy or difficult? Did you accomplish it within your comfort zone or did you have to leave your comfort zone? Did you already know everything you needed to achieve this goal or did you have to learn new skills along the way? Was it a fait accompli or did you have a few moments of doubt?

Generally speaking, our greatest achievements were difficult, we had to learn new skills, they were outside our comfort zone and we had moments of doubt along the way. This is the recipe of the greatness. These are the factors that allowed you to achieve greatness in all those major moments in your lives.

So back to the HARD Goal. What is the HARD Goal? The HARD Goal is four basic characteristics your goal should possess if you want to achieve a truly significant accomplishment.

  • H – Heartfelt
  • A – Animated
  • R – Required
  • D – Difficult

Let’s now look at a brief description of each of these.


Heartfelt means that we have an emotional connection to our goal. The more we care about that goal the more we say ‘you know what, I want this so much in my heart. I really feel a deep connection to this goal. No roadblock is going to get in my way.’ When you feel like this towards your goal, well, that’s the recipe for success right there.

So we have to ask the questions; why do I care about this goal? What am I going to be getting out of this goal? How is this goal going to benefit me even if the goal was set by somebody else? Even if it were set by another, you have to make it your own goal or you will not have the emotional juice to get you over the bumps in the road to realizing this goal. So, we must ask the questions, how do I benefit? What do I get out of this? It is only when you ask and answer those questions that you start building an emotional attachment to your goal.


Animated is the question of whether or not we can clearly see the goal in our minds.

Generally, vision stimulates the other senses, so when you can see a goal clearly, when you know what that goal is going to look like, it puts you in a position to a build an urgency for that goal. You focus exactly on what you need to do to get there. It helps clarify what you’re trying to achieve.

When you can get the visual parts of your brain activated, it established the goal in your mind, and it makes you more disciplined and more willing to achieve the desired goal.


We need a sense of urgency for our goals. It is far too easy for us to say ‘that goal sounds like a really good idea but I’ll start it tomorrow, I’ll start next week etc…’ the minute we say things such as these, the goal is simply never going to happen. One of the biggest killers of goals is procrastination. Therefore, one of the things you must think about is how do I build an urgency for my goal. A fascinating technique that works amazingly well is identifying the thing(s) you need to do today to achieve your goal. 

The achievement of a goal is not about doing 20 things differently every day.  It is about doing the one thing that needs to be done today to keep you on track to achieving the big hard goal. Let’s imagine your goal is a year from now. You say ‘here’s my target, here’s exactly what it looks like. I can picture or visualize it. I have an emotional connection to it. Now I need to be sure of what must be accomplished in six months from now in order to be on track to achieving that 12 months target.

Cutting that in half is what you must do within three months from now in order to be on track for the six months, in order to be on track for achieving that 12 months target.

Then again what do you need to be doing at the end of 30 days? The next question you must ask yourself is what do I need to do today? You discipline yourself and begin to notice the goal. You’re not making your goal easier but you’re breaking it up achievable parts so that you give yourself something highly specific to do right here right now.


For people to achieve amazing things, it is not enough that they are neurologically good, they have to be neurologically activated. What has been shown through many researches is that the more difficult the goal, the better the performance. If you want to achieve something great, don’t set a goal that is too easy. It should be a goal that is really going to neurologically activate you. That goal has to be more difficult than the goals you’ve been used to.

Research has found that a new goal should be probably twenty to thirty percent more difficult than the previous goal in order to get us into that sweet spot of difficulty where our brain is activated and gets us neurologically excited.

If your goal is HARD, that is what great achievement looks like. That is what great achievement comes from.

Think about the most difficult thing, the biggest or most significant thing you’ve accomplished in your life, the thing that gave you an immense sense of pride. Those goals were difficult, but you were emotionally connected to them. You could visualize their achievement. You could feel the urgency and that pushed you out of your comfort zone to learn new things that were needed to realize your goal. This is the recipe for greatness. You just have to look back into your life history and do exactly what you’ve done in each of those previous instances when you tasted greatness. Once you’ve done it, once you know the recipe, you know how great it feels and now you’re positioned to go do it again.

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