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PRODUCTIVITY

Why You Should Set Goals So Simple They're Laughable

At a recent class on behavioral science, productivity coach Tiago Forte explained how you can surmount your detrimental over-achiever tendencies.
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In some ways, high-achievers are the worst at behavior change

This is according to full-time productivity consultant and coach Tiago Forte. The reason for this, Forte said, is that high-performers approach new goals in the same ambitious way that they've tackled other challenges. 

"We perform well under pressure, high-stake situations, deadlines. By definition we do well in those situations," Forte said. "So what happens when we want to change our behavior, when we want to create a new habit? We create a high stakes situation," he said.

Forte spoke to an audience about 50 attendees at a recent class on behavioral science and goal design in San Francisco. More specifically, he spoke on how to create habits that happen nearly automatically. 

For example, say your goal is to become well-read on industry news. This can be translated into the habit of reading two articles from an authoritative blog each day. 

However, pledging to do something so manageable is counterintuitive to most high-achievers. Instead, individuals are more likely to set goals such as "I'll finish all of the articles in my reader feed," or "I will read for 60 minutes each night." 

"We create a situation somehow where A) failure is likely and B) failure is terribly, terribly devastating," Forte said. 

But there's an easy solution. In fact, it's ridiculously easy. 

"Make it so easy that you can't say no," Forte said, quoting Leo Babauta, author of the blog, zenhabits. "It should be so simple that it's laughable."

For example, Forte wanted to be able to do pushups. On day one of his new goal, he dropped to the floor and did one pushup. His girlfriend, who was in the room, laughed out loud. But on day two he did two pushups; then in the following days, he did three, four and five. Now, two months later, he's up to 50 pushups a day. 

So go ahead, and do the most painless version of your goal. 

For the incredulous who believe that no one gets anywhere by taking the easy way out, Forte gave two reasons why the approach works. The first is that a baby step, however small, creates momentum. Your brain tends to want you to do the next step automatically, so you'll keep going.

The second is your pride. In reality, there's little chance you'll give yourself a huge break. "There's a certain level at which you will not go easier just to save your own pride," Forte said. 

 

Last updated: Apr 15, 2014

LAURA MONTINI | Staff Writer

Laura Montini is a reporter at Inc. She previously covered health care technology for Health 2.0 News and has served as an associate editor at The Health Care Blog. She lives in San Francisco.




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