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The 5 Reasons You Should Set Big Goals

The 5 Reasons You Should Set Big Goals

It’s the end of the year, and the beginning of a new one. So it’s very common for people to turn their attention to setting new goals, and plans to improve their life this time of year. Personally, I advocate the “continual goal setting” method, so that whenever an old goal is completed, we have already started a series of new ones. However, if you are using the start of the new year as a measuring point to kickstart your life or business and make life more fulfilling, that is fantastic, and you’ve come to the right place.

In this article it’s my intention to make the case for “setting big goals”, and giving five specific reasons why setting big goals is worthwhile.

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Most of us are familiar with the S.M.A.R.T. method of goal setting. S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym used to remind us that goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound. This method of goal setting is fantastic. I have used it many, many times to produce visible results in my life and business. I’m not suggesting that we should stop setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, I’m just going to make the case that life is really fun when, in addition to our S.M.A.R.T. goals we also throw in some “massive, huge, audacious, incredible” goals to go along with it.

Big goals are scary to many of us. They cut right to the “A” in the S.M.A.R.T. scheme, that is, we may think that we can’t attain them. We look at a big goal, and then we look back at ourselves, and where we are right now, and we think “what is the point of setting a goal like that, I can never attain it.”  The reality is that in many cases we don’t know what we are actually capable of achieving until we try.  We don’t know our limits until we actually test them.

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As a result, massive, crazy, wild goals can make our life more enjoyable and fulfilling. Here is why:

1. If We Allow Ourselves A Moment To Dream, We Get Really Excited

When we stop and think about what life would be like if we actually achieved the big goal, we get excited. The goal itself creates a gravitational pull that negates the need for willpower. The excitement of the possibility pushes us to take action. When we live every single day “under the influence” of a big dream, with a vision in our minds of the actuality of that dream, we are so busy moving towards the goal that we don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves. Regardless of whether we actually achieve the big goal, our life becomes significantly enriched by this new mode of living. Over time, we transform into a new person, one who never feels sorry for themselves, or spends time in “what could have been” because we are so busy (and fulfilled) chasing what we believe is possible.

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2. They Cause Us To Make Long Term Improvements

Big goals cause us to expand our vision (to make room for the goal).  When we expand our vision we confront the reality that there are “structural changes” that must take place in our business or our life (depending on the nature of the goal) in order for the goal to come to fruition. That is, our current infrastructure or systems (in either our business or our life) are not equipped to support the big goal. Once we realize this we start making changes that will have significant positive long term benefits. We “strengthen the foundation” of our business or our life. This creates a ripple effect that spills over into other areas of our life in a positive way.

3. They Make Us Much More Resilient In The Short Term

When we look big, we know that every second counts. We have to give the very best that we have, every single day. We know that we can’t waste a moment in self-pity or meaningless time wasting activities. As a result, we start accounting for the “present moment” much more than we would when we are setting goals that don’t cause us to stretch. In our world of technology, distraction is a great danger. In order to achieve big goals we must be absolutely resilient and relentless in the short term.

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4. They Cause Us To “Get Real” With Ourselves And Confront Our Deficiencies

Big goals cause us to confront reality. If we start with the belief (or even the hope) that a big goal is actually attainable, we must then ask the next question: How could it happen? This question brings to light our relationship with reality.  We have to be honest with ourselves, and address either our poor habits and behaviors (if it is a personal goal) or our poor systems and processes (or lack thereof) if it is a business goal. It is so easy to blame others, never take personal responsibility, and make excuses. It is a courageous (and effective) person however who is willing to accept personal responsibility and take a deep look inward to address deficiencies rather than looking outside. When we set big goals we are forced to look inward first and make changes there.

5. They Cause Us To Develop Powerful Habits

In all of this what is happening is really a change of behavior.  This ultimately is the greatest benefit of setting big goals.  If we are really going after them (with all our heart) then we are forced to change our behavior.  We become much more positive people (point 1). We set up systems and processes that are valuable for the future (point 2), but we live completely in the present and make the most of our time (point 3).  Finally we become “real” with ourselves and look to change internally before we point the blame at others (point 4).  When we maintain all of these behaviors for a sustained period of time, what we are actually doing is something incredible – we are instituting powerful life changing habits.

At this point it doesn’t even matter whether we achieve the big goal or not.  We have achieved arguably a greater victory of having significantly improved ourselves.  This is the ultimate ancillary benefit of setting big goals.  They help us to build, and improve ourselves, dramatically, and it is done through a sustainable change.  It is done through the power of habit.

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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