Vipassana meditation teacher S.N. Goenka is persistent in encouraging us to work patiently and persistently. In order to be successful.

And I remember the week I found inspiration from young English cricketer Joe Root’s performance in an Ashes Test.

After galloping on sand dunes at sunset, having fun scaring ourselves at Waterworld and marvelling at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, we had settled down for some armchair spectator sport to escape the Abu Dhabi heat.  I was in the UAE to co-deliver a coaching workshop, where we drew on the sports metaphor in business.  We offered the participants a new perspective on goal setting.  And my colleague illustrated it beautifully with examples from his own ballet career.

Why, what and how

In essence it requires us to be more rigorous, clear and expansive in how we set our goals.  It is about going beyond what you want to achieve. To ‘chunk up’ and consider why it is important. That is, what achieving it will mean to you. And conversely to ‘chunk down’. To explore how you will achieve the goal. By breaking it into smaller processes, actions and behaviours.  In this way, you get the higher meaning and motivation (why), measurable-I-know-when-I-will-get-there targets (what) and controllable moments (how); you engage your heart, head and feet.

In his goal setting, one of Joe Root’s goals would have been a measurable target to get 100 in his first Ashes. His why might have been to have his name forever recorded at the historic Lords. Which would tap into his deeper values.  This might have got him out of bed on those early mornings to practise. It might have got him there on the green. But in the performance moment what he focused on was those ‘hows’, in his control. His technique. His nerves. With calm and controlled focus he patiently and persistently went about his work. Relentlessly facing ball after ball, ball after ball. 338 balls in total for 180 runs.

Focusing on the right goal at the right time.

A great example of goal setting is from swimming legend Michael Phelps’ pre and post-meet press conferences at the Beijing Olympics 2008. Thanks to Lane4 for reminding us of the story:

Pre-meet post conference:

Q: “Are you going to beat Mark Spitz’s record of 7 gold medals?”

A: “I’m going to swim my first race and see what happens”

Q: “Yes, but are you going to get the 8?”

A: “I’m going to prepare for my first race and do a good dive”.

Post-meet press conference

Q:  “So did you plan to win 8 golds?”

A:  “I had a piece of paper by my bedside with goals on it”

Q:  “What did it say?”

A:  “At the top of the page – win 8 gold medals”

If you have a compelling why, a clear what and controllable hows, it seems anything is possible.

With patience and persistence.

Photo by Tamarcus Brown on Unsplash

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