Setting HARD Goals — Part 1

A friend recently recommended that I read a book by Mark Murphy called “HARD Goals”. After getting through half of the book, I’d like to summarize the first two keys (“HA”) of effective goal setting and how they have helped me to reinforce my commitment to programming and getting through Launch School (LS). I hope it is especially helpful to those who are struggling to keep the motivation alive or for those who are feeling ‘burnt out’ or generally unclear about their path.

First we need a goal. I will choose “completing LS Curriculum and launching a career in software development” as an example. It is a relatively difficult and long term goal that comes with its share of “Tugs and Shoves” which the author describes as positive and negative issues that affect your motivation, energy level and your ability to give 100% in pursuit of your goal — something we all face on a path to mastery. To remedy this, instead of making ‘SMART’ goals, the author proposes that we think big and connect to our goals on an emotional level by making ‘HARD’ goals instead. Our goals must be:


First, we must have a deep emotional attachment to our goals. We may know vaguely why we have a particular goal but I found it to be a valuable exercise to think and write about the real reason for achieving my goal, thus creating an emotional connection to it. Interestingly, it does not seem to matter if the primary motivators for reaching a goal are intrinsic or extrinsic; both are valid as long as you make them work for you and make the connection to your goal a personal one. To make a goal personal, imagine taking on your goal for the benefit it will deliver to someone other than yourself. This is most commonly a specific person in your life but it can also be someone you don’t actually know — you can still develop a deep connection to almost any goal by becoming emotionally connected to the beneficiaries of that goal. In summary of the first tenet, there are three ways to build a heartfelt connection to your goals as suggested by Mark Murphy:

  • Intrinsic: Develop a heartfelt connection to the goal itself.
  • Personal: Develop a heartfelt connection to the person you’re doing a goal for.
  • Extrinsic: Develop a heartfelt connection to the payoff.

Next, our goals should be:


As the definition of the word implies, we should “inspire, heighten, intensify, give lifelike qualities to” our goals. The general message here is that more you can picture a goal, the more intensely it will be encoded in your brain, the more it will insinuate itself into your life and consciousness, thus making the achievement of that goal a virtual necessity. You may know it as the power of visualization and it has been proven to work!

We should make our goal imaginable and picture our goal often — as you do this, it becomes more real and you can conceive of it being a part of your life. What is the setting of the scene when you accomplish your goal? What are you doing and where are you sitting? What colour do you see and what are you feeling? Because we are wired for visual stimuli, more specific you can be, the better.

So what is your emotional connection to your goal and can you paint a vivid picture of what life is like when you accomplish it?