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Focus on Near-Term Goals for Amazing Achievements

Mark Divine, founder of SEALFIT, former Navy Seal and all-around truly inspiring guy, was a guest on the Social Capitalist a few months back. He shared a ton of information about motivation, mental toughness, teamwork and achievement. In this excerpt, he shares his thoughts on improving productivity by focusing on the short term.

Another thing we teach is collapsing your goals to very achievable, very short-term [targets] when you’re in a stressful situation. It has an amazing effect on eliminating that gap between the known and unknown, which is essentially what fear is. So, collapsing your goals to what I call near-term goals can provide directionality and momentum and give you small victories toward your larger goal. That has a very powerful effect on mental toughness and on your stress response.

I figured this out during Navy SEAL “Hell Week.” People were quitting all around me. We started Sunday at about 6 p.m. and we weren’t going to finish training until the following Friday, and we knew that. We knew that we weren’t getting any sleep. We were going to be training around the clock. So that means Sunday night, Monday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night … Holy cow, that’s a hell of a long time. People would fixate on that like, “I’ve got to make it ‘til Friday!” Guess what? At 3 p.m. or 4 p.m.on Monday morning when it’s dark and they’re miserable because they’ve been in the ocean now for 12 hours and they’re freezing their butts off and they can’t see their way to  Friday – they quit. Most people will quit Sunday night or Monday night. So the class could go from 100 people down to 40 people in a 24-hour period.

I learned very quickly that I needed to collapse my goal to “just get to sunrise,” and that sun comes up and it warms you, and it’s a new day. It has an amazing effect on your spirit, and you’re like, “I made it one night! I’m at sunrise now, let’s just get to breakfast” – because at breakfast I was going to be warm and I was going to fill my belly. After breakfast, let me just get to lunch. That’s how I made it through, one meal at a time, and it was fantastic.

I do this in my everyday life by focusing on one project at a time and then making sure I can finish it. Now, if it’s a project like a writing project, which I’m doing quite a bit now, I’ve got to [break] that down into bite-sized chunks. What I’ll do is say, “Ok, my short-term goal is not to finish this 40-page document but to finish this section that I’m working on.” I won’t move from my computer until I finish that section, and then I’m done. I’m checking off the box. I give myself a pat on the back. I feel like I’ve attained a small victory and then I’ll go off and do something else. I’ll go catch a workout, which is going to make me feel even better.

To read the full transcript of Mark’s Social Capitalist interview, click here. To listen to this and other Social Capitalist podcasts, download them at iTunes.


Steve Noone O'Connor's picture

Great article especially the peak into "Hell Week". In terms of the task breakdown I couldn't agree more.

Coming from a very competitive sales environment I made sure to stop and savour the "mini wins" along the way. Like you said if you have incremental levels of fulfillment (get another meeting, book a demo etc) you'll be much more relaxed along the way and that will definitely resonate with the client.

Murugan Pandian's picture

I like the way Mr. Divine described the approach of "collapsing your goals to very achievable, very short-term [targets]." When I approach a project, I do something similar where I break down all the building blocks of a project in a spreadsheet. I list each task on its own line along with a brief comment and whether it has been completed or not. It is a great way to break down the big goal into many small, achievable goals.

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