How Big Goals Supercharge Entrepreneurial Motivation

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Regardless of what you do, it’s no secret that pretty much anything you accomplish will be a direct result of your motivation. One thing that has become painfully obvious in dealing with people who say they want to be successful is just that: they only want to be successful. Yet when it comes time to turn that desire into action, a lot of people flake. In my line of work, the whole thing only works if students are willing to put in a lot of hours to study the material. This isn’t a joke, and unfortunately a lot of people end up finding that out the hard way. It’s fun to dream about how many hundreds of thousands you’re going to have, but it’s considerably less fun when you look at your account and realize you just took a $15,000 loss because you haven’t been paying attention. Without a doubt, the hugest issue I see with students is a distinct lack of willingness to study.

Unfortunately, the same thing happens with many entrepreneurs in many different fields. Once you move out of the honeymoon phase of coming up with an idea, you’re going to have to execute it, and that takes work. Every entrepreneur who thinks they’re just going to come up with a great idea and watch the money fly into their bank accounts needs a wakeup call.

Vision and goal setting.

First, you can’t expect to have any degree of success without a vision. This vision will serve as your primary motivation throughout everything you do. However, vision alone isn’t enough. Lots of people have a “vision” of being rich and successful. In order to make that vision a reality, you’ve got to have goals.

Setting goals is paramount to your success. However, I actually disagree with the traditional method of goal setting, that is, SMART goals. SMART goals dictate that your goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, results-focused, and time-bound. Now that’s all well and good, but to achieve success beyond your wildest dreams, you’re going to need something a little more powerful. That’s why I subscribe to the Locke/Latham theory of goal setting.

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Locke/Latham Theory.

This theory was first proposed by Professor Edwin Locke of the University of Maryland and Professor Gary Latham of the University of Toronto. The theory states that people who have more difficult (but still attainable) goals perform better than those who have easier goals. Broadly, there are either directional or accuracy goals. Directional goals are those that people work toward without understanding the precise steps needed to achieve the end result; these end up being more motivational. Meanwhile, accuracy goals require the meticulous planning of every step to identify the best path to achieve the goal with minimal deviations.

In other words, the more ambitious the goal, the more motivated you will be to achieve it. SMART goals are great if you know exactly how you’re going to get from point A to point B, but a lot of times life just doesn’t work that way. It’s much better to just start with a massive and ambitious goal and work it out from there.

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Why having big goals matters.

Big goals are the stuff of dreams. It’s one thing to set a short incremental goal; these goals will keep you on track and will give you a steady reminder that you’re making progress. However it’s the big goals that will generate all of your team’s energy. Ambitious goals push you harder than short-term attainable goals simply because you’ll want to test yourselves and see if you can actually reach them.

When an entire team decides that they’re going to go for these big goals, no matter what, they harness all their creativity, imagination and ambition to make it happen. The magic happens for entrepreneurs at this motivational sweet spot where the challenge has become intrinsically rewarding. There, it’s no longer about the easy goals or the money. 

Once you have an ambitious goal and decide to tackle it, I promise you can overcome anything that stands in your way. You and your team will be pushed farther to work harder than you ever thought was possible. This is what makes achieving the goal that much sweeter. Once you’ve gotten what you worked so hard for, you can look at the long road behind you and realize how far you’ve come. The experience will fulfill you as a person, and those are the experiences entrepreneurs strive to have.

My business is teaching, and teachers have certain obligations to their students. I wouldn’t be a very good teacher if I merely taught the basics of trading without providing any motivation whatsoever. Whatever you do, you need to see the big picture for Locke/Latham theory to work. It’s important to remember what you’re working for, whether you’re still in that 9-to-5 waiting to break out into entrepreneurship or have been running your own business for over a decade.

Related: Even If Your Goals Seem Out of Reach, Stay Motivated With These 6 Strategies