Mark Murphy's HARD Goal framework


After having numerous discussions about goals and setting them with many people, I've encountered a significant number who struggle to find and define the purpose and reason behind their goals. While contemplating how I could assist in setting their purposes, I came across Mark Murphy's HARD goal framework and summarized the points I learned.

Although Mark Murphy's HARD Goal framework may not be suited for setting extremely long-term visions of 10 or 20 years, it appears highly effective for establishing mid-term goals spanning 1 to 3 years. If you consider this as a framework for setting an "Objective" in the well-known OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) approach while reading, you might find it useful in discovering helpful insights for your own objectives.

Mark Murphy's HARD Goal Framework

H - Heartfelt

What drives your interest in this goal?

This question should be the initial step in any goal-setting process. At this stage, you'll establish the purpose and reason for your goal. Before you make your goals concrete, it's essential to deeply consider why you're drawn to them. If your motivations align only with reasons such as the ones below, then the goal is unlikely to serve you well:

  • My boss believes achieving this is crucial.
  • I established this goal because I felt obligated.
  • Others who influence my life think it’s valuable, though I personally do not.

To truly secure a driving force behind your goal, responses like the ones above will prove ineffective. Your goals need to be rooted in sincere personal motivation, incorporating a mix of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

Intrinsic Motivation:

  • Intrinsic motivation arises from an individual’s own interest, curiosity, self-satisfaction, and sense of achievement in relation to a task.
  • This motivation is enduring because the activity itself or the resulting sense of achievement serves as its own reward, independent of any external reinforcement.
  • Cognitive theories, which emphasize internal mental processes, regard intrinsic motivation as significant.

Extrinsic Motivation:

  • Extrinsic motivation is derived not from the task itself but from the rewards or punishments associated with the task's outcome.
  • This form of motivation is only effective when there is reinforcement for the outcomes, thus lacking persistence.
  • Behaviorists, who seek to modify human behavior through the connection of stimuli and responses, emphasize the role of extrinsic motivation.

Setting goals motivated solely by the pursuit of social recognition, such as power, wealth, or fame, can result in many adverse effects and make it difficult to sustain those goals once the desired level of recognition is achieved. What, then, would be your intrinsic motivation in the process of attaining that social recognition? You need motivation related to aspects where you can experience interest, curiosity, and a sense of achievement. Here, what interests and intrigues "you" is crucial.

Let's look at some examples:

"I've always enjoyed creating things. I lose track of time when I'm making something, and I feel a thrill when my creations receive responses from customers and the market. I believe that if I continue to use my talent and motivation to make products I love, social wealth and honor will naturally follow."

If you specify your area of interest, it could also look like this:

"I've always loved documentaries related to the Earth's environment. I genuinely enjoy embarking on expeditions to explore unknown worlds, and I do so at least four times a year. I lose track of time when I'm making videos. I feel a thrill when my work, created from my unique perspective, is acknowledged by the public. I believe that if I continue to pursue my interest and motivation in making videos related to the Earth's environment and documentaries, social wealth and honor will indeed follow."

A - Animated

Visualize your goals in vivid images with clear emotions

To make our set goals more compelling, you need to leverage one of humanity's greatest abilities: imagination. When thinking of a HARD goal, you must have something that comes to your mind as clearly as a photo or video. That is, you need to visualize the goal, turning it into a vivid, captivating mental image.

Take a look at famous examples of goals brought to life:

  • Martin Luther King envisioned a future where racial issues in America steadily improved. "I have a dream that one day, on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood."
  • John F. Kennedy focused on America winning the space race against the Soviet Union because it was desirable. "The United States must work diligently to achieve the goal of landing a human on the moon and safely returning them to Earth within the next year."

How can we breathe life into our goals?

  1. Create a Vision:
    • Imagine how achieving your goal will make you feel, creating a vivid vision in your mind. This vision should be clear and evoke the emotions you'll experience upon success.
  2. Enrich the Vision with Details:
    • If your goal is to complete a marathon, visualize yourself sweaty, crossing the finish line, and embracing your children.
    • If it's about getting a promotion, picture your discreet celebration upon hearing the news.
    • Use a first-person perspective to give more life into your goal-achieving process.
  3. Write and Speak Out Your Vision:
    • Once you have a clear mental image, it's crucial to write it down. Writing down everything on paper allows you to store the mental images for future use, embedding the content deeply within your mind.
    • This process of visualizing and writing goals initiates a powerful cognitive journey, helping to define spatial relationships and enhance clarity. Writing the envisioned mental images in words solidifies them.
    • This can be reinforced through repetition. By writing down or speaking to yourself about what you want to become every day, you can enhance your motivation and adopt a more goal-oriented mindset in both your thoughts and actions.

For the one who dreamed of becoming a documentary director from the above, a vivid goal might look like this:

"I am holding the Best Documentary Academy Award trophy in my hand. My creation's name is displayed on the big screen, with me standing in the middle. I am speaking about the future I deeply desire with an undying passion. Everyone inspired and changed by my work stands up and looks at me. Continuous applause of admiration for my efforts fills the air."

R- Required

Set goals that are not optional but absolutely necessary for my (or the company's) happiness and growth.

Is the goal you're currently considering not just "nice to have" but absolutely essential for the success of your life or your company? If so, achieving this goal is not a choice. It becomes something you must do because it is essential. If you truly believe, both intellectually and emotionally, that it is urgently needed, then you cannot afford to use the word "tomorrow."

Once you say "tomorrow," there's a high likelihood you will say it repeatedly, which could eventually turn into a day, a month, or even years of delay. The trick to overcoming procrastination is to place value on "the results in the future." This is because procrastination stems from centering our gravity on current satisfaction, comfort, or profit. What is the future value of the work you do now? What is the expected value of the future you desperately desire? You must realize that the value of the future you desire depreciates with every day you delay.

D - Difficult

Set challenging goals that require significant effort and new abilities

We will establish a goal so challenging that we have no option but to utilize all our talents, and upon achieving it, we will feel a sense of achievement. Consider for a moment:

  • Looking back on your past, what achievement are you most proud of?
  • The level of pride varies greatly among individuals and is something only you can determine. However, let's answer the following questions:
  • Was your proudest achievement easy to achieve, or was it difficult?
  • From your perspective, did it require a lot of effort, or not much at all?
  • Did you know everything you needed to at the start of the goal, or did you have to acquire new skills and capabilities along the way?
  • Were you worried when you first set out to achieve this goal, or were you confident you would succeed?
  • During the process, did you ever completely relax, or did you need to stay focused to realize your potential?

If you're like most people, the achievements you're most proud of were filled with moments of difficulty, required significant effort, involved learning new things, and were times when you were not sure you were on the right track. If you haven't experienced such moments, you may lack the experience of achieving truly HARD goals. In such cases, experiencing what it's like to push yourself to the limit might be necessary.

HARD goals must be challenging for you to awaken an inner sense of achievement. These goals expand and utilize the source of potential already existing within you. The desirability of setting challenging goals is clear, as is the fact that they require considerable effort. However, you wouldn't want goals to be so overwhelmingly difficult that you can't even begin to attempt them, as this could demotivate and lead to giving up. Therefore, it's crucial to evaluate past experiences, set goals, and determine where your sweet spot lies. If unsure, rather than starting with goals that seem easy and gradually increasing the difficulty, setting challenging goals and then adjusting the difficulty level down to gauge your level might be more helpful.

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