How HARD Goals Lead to the Soft Life

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Most people I know have dreams that are larger than life. Irrespective of their background, they believe something good lies in their future. I’m sure you do too. Sure, there are a few people who are okay with being average as long as they are comfortable (if you’re reading and fall in this category, we should talk. Send me an email sometime).

I found out that 8 out of every 10 people I know want to be one of the best at what they do, achieve societal relevance, be more successful than the average, and be comfortable enough to help others around too. Sounds simple right? It is. It’s also a ginormous dream in most places.

Things begin to get interesting at this point. When you ask how people hope to achieve their dreams, two characteristics greet your query. Ease and Speed.

Ease and Speed vs Hard Goals


Most people want success as quickly and easily as possible. Students want to put in the minimal effort for A-grades. Young people want to gamble their way into wealth. Ease and speed are two reasons why people still fall for get-rich-quick schemes. It’s probably why, when possible and assured of quality, you’ll prefer to order online and get it delivered to you in your place.

If you have a product that promises both, you’ll attract a lot of attention (and make some good money). Psychologists have shown that a promise that delivers on ease and speed will grab people’s attention on any given day. The average human loves ease, speed and comfort (and why not). We even have a term for it. ‘Soft work’. ‘Soft life’. Or to use street parlance, ‘blow’.

Whatever you choose to call it, upward mobility on the path of least resistance is a rarity. A life of bliss without challenges and trials isn’t so common. What is common and bound to yield the expected result is what the Founder and CEO of Leadership IQ, Mark Murphy, captured in his book, Hard Goals.

I am aware that you love soft work and you are a fan of everything easy and calm. I am too; I want more money for lesser work (and I mean, who doesn’t? ). However, I know that on the path to achieving your dream, things will first get HARD before they become easy.

HARD Goals


Mark Murphy’s HARD model provides an emotional connection to your goals that can keep you motivated in the long run so you keep up with the energy required to obtain the results you want. HARD stands for Heartfelt, Animated, Required, and Difficult. The model is designed to help you achieve high performance and motivation by tapping into your emotions, imagination, urgency, and challenge.

H — Heartfelt

If you don’t have a strong ‘why’ for your goals, you’ll likely switch lanes midway or stop pursuing them. By defining your ‘why’, you build a heartfelt connection to your dream/goal and that becomes your drive.

A — Animated

Beyond words, picture what it would look like to achieve your dreams – make it vivid. For example, before writing this post, I imagined you reading and experiencing a mind-shift. Humans just love visual stimulation. It’s why VR and AR are driving immersive experiences. It’s why TikTok and Instagram are more likely to keep you on your phone for hours than an ebook. The animation process gives life to the goals you have in your mind; making them more tangible and loveable.

R — Required

Convince yourself that executing your goals is necessary and not an option. Otherwise, you will become a victim of procrastination time and again. You can develop a sense of urgency for your HARD goals by bringing future costs into the present.

For example, it will always be more expensive to start a business in two years or acquire a new degree or skill set than it is now. Contrast that with the potential gains of starting now and you begin to get a sense that your effort is not an option in the interim but a necessity. That urgency is what you need to spur you into action.

D — Difficult

How many tangible things that you’re proud of came on a platter of gold? Nobody likes difficult things. I know I don’t. However, gold will always be forged out of adversity. Ask someone who is first learning a new skill. Things are generally first difficult before they are easy but if you follow through, ease is around the corner.

Much the same way smart goals are good but hard goals are better, soft work is great but first put in the hard work.

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