Goal setting

When and how to use the HARD goals method

By on October 17, 2017

If you conducted a company wide survey, how many employees would be able to correctly state the company’s goals and objectives? For that matter, how many do you think will be able to say they know their own goals and objectives? Are they aware in what direction should their efforts be directed? Are they making the right decisions to help achieve the organisational goals?

To make sure that organizations are successful in reaching their goals, there needs to be more emphasis on making sure every employee has a clear vision about what he or she needs to accomplish in the future. It then gets much easier for them to contribute in a meaningful manner. Clear purpose helps everyone improve productivity and become more proactive. In the end that is what makes them more valuable to the organisation.

It is primarily for this reason that many companies are now looking to streamline their goal setting process throughout the organisation. Employees who have a clear, compelling goal are better able to shift their focus toward actionable behavior. In other words it enables them to systematically direct their attention towards a series of steps required for achieving their goals.  The added benefit of improving your goal setting process is that once employees align their behavior with their intent, managers or they themselves are able to get feedback on their progress.

There are a few well known goal setting methods that are recently gaining traction. While most companies are aware of the SMART goals principle, another method known as the HARD goals method is also gaining popularity.

For example: I want to become more successful

There is no way to determine how this person will become successful, or what is his or her definition of becoming successful. It could be a never ending process as it lacks a concrete definition. Such goals are commonly known as soft goals are they are more generic and vague.

HARD goals method:

It is a concept developed by Mark Murphy in his well-researched 2009 book Hundred Percenters, to set effective goals and stands for:

  • H: Heartfelt
  • A: Animated
  • R: Required
  • D: Difficult


As cheesy as it may sound, but does it feel like you have an emotional attachment to the goal? Is it guiding you to a desired future or prevent you from heading towards an undesirable one? You are more likely to pursue any goal you have a strong connection with. It should be all that your heart desires, as the saying goes.


The next step is to visualize the goal. By visualize we mean how would the goal look like once it has been achieved. What would be the effects of achieving this goal? Also, if you are not able to achieve, then how would the end result look like?  Take a moment and create a picture in your mind about how you would feel about the end result. To connect with your goals in a better way, you need to be more animated with your visualization. The stronger and clearer this vision gets, the more focused you will at working towards these goals.


How does the goal tie in with your path to success? Will it also be responsible for contributing towards your organisational success? Clearly articulate why this goal is required and if it will make an impact in your personal or professional life or both. It proves as a stronger motivation.


Similar to the stretch goals philosophy, it is recommended that these goals should be ambitious and push one away from his or her comfort zone. Set goals that require you to learn new skills or go for challenges that previously intimidated you. It is the only way of making sure you achieve the best version of you.

The HARD goals method is necessary to create an association with your goals so that they can drive higher motivation for their completion.

However do understand that only setting HARD goals will not ensure success for any individual or his/her organization. It is equally important that individuals take into consideration the various factors that may require them to adjust their goals from time to time. The method is just one way of setting you on the right path. Follow that path but take feedback from time and time and be flexible enough to adapt to your circumstances. All these efforts are sure to pay out in the end.

Although the HARD goals method is meant for helping individuals achieve their personal goals, its underlying fundamentals can be extended to the enterprise goal setting culture. 

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