Give people the opportunity to surprise you

Goal setting is an important part of your business, but not for the reasons that you think it is.

There’s a famous study (that I can’t find right now but you probably can) in which they found that people who exercised for only 5 minutes per day were more likely to build a habit than their counterparts who tried to exercise for an hour a day.

Why was this the case? The 5 minutes was easy. Manageable. Almost TOO easy.

If they wanted to work out for more than 5 minutes they could (and often did!), but 5 minutes was their bare minimum.

What does this tell us about habit formation?

Start small. Achievable. Manageable.

Eventually over time can we set larger goals for ourselves? Absolutely!

In the beginning however, establishing the habit is what is most important.

Now, how does this apply to a business and goal setting?

I believe in setting achievable goals. Manageable goals. Goals that are easy to exceed.

Why do I do this? So that you give people an opportunity to surprise you.

Rather than setting a goal that’s hard to achieve, you give someone the chance to go above and beyond.

Not only is this good for your business, but more importantly, it’s good for the psychology of your employee!

This person now feels good about themselves. They have succeeded early on. Now they feel primed for future success.

If/when they face setbacks, they can look back to that initial success and use it as fuel for themselves to get back on track.

However, if the opposite happens we’re looking at a much different employee.

The person who didn’t achieve his goals is often discouraged and frustrated. Motivated perhaps, but not the same type of motivation.

When we create goals that are hard to obtain, OR we don’t gradually ramp up expectations about goals, it’s easy to leave employees frustrated with their lack of results.

Imagine a salesman had a goal of 5 sales this month, and he made 8 sales – imagine how happy this person would be!

Now imagine the same salesman with 8 sales had a goal of 10, how do you think he would feel?

Same amount of products sold, same amount of revenue for the company, only difference is the psychological effect on the employee.

This is why I believe that goals are so important. Not because they drive behavior to make sales, but because they influence the mood and demeanor of your team.

Extrapolate this to an entire team as well – imagine the environment of people who all made 8 deals when their goal was 5 – it would be celebratory!

Now imagine the other scenario again with only 1 person out of 5 who made 10 sales – they aren’t going to have the same sense of camaraderie.

Overall the point is this – when we create high expectations for people, no matter how well they perform nothing will ever seem good enough. This will then affect their relationships with themselves, with you, and with your business.

On the other hand when we don’t have expectations, and we give people the space to surprise us, they often do. It might not be how or what you expected, but they will usually rise to the occasion.

This applies in business, habit formation, and your relationships with friends and family as well. Don’t aim to fix problems overnight, focus on small manageable ways to improve parts of the problem and then do this consistently every day.

If you have a difficult family member, or a friendship you’re working on, aim for small improvements. Aim for manageable goals that you can build on over time. Avoid the temptation to fix everything in the relationship in one conversation.

Give people the opportunity to surprise you. Free yourself from your expectations of others and allow them to be who they are. Set goals for small improvements, 1% better each day, and watch how that compounds over time.


Also published on Medium.

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