1-843-602-9880

“If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure,

you will fail above everyone else’s success.”

-James Cameron[1]

On Tuesday, November 8, 2016, Americans went to the polls to elect the 45th President of the United States. It was a strange election cycle. Before the vote, the most common sentiment that I heard was some variation of, “How did we wind up with these two candidates?”
It seems that voters on the left were disappointed with Hillary Clinton and voters on the right were disappointed with Donald Trump.  According to CBS News Exit Polls, many voters (21% of Democrats and 28% of Republicans) were voting against the other candidate rather than for their party’s candidate.[2]
While voters wondered how Clinton and Trump, with all their baggage, were even nominated, the candidates themselves were not surprised. The presidency had been a long-standing goal, and each of them took the necessary steps to climb to the pinnacle of power.
The First Lady
Hillary Clinton has been a household name for twenty-five years. She was focused on politics since her school days. When her husband, Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, the media engaged in wild speculation about Hillary becoming the first female president.[3] Roger Morris’s 1996 book about the Clinton presidency entitled Partners in Power, was not about Bill Clinton and Al Gore but about Bill and Hillary Clinton.[4]
In 1993, Bill Clinton appointed Hillary to reform the US Health care system. It was an unprecedented move. Hillary oversaw a “1,342-page proposal for universal health insurance for all Americans.”[5] It was known as Hillarycare, the predecessor to ObamaCare, and it was ambitious—perhaps too ambitious. It was widely viewed as a government power-grab and it led to a backlash. In 1994, Republicans took over the House of Representatives and Senate for the first time in 40 years, gaining 54 new seats in the House and 8 in the Senate.
It was a devastating loss, but Hillary was not finished. After Bill’s second term, the Clintons, who hailed from Arkansas and Illinois, strategically relocated to Chappaqua, New York. In 1998, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the senior Senator from New York, announced his plan to retire from the US Senate in 2000. Hillary relocated, in part, to run for the open seat.
She successfully won the US Senate seat in 2000, and she was reelected in 2006. Once her second term was secure, she launched an exploratory committee for the 2008 presidential election. She lost the primary to Barack Obama who went on to win the General Election.
President Obama appointed her to serve as the 67th Secretary of State. She served in this capacity from January, 2009 until February of 2013. She began laying the groundwork for a second presidential run and official announced her candidacy on April 12, 2015.
She easily defeated Bernie Sanders, the Independent, self-described democratic-socialist. From there it appeared that she had a clear path to become the first woman to occupy the Oval Office. Her ambition was so transparent that on Saturday Night Live, Kate McKinnon’s version of Hillary made the following closing statement in a debate parody:

Listen America, I get it.  You hate me. You hate my voice and you hate my face. Well, here’s a tip: if you never want to see my face again, elect me president and I will lock myself in the Oval Office and not come out for four years. But if you don’t elect me I will continue to run for president until the day I die.[6]

By election night, she had spent 576 days as an official candidate for the presidency in 2016, but she had spent most of her lifetime focused on this goal.
Mr. Trump
Donald Trump’s path to the Oval Office was less obvious. He had made a name for himself as a Billionaire New York real estate developer. When “the Donald” announced his candidacy, on June 16, 2015, he was best know for his reality TV show, The Apprentice. He spent 511 days on the campaign trail, besting 16 Republican Party candidates. While a few of these challengers were insignificant, a half-dozen or more could easily have become president.
When he announced his candidacy, the media largely regarded it as a joke.  It was not until Trump won the New Hampshire primary that the media started to really regard him as a serious candidate. By June 7th, 2016, Trump had won 36 primaries and earned 1.4 million votes more than any previous Republican primary candidate.[7] His closest competitor, Ted Cruz, earned just over a third of the votes that Trump had earned.
Throughout the general election, Trump was the underdog. The day before the election, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight Prediction site (http://fivethirtyeight.com/) gave Hillary a 71.4% chance of winning to Trump’s 28.6%.[8]
How did Trump come out of nowhere to claim the highest office in the land? He leveraged his business acumen and celebrity from his 9 years as the demanding boss on The Apprentice. Shortly after he announced, Gallop found that he had 92% name recognition, which was far higher than any of his opponents.[9]
But he didn’t just wake up one day and decide to run for president. In fact, he ran for (or spoke openly about the possibility of running for) president 6 times—1988, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016.[10] As Gwenn Ifill reported on PBS Newshour, “His candidacy was initially dismissed as a prank, a long shot. But, in fact, it was 28 years in the making.”[11]
His first run was chalked up to a publicity stunt, according to Trump biographer, Michael D’Antonio:

In 1987, he had a book, “The Art of the Deal,” that he wanted to promote. Instead of buying ad space, he pretended to run for president. He went to New Hampshire, gave a couple of speeches. He made some pronouncements about the Reagan administration’s failures, and got a lot of attention. He was one of the first people actually to use running for president as a business tactic.[12]

who-will-win-the-presidency
Perhaps he was earnest, but this type of move would not be a surprise to anyone who has studied Trump. He just views opportunities differently. A few years earlier Trump purchased the New Jersey Generals in the USFL. He later reported that he bought the USFL team with the intent to sue the NFL because he thought it was a cheaper way to obtain an NFL franchise.
In October of 1999, he briefly entered the 2000 presidential race as a Reform Party candidate, challenging Pat Buchanan in the primary.[13]  He earned 14,597 votes in the California primary before he dropped out.[14] Coincidentally, he was publicizing a new book at the time, but he offered these prophetic words when he withdrew:

 I have consistently stated that I would spend my time, energy and money on a campaign, not just to get a large number of votes, but to win. There would be no other purpose, other than winning for me to run.  I have therefore decided not to seek the presidential nomination of the Reform Party.
For those who suggest that this has just been a promotion, I want to strongly deny that.  While it is true that my book, ‘The America We Deserve’ has become a best seller in NY and my casino and real-estate development businesses have probably benefited from the exposure that my potential candidacy generated, I did not launch my exploratory campaign for that reason.
I truly love my business, principally the construction of great Manhattan towers.  I look forward to getting back to it fulltime.  I continue to be interested in the political process and cannot rule out a possible candidacy in 2004.[15]

Donald Trump is a patient man. He has waited decades for some deals to come together. If Gwenn Ifill is right that Trump has been running for 28 years, he has spent much of that time adjusting his approach. In How to Get Rich, he wrote:

I like to move quickly, but if a situation requires patience, I will be patient. The speed depends on the circumstances, and I keep my objective in mind at all times. This alone can be a patience pill. I’ve spent from five minutes to fifteen years waiting for a deal.[16]

Many Democrats sought to be part of an historic election—electing the first female president of the United States. We did vote in an historic election, but it was for the first private citizen to become president of the United States. Every other president before Trump has held a lower political office or been a military General.
Goal-Setting Theory
Goal-setting has been studied for more than fifty years.[17] “The empirical research on this theory began with one specific question: Does goal setting affect one’s performance on a task.”[18] The answer is yes, but we have learned much more than the answer to that simple question.
Professors Edwin Locke and Gary Latham are the leading experts in goal setting. They have found the following to be true about goal-setting. First, setting goals tends to increase performance, as long as the individual accepts the goal. Specific goals lead to higher performance than general goals or admonitions to “do your best.” In fact, Locke and Latham have found that: “With goal-setting theory, specific difficult goals have been shown to increase performance on well over 100 different tasks involving more than 40,000 participants in at least eight countries working in laboratory, simulation, and field settings.”[19]
Goals increase performance and more difficult goals lead to greater performance. In addition, “hard goals are more likely to be perceived as challenging rather than impossible.”[20] According to the research, there is, “a positive linear relationship between goal difficulty and performance. It would appear that given goal acceptance, the more difficult the goal the higher the performance.”[21] This is true whether you set the goals or whether they are set by others—as long as you accept the goals. [22]
Participation—when a manager works with subordinates to select goals—does not, by itself, increase performance,[23] but when individuals participate in choosing their own goals (as opposed to objectives set by the boss), they choose more difficult goals and they are more committed to achieving them.[24] This is true for individuals and for groups.[25]
The degree to which individuals pursue their goals is moderated by how much they value the goal and the degree to which they believe that they can achieve the goal.[26]
Feedback—the knowledge of results that have been achieved—motivate people to go on and achieve more difficult goals.[27]
Goals affect performance in four basic ways. First, they provide direction. Second, they motivate. Third, they cause people to work harder and longer, and finally, they cause us to use our brains in order to overcome the obstacles.[28]
For years psychologists have asked the chicken or egg question: does job satisfaction lead to higher performance or does performance lead to job satisfaction? Locke and Latham’s High Performance Cycle demonstrated that job satisfaction leads to employee commitment, and that, in turn, led to higher performance.[29] This creates a cycle, but it appears that satisfaction precedes performance.
Learning Goals
Most of what has been discussed so far dealt with the positive effects of specific, difficult goals, but sometimes it is better not to have a specific goal. In, Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals, Heidi Grant Halvorson, discusses research about learning.  Psychologists who study achievement discuss the difference between performing and mastery. They distinguish between be good (performance) and get better (mastery) learning goals.
Those trying to prove self-worth with a be-good goal have far worse outcomes than those who pursue get better goals. Halvorson explained,

When we pursue mastery (get-better) goals, we are less likely to blame our difficulties and poor performances on a lack of ability, because that wouldn’t make sense. Of course I lack ability—I haven’t mastered this  yet!…Get better goals can sometimes lead to the greatest achievement, because people who focus on getting better rarely make the mistake of giving up too soon.[30]

One study found both increased performance and greater positive affect.[31] Multiple studies have shown that pursuing mastery goals leads to better performance and greater persistence.[32]
How to Achieve Your Goals
A number of years ago, The Secret by Rhonda Byrne was quite popular. The Secret suggested that by thinking positive thoughts about a goal or desire, you could attract it by tapping into the psychic energy of the universe. Byrne became quite wealthy. She sold more than 20 million books advocating this nonsense to the credulous.
While positive thoughts are demonstratively more powerful than negative thoughts, both in electrical charge,[33] and as they correlate with self-efficacy,[34] positive thinking is simply not enough for goal attainment.
The research shows that goal attainment does not work this way. Nothing happens just because you desire a goal.
A meta-analysis (a study of multiple studies) of goal-attainment found that you are more likely to achieve a goal if it is in alignment with your personal values.[35] But you also have to do something about it. You must be specific about how, where, and when you will take actions that lead to your goal.[36] In addition, the research shows that focusing on fewer goals leads to greater goal attainment.[37]
Another meta-analysis of 138 studies on monitoring goal progress found that the very act of monitoring goal progress promotes goal attainment. “Prompting progress monitoring had a small-to-medium-sized effect on rates of goal attainment.” [38] This effect could be increased. “Progress monitoring had larger effects on goal attainment when the information gleaned from monitoring was reported or made public, than when it was kept private.”[39] The study also found that physically recording the progress further increased the effects.[40]
What About You?
You can take actions that will help you reach your goals. Do you have a specific, difficult goal? Does your goal align with your values? Do you have a clear action plan that defines how and when you will work on them? Do you monitor your progress? Do you record this progress? Have you made the results public? In Think Big: Make it Happen in Business and Life, Donald Trump wrote:

Wealth comes from big goals and sustained action toward those goals every day. Many people start with big goals. Yet after they run into a few problems or get distracted by other things that compete for their attention every day, they lose focus on their goals. To keep your goals alive you must take action every single day for at least two hours. No one should care about your money and success more than you do.[41]

Actionable items:
List your top 5 business goals:
 

  1. _____________________________________________________________________

 

  1. _____________________________________________________________________

 

  1. _____________________________________________________________________

 

  1. _____________________________________________________________________

 

  1. _____________________________________________________________________

 
Now strike all but one. Focus on that one goal exclusively.
_______________________________________________________________________
 
List the how, why, and where of making this goal happen:
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
 
How will you monitor it, record it, and make it public?
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
 
End Notes
[1] Goodyear, D. (2009, Oct. 26). Man of extremes. The New Yorker.  Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/10/26/man-of-extremes
[2] Feldman, S., & Herrmann, M. (2016, November 9). CBS News Exit Polls: How Donald Trump won the U.S. Presidency. CBS News. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/cbs-news-exit-polls-how-donald-trump-won-the-us-presidency/
[3] Sheehy, G. (1992). What Hillary wants. Vanity Fair. Retrieved from http://www.vanityfair.com/news/1992/05/hillary-clinton-first-lady-presidency
[4] Morris, R. (1996). Partners in power: The Clintons and their America. New York: Regnery Pub.
[5] Cornwell, S. (2016, Jun 6). From ‘Hillarycare’ debacle in 1990s, Clinton emerged more cautious. Reuters. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-hillarycare-idUSKCN0YS0WZ
[6] Roberts, E. (2016, Oct 2). ‘Saturday Night Live’ season premiere pits Clinton against Trump: ‘Prunes or Tang’ Today.com Retrieved from http://www.today.com/popculture/saturday-night-live-season-premiere-pits-clinton-against-trump-prunes-t103473
[7] Hoft, J. (2016, Jun  7).  History! Trump shatters Republican primary vote record by 1.4 million votes. Gateway Pundit. http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2016/06/trump-trumps-wins-historic-race-record-fashion/
[8] Who will win the presidency? (2016, Nov 8). Fivethirtyeight.com Retrieved from http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/?ex_cid=2016-forecast-analysis
[9] Dugan, A. (2015, July 24). Among Republicans, GOP candidates are better known than liked. Gallup. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/184337/among-republicans-gop-candidates-better-known-liked.aspx?utm_source=Politics&utm_medium=newsfeed&utm_campaign=tiles
[10] Before 2015, Donald Trump had a history of toying with a presidential run. (2016, July 20). PBS Newshour. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/2016-donald-trump-history-toying-presidential-run/
[11] Before 2015, Donald Trump had a history of toying with a presidential run. (2016, July 20). PBS Newshour. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/2016-donald-trump-history-toying-presidential-run/
[12] PBS Newshour. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/2016-donald-trump-history-toying-presidential-run/
[13] Squitieri, T. (2015, Oct 7). A look back at Trump’s first run. The Hill. Retrieved from http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/presidential-campaign/256159-a-look-back-at-trumps-first-run
[14] U.S. President – Statewide returns. (2000). WebArchive.org.  Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20070630084348/http://primary2000.sos.ca.gov/returns/pres/00.htm
[15] Statement of Donald J. Trump. (2000). Donald J. Trump Presidential Exploratory Committee. Retrieved from https://www2.gwu.edu/~action/trumpout.html
[16] Trump, D., & McIver, M. (2004). Trump: How to get rich. New York: Random House. (p. 133).
[17] Locke, E.A., & Latham, G.P. (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation: A 35-year odyssey. American Psychologist, 57, 705–717.
[18] Latham, G. P., & Locke, E. A. (2007). New developments in and directions for goal-setting research. European Psychologist, 12(4), 290-300. doi:10.1027/1016-9040.12.4.290
[19] Locke, E.A., & Latham, G.P. (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation: A 35-year odyssey. American Psychologist, 57, 705–717.
[20] Latham, G.P., & Yukl, G.A. (1975). A review of research on the application of goal setting in organizations. Academy of Management Journal, 18, 824–845.
[21] Latham, G.P., Mitchell, T.R., & Dossett, D.L. (1978). The importance of participative goal setting and anticipated rewards on goal difficulty and job performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 63, 163–171.
[22] Latham, G.P., Steele, T.P., & Saari, L.M. (1982). The effects of participation and goal difficulty on performance. Personnel Psychology, 35, 677–686.
[23] Latham, G.P., Steele, T.P., & Saari, L.M. (1982). The effects of participation and goal difficulty on performance. Personnel Psychology, 35, 677–686.
[24] Latham, G.P., Mitchell, T.R., & Dossett, D.L. (1978). The importance of participative goal setting and anticipated rewards on goal difficulty and job performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 63, 163–171.
[25] Kleingeld, A., van Mierlo, H., & Arends, L. (2011). The effect of goal setting on group performance: A meta-analysis. Journal Of Applied Psychology, 96(6), 1289-1304. doi:10.1037/a0024315
[26] Locke, E.A., & Latham, G.P. (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation: A 35-year odyssey. American Psychologist, 57, 705–717.
[27] Locke, E.A., Cartledge, N., & Koeppel, J. (1968). Motivation effects of knowledge of results: A goal setting phenomenon? Psychological Bulletin, 70, 474–485.
[28] Locke, E.A., & Latham, G.P. (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation: A 35-year odyssey. American Psychologist, 57, 705–717.
[29] Latham, G.P., & Locke, E.A. (2007). New developments in and directions for goal-setting. European Psychologist 12,(4). 290-300.
[30] Halvorson, H. G. (2011). Succeed: How we can reach our goals. New York, N.Y: Hudson Street Press. (p. 62).
[31] Travers, C. J., Morisano, D., & Locke, E. A. (2015). Self-reflection, growth goals, and academic outcomes: A qualitative study. British Journal Of Educational Psychology, 85(2), 224-241.
[32] Halvorson, H. G. (2011). Succeed: How we can reach our goals. New York, N.Y: Hudson Street Press.
[33] Shermer, M. (2007). The (other) secret. Scientific American, (6), 39-39.
[34] Oles, P. K.,  Allessandri, G., Oles, M., Bak, W., Jankowski, T., Laguna, M., & Caprara, G. V. (2013). Positive orientation and generalized self-efficacy. Studia Psychologica, 55(1), 47-59.
[35] Koestner, R., Lekes, N., Powers, T. A, and Chicoine. E. (2002). Attaining personal goals: Self-concordance plus implementation intentions equals success.” Journal of Personality And Social Psychology 83, 1: 231-244.
[36] Koestner, R., Lekes, N., Powers, T. A, and Chicoine. E. (2002). Attaining personal goals: Self-concordance plus implementation intentions equals success.” Journal of Personality And Social Psychology 83, 1: 231-244.
[37] Koestner, R., Lekes, N., Powers, T. A, and Chicoine. E. (2002). Attaining personal goals: Self-concordance plus implementation intentions equals success.” Journal of Personality And Social Psychology 83, 1: 231-244.
[38] Harkin, B., Webb, T. L., Chang, B. I., Prestwich, A., Conner, M., Kellar, I., & … Sheeran, P. (2016). Does monitoring goal progress promote goal attainment? A meta-analysis of the experimental evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 142(2), 198-229. doi:10.1037/bul0000025
[39] Harkin, B., Webb, T. L., Chang, B. I., Prestwich, A., Conner, M., Kellar, I., & … Sheeran, P. (2016). Does monitoring goal progress promote goal attainment? A meta-analysis of the experimental evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 142(2), 198-229. doi:10.1037/bul0000025
[40] Harkin, B., Webb, T. L., Chang, B. I., Prestwich, A., Conner, M., Kellar, I., & … Sheeran, P. (2016). Does monitoring goal progress promote goal attainment? A meta-analysis of the experimental evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 142(2), 198-229. doi:10.1037/bul0000025
[41] Trump, D., & Zanker, B. (2008). Think big: Make it happen in business and life. New York, NY: Collins.