Ennis, Button and McIlroy on Goals

ennis, mcilroy and button sitting on a sofaJennifer Ennis (2012 Olympics heptathlon gold gong), Rory McIlroy (golf – two majors) and Jensen Button (2009 Formula 1 world champion) are all British sporty types who are quite good. (I think golf is a sport but I wonder because play it…)

They’re all working for the man in the form of Santander (big bank), as their sponsor. That’s OK with me. My friend Kenny recently sent me the latest adverts where the three talk about how they approach their goals.


…it is only business people who like to think real success is divorced from goals. Sports people know better. Sometimes I’m with the business people because goals can be, frankly, a constant pain in the behind. They interfere with my desire to do exactly, exactly, as I please. But I think being just a poor version of what you could be is a bigger pain in the behind. The sportsters know that superior achievement relies on goals.

Jennifer Ennis says:

  • Create a checklist of what you are going to do today
  • Do the important stuff
  • Then, enjoy a break

Excellent advice if I may say so. Sounds to me like identify your high-payoff activities, do them and then chill and be happy at it. I am rubbish at the last one. Don’t know how to relax. Maybe I should meditate.

Strangely, there’s no mention of do only what you feel comfortable doing/want to do and bizarrely she forgets to say but first of all, do all your email…crazy lady!

Rory McIlroy says:

  • Write your goals down
  • Keep them handy
  • Read them often

In other words, stay focused.  Dig one big hole until you have a mine, instead of what most people end up with: a field full of small holes. He doesn’t advocate perfectionism. He doesn’t try to master golf on the practice ground BEFORE playing in the competitions. He knows that perfectionism and sport do not mix. You’ve got to be in it to win it. The best practice is to play. Same in business and life.

Jensen says:

  • Identify your goal
  • Identify tasks
  • Small wins keep you motivated

Again, sounds like high payoff activities to me. Action focused. Internal and as such controllable. Nothing to do with competition; fear; danger…they are all outside and as such, uncontrollable and therefore best forgotten.

Some people knock goal setting. I know why they do it. They do it because it resonates…it resonates with those who don’t do and don’t want to do goal setting.

It’s like a cheap laugh.

It’s playing to the audience. It’s telling people what they want to hear, not what they need to hear. But this can be dishonest. Like telling people their predicament isn’t really their fault. 

I usually miss my goals. Miss as in fail to achieve. But I am still glad I had the goals because they were challenging and the stretch in them stretched me and made me do different things than if I had smaller or no goals. This is the key for me.

No one cares about the goals. No one remembers your goals. They remember what you did. But it is the goals that sit in the background and help you do the different and superior things that drive your performance.  

This is yet another example of cause and effect blurring…it is not just the activity that yields the result, the desired result can drive the (different) activity…

So I recommend you have some big goals. I am not talking about the ones between you and your boss if you have one. That’s a corporate game you need to play and be good at. But that’s not what I’m talking about.

Make you goals transformational because the new and different actions you will have to take will lead to the transformation. And then you’ll be transformed.

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