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Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.

What Jennifer Lawrence and Colin Kapernick Can Teach Us About Setting Goals

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In her Golden Globes acceptance speech last weekend, Jennifer Lawrence talked about how, as a teenager in Kentucky, she loved a movie called I Heart Huckabees. She wanted to know more about the movie so she Googled it and found out its director was David O. Russell and that he had directed three of her other favorite movies.  Less than 10 years later she was on stage in Hollywood expressing her amazement that David O. Russell had made her career by casting her inSilver Linings Playbook (a 2013 Golden Globe and Academy Award for Lawrence) and now American Hustle (a 2014 Golden Globe for Lawrence -- so far.)

This weekend, Colin Kapernick is going to play for the NFC Championship as quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. When he was in the fourth grade he wrote a letter to himself (that you can see on Deadspin.com) that read in part (spelling and syntax from 11-year-old Colin):

I’m 5 ft 2 inches 91 pounds. Good athelet. I think in 7 years I will be between 6 ft — to 6 ft 4 inches 140 pounds. I hope I go to a good college in football Then go to the pros and play on the niners or the packers even if they aren’t good in seven years. 

Guess it worked out for him, didn’t it?

So what can we learn about setting goals from Jennifer Lawrence and Colin Kapernick? I can think of three things:

Be Specific:  Young Jennifer and Colin couldn’t have been much more specific in visualizing their goals. When you’re setting goals, paint a vivid picture for yourself.

Say It Out Loud: Many etymologists believe that the root meaning of the magician’s word "abracadabra" traces back to two words in the ancient Aramaic language which, when said together, mean, “I will create as I speak.”  At a minimum, talk to yourself about your goal. Better yet, tell others about it.  Doing so will help make it real for you.

Do the Work:  Magic, of course, will only get you so far.  You have to do the work.  As 23-year-old Lawrence and 24-year-old Kapernick show, talent helps too. There are plenty of talented people, though, who don’t achieve their goals. To achieve the big goals, you have to be all in.

What else is important in goal setting?  Do you have any fun or favorite examples of people who set very specific goals and achieved them?

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

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