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How to make your Goals EPICQ

An exercise in reframing your mind to achieve your objectives

One thing you can always count on within the business world and life are that there is constantly a drive towards figuring out how best to define goals and or objectives. One could say that it’s a modern-day obsession with how best this should be done.

In the business world, either as an employee, manager, consultant or client, you will always be met with how best to define the goals that need to be achieved. A good fallback on how to do this is by using the SMART goals method, usually said and associated with Peter Drucker’s management theories.

SMART goals is a good methodology, but this piece isn’t about how to do them nor explain them again for the nth time. If you have ever used the methodology you will know its worth and its shortcomings.

One of the shortcomings is that it may not be easy to define the goal despite using the process. And each goal is also unique and individual to whoever puts it down on paper. What it lacks often is an emotional component, the clinical nature of stating it removes a level of grandness to the goal that would otherwise motivate people. What the goal needs is to be given back its epicness.

The method for making a goal more epic is not something new, and it is very similar to SMART goals. What it is, is simply an exercise in reframing your mind and perspective by changing the language used and altering the meaning of the goal, changing its value and making it EPICQ.

What is an EPICQ Goal

An EPICQ goal reframes our minds. The type of language we use influences and reinforces the type of behaviour and mindset that we have in a given situation. In this case, we’re taking inspiration from gaming and gamification, by changing our SMART goals into EPICQ ones.

But what does EPICQ stand for? The acronym is broken down into Explicit, Practical, Importance, Calculable and Quantifiable.

  • Explicit – Here you make an explicit statement of your goal, what exactly needs to be achieved, who’s responsible for it and who’s involved. Try to refine this into a single concise statement, or at the very most into a two-parter.
  • Practical – This is where you state how the goal can be achieved, how will you put it into practice, and how applicable is it? How realistic is the goal and what the constraints are? If you want to make it even more granular then you also add what steps need to be taken to achieve it and what resources and limitations there are to achieving this. This level of granularity will be covered later on when we discuss how to break down a goal.
  • Importance – Why and how is the goal important? Is it the right time to be doing this goal? Does it align with your current efforts and needs as a business or individual? And why does this goal have value and or what is its meaning?
  • Calculable – This is straightforward, how will you calculate or measure the success or failure of your goal? By how much or many will it be considered to be a success or failure? What is the value of its success or its failure?
  • Quantifiable – And finally what are the quantifiable effects of your goal? When does it need to be achieved by to have any effect? What is the timeline for it to be most effective? Is there a deadline that increases or decreases its value and what parts of it can be done when?

A list of questions has been added to each letter of the acronym to help you think about how to fill in each point so that you can get your EPICQ goal. But sometimes it can be difficult to come up with the answers or even to know where to start to arrive at those answers.

One method to assist you in this is by using the art of storytelling. Create a narrative around your EPICQ goal, or EPICQ quest in this case. See yourself or your business as the hero of the story and then figure out how the story progresses to arrive at the answers and the epic outcome.

Here are a few questions to help you along. Think about how your story starts? Where do you begin? Where and how does your story end? How epic is the ending? What happens in the middle? Is there a twist in the story? What conflicts could you (the hero) come across, and what obstacles need to be overcome before you can ride off into the sunset? Who, what or how are you (the hero) supported along the way to becoming the hero and beating the final boss?

But this is only the high-level aspect of creating your EPICQ goals, these goals are useless unless you can break them down into manageable chunks. As with SMART goals, these are lofty ambitions that sound good on the mission statement and vision. But for these goals to become epic, they need to be practical, as one of the letters in the EPICQ goals acronym states.

Breaking down the EPICQ Goal

For an EPICQ goal to be truly useful it needs to be broken down into smaller chunks.

Once you’ve written down all the aspects of your EPICQ goal, the next step is to imagine what you want to achieve as part of a mission or quest, to continue with the game/gamification connection. Any good quest or mission has multiple steps to it before the hero of the story can complete the final challenge.

Now, remember that when you break down your goal into smaller parts, each part still needs to be achievable and challenging (hopefully). The reason for this is those small accomplishments and even small setbacks still offer you an opportunity for feedback, either from co-workers, teammates or even in the form of self-reflection. Because when you succeed it’s an epic win and when you fail, it’s an epic fail! Regardless, either outcome is a chance to learn something and to improve upon the process.

The best way to break down an EPICQ goal is very similar to how the OKR (Objectives & Key Results) method works. In this case, we’re using terminology taken from gaming and gamification to reframe our minds towards epicness. And therefore we will disassemble our EPICQ goal into a variety of targets, milestones and rewards, or TMRs.

As was stated with the explicit and practical statements of your goal, you can break it down into a more granular form, a step-by-step explanation of how the goal will be achieved. These individual steps are the targets that you need to hit to achieve your goal. How do you hit these targets? You do this by stating the various milestones you need to get to, these are the series points in your main quest or the side quests that lead to achieving the reward for the main quest. And the rewards are the outcome of achieving the milestones and targets. And these rewards can be something very tangible such as having finished a landing page for your website to get a marketing campaign going, or something a little more abstract such as rewarding yourself for having put in so many hours to achieve the target you set for yourself, like having your favourite meal for having put in 5 days of exercise.

TMRs are features of the goal that you can measure, their overall function will help with the calculable and quantifiable aspects of your goal. And should you not achieve the targets and reap the rewards, in other words, fail, then use that to see why you couldn’t. Where can you improve? Regardless of the success or failure, always check-in and reflect. The feedback aspect is what will help you to determine the importance of your EPICQ goal.

Why use EPICQ Goals?

It is a personal choice as to whether you wish to use this form or just continue with SMART goals. In real terms, the outcome should be comparable enough. But the hope is that by reframing your goals and using more epic, narrative-driven language, you start to push your imagination and increase your motivation to achieve those goals, and get a more epic and impressive outcome.

To take a page out of Jane McGonigal’s book (specifically SuperBetter – 2015), epic goals help create a sense of Urgent optimism, as Jane says, “think of this as extreme self-motivation.  Urgent optimism is the desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle, combined with the belief that we have a reasonable hope of success.  Gamers always believe that an epic win is possible and that it’s always worth trying and trying now, gamers don’t sit around.”

Making a goal epic, therefore, gives a greater level of meaning within our minds, it becomes intrinsic, and moves beyond the stale, rote corporate objectives that tend to be so very clinical, sterile and uninspiring. By making them intrinsic, we can start to garner motivation to achieve them, and to not lose motivation when they fail, but rather as Jane McGonigal says, keep trying, because epic wins are possible.

Final thoughts

So in summary, EPICQ goals are nothing groundbreaking, the reframe is there to help facilitate better goal setting for those that struggle with the generic methods.

Using EPICQ goals along with targets, milestones and rewards, can become a very powerful tool, especially if you define how you measure those outcomes, what the targets are, what and when those milestones are hit and from there reap the rewards you deserve.

So for the last bit of advice, just go and try it out for yourself, write down your EPICQ goals and what the TMRs are for what you want to achieve in either life or business.

And hopefully you’ll be able to achieve them, and be epic yourself!

I hope that this piece has given you some food for thought and helped improve your own methods or at least offered a different viewpoint to consider.

Do check out the other posts on æ, and do leave a comment or contact us if you have some ideas of your own that you wish to discuss or if you would like to see other topics discussed.

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