Hermann Ebbinghaus was a German psychologist who, among other things, is credited for discovering the optical illusion shown below.

imagesBoth of the circles in the centers are the same size. (I didn’t believe it either. I copied the graphic into Photoshop and erased the outer ring circles in both cases. Sure enough, they are the same size. Do it yourself if you don’t believe me.)

Break-a-habit-front (Custom)Some clever experimenters projected circles on a golf green surrounding the hole. In one case they projected large circles like the picture on the left, which made the actual hole look smaller. In another case, they drew small circles like the one on the right which made the target look larger. Of course, the actual size of the hole had not changed at all, and everyone—including the golfer—knew this. Still, perception made a huge difference. Golfers were lined up 1.7 meters from the hole. When they putted into the hole that looked bigger, they made more putts.

Here is the takeaway. Anything you can do to convince yourself that the goal is achievable will make it more achievable. Scientists say you want to shoot for about 70% success rate. That is, you set a goal that you have about a 70% chance of succeeding at. Stretch goals, as it turns out, are overrated. The idea of shooting for the moon in hopes that you will get off the ground is not based on science.

Achievable, short-term goals that provide lots of opportunities to win are a ticket to success.