Back in college, I was familiar with a regrettably-named band, the kind of name I can’t reprint in a family website such as Slapstart. Nonetheless, they were a hoot. And one of their signature songs was a very catchy number called “You Have Goals.” Key lyric:
You want to go to school
You want a good job
You want to get married
You want to own a car
You’re boring, you’re old, you have goals
As a 19-year old, I thought it was ridiculously funny. What could be hipper than mocking suburban bourgeois culture? But ahh, as I’ve aged, I realized the errors in my ways. Goals are great. They focus the mind and compel people to do extraordinary things. And better yet, they needn’t be materialistic (but it’s ok if they are.)
Which is why I’m so fond of today’s feature, Today’s Goal.
Today’s Goal is simple: post your goals online, and with a little help from your social network, accomplish them. After all, as the site adroitly notes, it has been proven that publicly announcing your goal will double your chances of success in achieving that goal. Let’s call it “positive peer pressure” (PPP.)
So, having re-embraced the idea of goals in my older years, I took the site for a spin.
On the upper left-hand corner of the home page, I clicked “Submit Goals.” The page asked me to enter a nickname, a goal category (eg. “Health,” “Kids,” “Love,” “Money”), a goal deadline, and the goal itself.
Being a strong proponent of the health benefits of Vitamin D, and having read just this morning that a lack of sunlight killed Mozart (true story!), my goal was simple: get 20 minutes of sun on September 10th. And it’s worth noting that the deadline piece is subtle, but important. As anyone who’s filed their taxes can attest, deadlines work. (Or, as my old co-worker used to say, “Nothing like imminent death to focus the mind.) This element of Today’s Goal – the deadline part, not the imminent death part – is something I’ll be coming back to.
I submitted my goal and was alerted that the goal must first receive moderator approval – in many cases, moderated by users themselves. So if the goal gets two ‘Yes’ votes on the moderation page, it is automatically posted to the homepage. If it receives three ‘No’ votes, it is deleted from the system although this very rarely happens. (That said, it does occasionally happen, and as punishment, the offending goal-setter has to spend three weeks at “Mime Boot Camp.” Just kidding.)
It’s worth noting that goals set by full-fledged members do not require moderation. Furthermore, members get a host of other benefits: profile pages, member messaging, a goal list, favorite goal tracking, and so much more. Membership, as they say, has its privileges.
Now if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll note that a common theme across these functionalities is the social element: no man is an island, and all the major components of Today’s Goal are predicated on user feedback, approval, and commentary. It’s kind of like a mini-“Gilligan’s Island” where people support and encourage each other (until, of course, it inevitably dissolves into to a “Lord of the Flies”-hellscape once all the coconuts are eaten.)
Exhibit A of what I call “goal democratization” is the Top Goals page. Here are the goals that fellow members approve of the most. And I, as a new user, can like a goal or diss it. The top goal at the time of writing – “the desire of a user to be the “best mother and girlfriend I can be” – has generated 51 Likes so far. Number Two, “My goal is to be myself,” racked up 40 Likes. Completed goals make it, as you’d suspect, to the Achieved Goals page.
Looking over some of the goals on the site – especially the two ones I mentioned above – I was pleased to see them align with my enlightened harangue earlier in this review. You know, the part where I mentioned how goals should be far more than materialistic check-lists. Being true to yourself, being a good person – these are things that are important – and the fact that the Today’s Goal community thinks so highly of them by voting them to the top of the list speaks well to their fantastic moral fiber. An irrefutable sign of good parenting, across the board!
Ultimately, Today’s Goal works because it synthesizes two elements that more than anything else I can think of – besides the threat eternal damnation in a Western religion-sense – force people to actually do stuff: one, (positive) peer pressure (PPP!) and two, a timeline for completion of said goal. It’s simple, elegant, human psychology in action: we respond well to PPP because we want to do good by our friends and countrymen, and we only really act when the clock is ticking because we’ve been conditioned by the tyranny of the clock. Of course, this latter piece may not be true in a quantum physics-y sense, but hey, it works.
If Today’s Goal was to let their server die and domain expire, then mission accomplished! Otherwise, we hope they learned a lot while building their site and continue on with future endeavors.