Sunday, 17 January 2010

Goal Achievement and The Importance of Writing Down Your Goals

Writing down your goals is very important when it comes to goal achievement and I was reminded of this recently when I saw a video of an episode of the Japanese Iron Chef. In this episode Dr Yukio Hattori, the President of Hattori Nutrition College was on a quest to become an Iron Chef.

To achieve this goal he had to beat his chosen Iron Chef in the equivalent of a culinary duel. He decided to go up against Iron Chef Rokusaburo Michiba.

To add to the pressure of the situation, among those watching and judging was the world-renowned French chef, Joel Robuchon. In fact, Joel Robuchon's involvement in this particular Iron Chef influenced the choice of the special ingredient.

If you're not familiar with Iron Chef, a special ingredient is chosen as the theme for each competition and the chefs have just one hour to prepare and artistically present as many dishes, ranging from starter to dessert, using the special ingredient. It's fascinating to watch.

On this occasion the special ingredient was truffles - black truffles. Black truffles are often referred to as "black diamonds" because they are highly prized as a food and so incredibly expensive. Some of the best truffles in the world grow in France and Joel Robuchon is an expert on cooking with truffles.

However, for Rokusaburo Michiba, cooking with truffles was a new experience because truffles are not a feature of Japanese cuisine. This was a challenge that would certainly test his creative skills.

When the competition officially got underway Rokusaburo Michiba selected some of the prized black truffles, returned to his work station where he preceded to write down his menu.

I instinctively knew why he was doing this. Yet, with the clock ticking I was feeling irrationally anxious on his behalf. Michiba is skilled in calligraphy and he used this art-form to write down his menu. Coming from a Western perspective, as beautiful as it was to look at, it just seemed to take longer to write - an illusion, I know.

He finished writing his menu and then focused his attention on preparing lobster. The heavy, chopping strokes used to cut up the lobster in stark contrast to the light, delicate strokes used to write his menu.

I knew that writing down his menu gave him time to think through his menu and logically plan the preparation of the dishes he planned to create. The written also provided clarity for his assistants. They would be able to tell which ingredients to prepare without consulting him. The written menu limited the need for excessive verbal communication which would have eaten into the available time to suitable respond to the challenge.

Rokusaburo Michiba planned six truffle-based dishes. Throughout, the 60 minutes his face appeared deadpan. I was left wondering if he ever showed any emotion. Despite this, he seemed relaxed and in control unlike his challenger who often seemed hurried and under pressure.

He completed his six dishes compared to Dr Hattori's four and I felt that artistically his presentation was better as well. At the end of the tasting Joel Robuchon had this to say:

"I am from France, the homeland of truffles. I never imagined this ingredient could be used in Japanese cooking. Michiba your dishes are great. I was really moved today."

Upon hearing those words of praise, Michiba's face relaxed into a rare and beautiful smile.

And so what of the importance of Michiba writing down his menu before he started cooking. Well, on one occasion Michiba forgot to write down his menu. He lost that battle. And on another occasion he wrote down his menu at the last minute. Yes, you guessed right. He lost that battle too. Other challengers adopted this habit of writing down their menu at the start of the competition and it's a practice that you can adopt when it comes to beginning an important task.

Writing down what you want to achieve is a tested and proven strategy in goal achievement. It will give you clarity regarding what you want to achieve and how to set about achieving your goals. Plus it can help others who work with you to understand what it is you want to achieve and how best they can work with you to achieve your goals.