The Science of Goal Setting

Steven Kotler
by Flow Research Collective
August 1, 2023
Simple as the idea of goal setting might seem, there’s trouble in the particulars.
Steven Kotler

"If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable."

That’s a line from Seneca—an OG high-performance philosopher.

Seneca’s point is that setting goals is key.

Without em’ you can work like crazy, grind all day and spin your wheels to no end.

But setting any old goals won’t cut it.

You’ve got to set the right goals, and set goals the right way.

The good news is there’s some super solid neuroscience that shows us how to do this.

On this call, myself and Steven Kotler and our performance coach Dr. Brent Hogarth are discussing the science of goal setting as it relates to kicking off 2021.

Dr. Brent Hogarth has earned a Master's in Sport Psychology and a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. He currently resides in Vancouver, Canada.

He is an expert in training flow-state, mindfulness, and self-control for both sport and corporate athletes.

You’re going to love it. Here’s just some of what we’ll be covering:

We will discuss why the “R” in SMART goals destroys people's results.

You will learn how big you should make your goals (and how big is too big).

We will understand the 3 types of goals and how to set and achieve each type.

And you will also be surprised to learn why NOT aiming big is physically bad for you.

So make sure to stay until the end to soak up all the goodness.


In this episode, you will learn about:

  • Massively transformative purpose (4:22)
  • How to come up with your massively transformative purpose (5:05)
  • Why you shouldn’t talk about your goals (7:17)
  • How to develop hope (9:25)
  • The importance of a clear goals checklist (11:24)
  • How to set goals the right way (13:01)
  • The levels of goals (14:30)
  • The passion recipe (17:02)
  • The seven neural networks related to drive (20:27)
  • Turning curiosity into passion (23:43)
  • How big should you make your goals? (26:43) 
  • Setting goals during hard times (31:11)
  • How often should you review your goals? (35:47)
  • The conscious mind sets goals, the unconscious mind achieves goals (37:00
  •  Organize our goals around becoming a whole person (43:16)
  • Achieving long term happiness (48:08)
  • Exponential technologies (53:56)
  • Being goal-driven & outcome detached (59:02)


Dr. Brent Hogarth: Dr. Brent Hogarth has earned a Masters in Sport Psychology and a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. He currently resides in Vancouver, Canada. He is an expert in training flow-state, mindfulness, and self-control for both sport and corporate athletes.

Brent has significant training and experience providing performance enhancement and mental health counselling. This includes, but is not limited to, working with Olympic and professional athletes, serial entrepreneurs, members of the USA military, computer engineers, authors, hedge fund managers and more. Brent's clinical counseling experience is vast, and he sees everyone as having the ability to be a high-performer. He completed his Doctoral fellowships at the University of Texas, at El Paso, and at Lehigh University, in Bethlehem, PA. In both of these placements Dr. Hogarth worked with Division 1 student-athletes, their teams, coaches and athletic admin.

Steven Kotler: Steven Kotler is a New York Times-bestselling author, an award-winning journalist and the Executive Director of the Flow Research Collective. He is one of the world’s leading experts on human performance.

He is the author of nine bestsellers (out of thirteen books), including The Art of Impossible, The Future is Faster Than You Think, Stealing Fire, The Rise of Superman, Bold and Abundance. His work has been nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes, translated into over 40 languages, and has appeared in over 100 publications, including the New York Times Magazine, Wired, Atlantic Monthly, Wall Street Journal, TIME and the Harvard Business Review.

Steven is also the cohost of Flow Research Collective Radio, a top ten iTunes science podcast. Along with his wife, author Joy Nicholson, he is the cofounder of the Rancho de Chihuahua dog sanctuary.

Rian Doris: Rian Doris is the Co-Founder & COO at the Flow Research Collective, a research and training institute focused on decoding the neuroscience of flow states and training leaders to achieve peak performance.

Rian lives at the intersection of entrepreneurship and academia—from starting his first business at age 18 to studying Philosophy in Trinity College Dublin and an MSc in Applied Neuroscience at King's College, London. On the academic side, Rian has lead research initiatives with Imperial College London, University of Southern California, the University of Zurich and Deloitte.

On the entrepreneurial side, Rian has worked intimately with numerous world-leading experts in peak performance such as Keith Ferrazzi, Dr. Dan Siegel, and Steven Kotler, his partner at Flow Research Collective. Rian has been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, TedX and Big Think.


Like this episode?

Subscribe to us on iTunes and Spotify.

Watch more episodes

Peak Performance In Your Inbox

Pop in your details and we’ll send you 10 peak performance tips to help you spend more time in flow immediately.

Thank you! You've successfully signed up!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.