Starting with a “definition of victory” makes it easier to experience whatever happens as feedback (rather than failure). It’s the business equivalent of reminding yourself where traffic is flowing and where you want to go. Do it before any important meeting, call, or activity.
A DOV should have two elements:
- An external element (what you intend to see happen in the “real world”)
- An internal element (what you’re bringing to realize this intention—frame of mind, actions, etc.)
Why two elements? We want to see a real-world result—that’s the external one. But at best, we’re only responsible for how we’re being and what we do—that’s the internal one. Both together help clarify intention and how we can bring it about in a balanced way.
For that person of the opposite political persuasion, maybe it's finding a neutral subject. Or for the family member that you sometimes feel one-ups you, maybe it's "I am able to talk with <person x> for a few minutes and can walk away when I need to." That covers the external dimensions...for the internal part of the DOV, it might be something like "Knowing it can be hard to be with <person x>, I can find compassion for them and myself that opens me to being curious yet also keeping myself safe." Pick what works for you.
Or, maybe you just want to keep the meal on track and balance planning with partying. So an external DOV might be "I ask a few guests to bring cider and other food to support the meal." Internal might be "I make time to be at my own party."
Then I might add, “I enjoy myself at the meeting, and feel like I spoke professionally with clarity yet playfully.“ That’s an internal part of the DOV—I may or may not do it, but at least it doesn’t depend on anyone but me. And it is something quite likely to happen, as well.
Why DOVs Work
Second, most of us have overachieving tendencies, so we focus more on what we don’t accomplish than what we do. DOVs restore balance. By setting a DOV, we can more easily call productive actions a win, so we’re creating a pattern of success for ourselves. And in fact—when we use DOVs, we’re successful more often, so it’s not just “win”-dow dressing. And people who are successful tend to focus on their successes, so you’re reinforcing a useful thing. (That’s why, for DOVs to work, the threshold should be as low as you can make it and still achieve a result that’s contributing to a win. Most people trying this tool the first time will set performance thresholds too high. Don’t do that!)
Third, distinguishing what we want to bring about from what we’re responsible for makes it easier to learn vs. criticize. So DOVs keep us in a more productive mindset, and enable us to harness what we learn more readily.
Don’t feel like you have to believe me, though. Just try setting DOVs the next time you want to bring about something important, and see for yourself.