To Achieve Big Goals, Start with Small Ones
Every new year, people sit down to write out their goals or make big resolutions. The big resolutions ultimately fail as they are usually based on emotion, and the goal is unrealistic. For example, you will hear someone state that they will lose twenty pounds in January, so it will be okay to eat as much as they want during the holidays. They will stop eating like this after December. This all or nothing mindset will set the person up for failure. You can’t turn on and off habits like a light switch.
It is better to think like a stonemason when you have big goals. The stonemason has the job of building a floor to ceiling fireplace from a particular type of rock. They know the end goal, and to meet it, they must prepare and lay one stone at a time, with precise measurements. Each piece is planned and carefully considered, then put in place.
There is nothing wrong with having big goals – it’s actually a very good thing. However, you need to chunk it down into some small changes to your habits and take it one step at a time. These changes are called micro goals as they are one goal broken into smaller, achievable bites. Think of the old saying, “How do you eat an elephant?” (You know the rest – if not, ask me.)
Let’s look at an example of a micro goal. A person who joins a martial arts club with the 100% conviction of earning a black belt needs to learn many things. It’s just not realistic to think that you will walk in, take a class, and come out a black belt.
To start the martial arts journey, your need some micro goals. For the first class the person could prepare for class the night before. This means perhaps washing the uniform and folding it before putting it in the kit bag. Then they would add in the other items they need for the class the next day. Double check to be sure all that is needed is ready to go.
An hour before the class begins, the person could stretch at home or in a warm up area if one is available. This would give them a boost over the stretching exercises at the start of the class. They could do ten minutes of hand conditioning, also known as stretching and striking the hands, to prepare for any sparring sessions fully.
These micro goals build the bigger goal of showing up for each class on time and ready to work on the next belt level.
Getting into micro goals means that you must prepare for the change in routine.
- Work on breaking down your big goal into the micro goals. Think of it as if you had to look into a microscope to see it for yourself. For example, you decide that you want to meditate for thirty minutes every day, but you have tried in the past and failed to be consistent. You first need to change your mindset, tell yourself the past if over, and set yourself up with the expectation that you are going to succeed this time because you are trying something new,
Your first micro goal might be learning to watch how your chest rises and falls with each breath. You focus just on how the air comes into your body and at what speed. Concentrate on seeing your chest and stomach area expand, then go down as you expel the air. Start with just a few minutes, and gradually add time whenever you are ready. This micro goal by itself is extremely relaxing, and you can practice it for a few days before extending the time – to maybe ten minutes – as the next step towards your meditation goal of thirty minutes a day.
- Micro goals should be so small that the thought of not doing the action never enters your mind. If you think of doing a micro goal and start looking for excuses not to, it means you need to adjust and break that micro goal into an even smaller size. Pick the same time and place to carry out your micro goal. In the example of the breathing for mediation, you could do it in your study every night at 10 pm sharp. Find a way to track your progress. Consider keeping a journal or planner and use it to mark off the success when the micro goal is completed. You don’t need a fancy journal or planner, you could just keep a small spiral notebook, or use the reminders or notes app in your phone. Make yourself an accountability checklist. Once you set it up, the accountability checklist takes no time to complete, so it is a no brainer. It will help to motivate you when the check marks start adding up.
Motivation is great but do not get over-excited and then start doubling up on your micro goals, or you may find yourself giving up. When you try to reach your big goals too quickly, you may get overwhelmed, quit, and then it is back to the very beginning.
- Find an accountability buddy. Don’t feel embarrassed about getting someone to hold you accountable for your daily micro goal. There may be so much going on in your daily life that it is just too easy to forget the micro goal until someone reminds you. It is better to stay on course, no matter how you have to do it. When you have an accountability buddy, you are helping each other stay on track
Big goals can be scary, but they are so worth it! You don’t have to be intimidated any longer though, because you know the secret. One micro goal at a time!
Find your purpose – find your joy!
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Did you find a few more ideas of your own? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments, and as always please reach out with your thoughts.