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Balancing Big Goals with Small Steps

December 8, 2013 by  
Filed under blog

Last August I wrote a blog titled “The Biggest Leap is the Small step of Getting Started“. In that blog I said a good way to stick with a particular tough goal is to kind of trick yourself by saying, “Ok, I might not be in the mood to do this right now so I think I will just spend 5 minutes with this project,” and all the time you know that there is a very good chance once you start the project you probably will keep going beyond the 5 minutes.  I know this sure works for me when I don’t feel like climbing on the stair master or the elliptical or any other exercise I know that I should do.

The “small step” method really does help a person stick with their goals, so I was somewhat bothered when I re-read my blog of November 2012 and looked at the huge printed sign that I had reproduced in the blog that said “Set a goal SO BIG that you can’t achieve it until YOU GROW INTO THE PERSON WHO CAN”.  I began to question myself for putting that quote on my blog.  Here’s why I question myself now, at least to a degree:  You see, if you set your goal way too high, your goal may scare you and you may begin thinking “There is just no way I can achieve something so big.” But I do believe there is a way around the problem that can allow you to set huge goals and be able to achieve them.

The great thing about setting big goals is that they can stimulate and excite our brains and body to keep pursuing what we set out to do. So, although it’s important for the brain to set big goals, the trick is to not set them so big that deep inside your mind you really feel you could never achieve them.

The real key here–and there is research to back this up–is to set the big goals that excite you to action then put aside that big picture and think about and work on the small daily or hourly goals that give you many small steps of achievement towards that big goal.  Keep telling yourself that you only have to reach “today’s goals” and remind yourself how good that is making you feel.

To quote David DiSalvo from his great book What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite, “The happy brain tends to focus on the short term.  That being the case, it’s a good idea to consider what short-term goals we can accomplish that will eventually lead to accomplishing long-term goals.”

I’ve been doing just that lately.  I concentrate on just today or, sometimes, just this hour or minute and for the most part I try to totally forget my big goal. That usually gives my brain plenty of rewards and comfort.

Next week I will give what I think is the perfect example for losing weight–since it is the time of year that most people do the opposite—and when you read it, keep in mind you’ll do this one small, easy step at a time.