I know big goals are sexy. We have a romantic idea of waking up one day and saying, “I’m going to write a novel!” or “I’m going to play in a band!” and then grueling away in our own personal training montage until we emerge victorious, enjoying the fruits of our labors (and all the praise and admiration we so rightfully deserve). But as attractive as big goals can be setting small goals more frequently is highly underrated and deserves just as much excitement.
The Benefits of Setting Smaller Goals
Establishes the Habits You Need to Achieve Bigger Goals
It should be a no-brainer, but if you’ve never run a mile before then you’re probably going to struggle to place in that marathon. If your goal is to form a new habit, or add on to an existing one, baby steps is the way to go.
Let’s say your goal is to lift weights for a full hour every day. That might be someone’s baby step, but if you live a mostly sedentary lifestyle and aren’t used to exercising, I’ve got to tell you (with all the love) that you’re setting yourself up for failure. You’ll do it on that first day – and wake up the next morning too sore to move. An hour-long weightlifting workout is out of the question when you’re not sure you can make it up a set of stairs! Now you’re on Day 2 of your epic goal and you’re already breaking your own terms. Not off to a great start, huh?
That’s not to say you can’t go from a couch potato lifestyle to gym goddess. A good small goal would be to work out every day for at least 15-20 minutes. That might not seem like much, but you’re building the habit of making exercise part of your daily routine – and by re-evaluating that goal once a month, you can tailor upward to match your newly developed tolerance as you need to.
Winning Small Goals Develops a Self-Image of Confidence
It’s true that most other people won’t ever know or care what you’re working on behind-the-scenes of your life, and no matter what that voice in your head says, no one is judging you on it. But YOU know, and repeated failures in goal setting can do a big number on your self-esteem. However, multiple, consistent wins helps you form an image of yourself as a bona-fide goal-getter who can’t be stopped, and that confidence will follow you wherever you go.
Suddenly, big things will seem much more manageable, because you’ll know you’re more than capable of achieving what you put your mind to. Establishing a pattern of winning, even at small goals, keeps you energized and motivated to tackle whatever comes next.
Setting small goals, like daily goals, keeps that “winning” mindset with you throughout your day. While most small goals won’t change your life – they help to change your mindset.
Ever wonder why the military trains recruits to make their bed first thing in the morning, immediately after they get out of it? It’s because when your first action of the day is to fulfill a task to completion, your brain starts off the day in productivity mode. You’ve already set the standard for the day – that you see something that needs doing, and you do it.
What makes a good day a good day? When everything goes right. You wake up on time, the morning isn’t rushed, you get to work with a couple minutes to spare. Your makeup, hair, or outfit looks good and you feel great about the breakfast you ate. For the rest of the day, everything just kind of seems to go better, doesn’t it?
You know by now it isn’t anything to do with the day itself – it’s the mindset you form when things are going well that keeps you in that zone. Which in turn makes things keep going well.
What if you could create that every day? If you start off each day with a series of small goals, and meet them, how much could your mindset improve?
It Keeps Your Goals Relevant
There’s nothing worse than losing your momentum halfway through a big goal because you’ve changed your mind about what you want or the goal is no longer relevant to your life. Starting over from what can seem like a failed goal can definitely be disheartening. Setting smaller goals that you achieve in a shorter amount of time means that everything you’re working toward is something that you want – no time to get stale or second guess yourself!
Working towards long-term goals is necessary for a good life, don’t get me wrong. As humans, though, we change and evolve over time, and those long-term goals change right along with us. It’s important to have a 10-year plan … but it’s just as important to reevaluate the goals you set 10 years ago if that’s not what you want now.
Make it a habit to set small goals that you can accomplish daily and weekly. This will make sure that when you’re focusing on goal work, you know it’s relevant to your current life, and you know it’s aligned with your current values and ambitions.
It Establishes a Pattern of Success
Did you know that when you achieve a goal, your brain releases dopamine? This is the “feel good” neurotransmitter that makes comfort food so comforting, or cuddles with a loved one so relaxing. It’s what makes you giddy when you buy a pair of shoes you’ve been wanting.
It’s also low-key addictive; you seek out things that give you dopamine. Setting small goals frequently and achieving them gives you regular doses of dopamine, and establishes a subconscious understanding that success feels good. Once you’ve formed a pattern of success you’ll find yourself seeking it out, and all that drudgework that it takes to accomplish a goal? It doesn’t feel so drudge-y anymore.
Breaks Your Bigger Goals Into Baby Steps
Breaking large goals into small, easily-accomplished baby steps is the true secret of highly successful people. Setting a new goal is exciting, and that alone motivates you at first. But in order to keep going you’ll need to replace that motivation with something else – it doesn’t stick around forever.
What if, instead of setting a goal to write a novel and then petering out somewhere between the outline and Chapter 8, you broke that into chunks?
When your goal is to outline a novel – well, that’s a lot easier than writing an entire novel. It’s just Step 1.
Your end goal is exactly the same, but one feels like a gargantuan task that you might never finish, while the other feels like something you could probably crank out in a week.
Same with Chapter 1. And then Chapter 2, and so on and so forth. Writing a novel is huge and possibly terrifying, but writing a single chapter? You might as well get to work on it right now!
What do you think, are you going to start setting smaller goals with me? Let me know in the comments!