So often when we talk about goals they are big, long-term, life changing goals. But the reality is, to reach the big goal, you first have to successfully reach several smaller (but just as important) goals. By focusing only on the big goal, you actually increase your chances of failure.
Most goals are more like the age-old question: “How do you eat an elephant? …..One bite at a time!” This is particularly true when trying to develop new habits or make behavioral changes. It is generally a process of lots of little steps that eventually take you down your chosen path. Breaking down a big goal into steps makes it easier to achieve that goal; but figuring out all those steps can be challenging.
Last year I participated in Starship Adventure with Tara Swiger. One of the valuable processes I learned from Tara was the process of Map Making. This year she has added a new option called a Solo Mission. In both versions, a central focus is taking a big, major, important goal and breaking it down in to much smaller steps, milestones, mini-goals and achievements. My involvement with the process made it clear why many times we see our big plans and goals that are not achieved as fails because we forget to acknowledge and celebrate all the small successes along the way.
SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Time-bound. Even when we are good about creating SMART goals for our major destination, we often miss the important step of repeating the process many times for large number of intermediate steps required along our path.
Begin by ensuring that your major goals meet the SMART criteria:
- Specific – Not vague (lose weight), but specific (lose 15 pounds)
- Measurable – Quantifiable in an obvious way
- Actionable – Focus on action verbs
- Realistic – A stretch can be good, but an unattainable milestone is discouraging
- Time-bound – Without a due date, it is just a dream
Once you have ensured the “big” goal meets the SMART criteria, repeat the process as many times as possible for each of the steps along the path. Remember that each mini-goal met should be rewarded and celebrated because they are critically important. Although creating lots of little goals may just seem like extra work, but there is actual proof around this concept. I haven’t yet read the book, Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change (Kindle version), but the information shared in Tara’s post makes it a must read on my list.
As part of goal setting, it is also important to establish a regular schedule to review progress. In most cases reviewing progress should happen no less than once a week, but no more often than once a day. Although there will be failures and misses along the way as you work at breaking down a big goal, don’t get bogged down in negativity. Look for ways to improve and then focus on the points of success doling out rewards as appropriate. Before you know it, you will have eaten your proverbial elephant and be ready to begin your next adventure.