All people have goals. Whether it’s to finish an entire bag of Doritos or run a marathon, there is a desired end result. The achievement of goals can be good or bad. For example, finishing the bag of Doritos may result in a few extra pounds while running the marathon may end in better health. Regardless of the outcome though, goals are necessary to live a fulfilled life.
This post is not about imposing pre-set goals on others. That would be narcissistic and ineffective. What works for some doesn’t always work for others. Goals need to be personal. The individual needs to take ownership of their goals with their entire body, heart, and mind. However, this post isn’t about specific goals at all. Rather, it is about the act of setting SMALL goals..
Taking ownership of a goal is merely the first step. The next step, the hardest part, is taking action. This is where people may become overwhelmed and give up. This is where people quickly succumb to defeat. This is why SMALL goals are so big!
To illustrate the importance of realistic goal setting I have made up the following person: James. He is a middle aged man who has expressed the desire to complete a 25 mile bike ride. Unfortunately,he has not ridden a bike in 10 years and is very much out of shape. Although he dreams of a 25 mile ride, it is daunting in his current state. Things are not looking so good for him! Where should he begin?
Let’s start with the negatives because that is what most people do. James is out of shape, nervous, overweight, prone to injury, unstable on the bike, doesn’t know traffic rules, and lacks confidence. This is a lot of opposition. Can you see why James may give up before starting? Do you blame him? James may ask himself “what is the point?”.
A realistic response from James may be, “there is none”. This answer stops him before he even begins. This is because his initial goal is too big…… for the moment. Given James’s experience, a 25 mile ride is a bit too overwhelming….. for now. Don’t mistake this post for a piece of pessimistic writing. People should certainly shoot for the moon and always try to exceed their expectations. However, this needs to be done with caution. With the ultimate achievement always in mind, goals must be laid out like rungs on a ladder. Would you attempt to reach the top of your house with only the top rung? It wouldn’t be possible. Imagine having to get to the top of a building if there was only a top stair. You would be stuck in the basement. Life is the same way.
It’s fantastic that James wants to complete a 25 mile ride, but he can’t start there. He needs to begin building his ladder. A good way to do this would be for him to find a baseline. He could then begin to climb, upwards, towards his ultimate goal. James may want to start on a stationary bike. His first goal could be to join a gym with this equipment. He could then make his next goal to ride for 5 minutes at a slow pace to achieve a baseline. Although this may seem minimal, finding the bike and getting a baseline are small, but important achievements. James has constructed the first rung on his ladder. He can now start his climb to the top.
James’ goals should be realistic and always stem from his baseline. For instance, if he found that he was able to pedal 1 mile in 5 minutes, his next goal may be to pedal 2.5 miles over 10 minutes. This isn’t too farfetched and is improvement towards his goal. Achieving this would be his second rung.The next goal could be to ride for 4 miles over 15 minutes. That would be the third rung. The fourth rung may be riding outside for 6 miles over 25 minutes. You get the point. By setting and achieving these smaller goals, James is constructing a stable ladder that will lead to his ultimate goal.
The process of building rungs or setting small goals is usually framed in a negative way. People look at this as tedious work rather than small victories. Additionally, people often compare themselves to others. This leads to doubt and tears down confidence. The reality is that some people have more rungs on their ladder when they begin. That’s ok. Everyone’s ladder is different. If they weren’t we would be robots. Thankfully you are able to customize, build, and rebuild your ladder to move you as far upward as you would like to go. The sky’s the limit.