Set Goals but Work on Small Moves over the Short Term

The last day of the year has arrived – again! For many people, this is a time for review and reflection about the year now drawing to a close. Besides being the end of another year, an entire decade has passed since the turn of the century in 2000. Ten years ago, the start of this new millennium was a significant moment marked by all sorts of hoopla, but now it’s just another memory, another tick on history’s timeline.

I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. The broad, general goals set by most people – lose weight, quit smoking, start to exercise – rarely happen because they often lack a deadline. And without specifying the action steps needed to accomplish the desired goal, it’s highly unlikely the goal will be met.

But for some people, just making a resolution or two as a way to start their New Year is empowering, and a small minority actually succeed in reaching their goals. But according to one national survey, 88% of all people who make resolutions end up failing within the first 3 months of the New Year.

Many articles and books have been written about how to set and successfully reach goals. However, instead of looking at all the surefire ways to reach a goal, it might be more helpful (and perhaps amusing) to look at many of the ways we can be sure NOT to reach our goals.

Set unrealistic or unreasonable goals.

For instance, a very simple way we can self-sabotage is by setting unrealistic or unreasonable goals. If your goal is to lose weight, and you have a lot of weight to lose, it does not make sense to set your goal too high and your deadline to short. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Don’t write your goals down.

Another obvious but frequently skipped step is to not write your goals down. By writing them down, you are, in effect, making a proclamation or contract with yourself. And by taking it another step further and sharing your goal with as many others as possible, you will add accountability into the equation. Nobody likes to announce their intentions only to fail miserably.

Stay unfocused, pessimistic and lacking in motivation.

It takes a lot of effort to break patterns and habits that are deeply ingrained in us over years. In order to consistently put effort towards reaching a challenging goal over a period of time (few goals are reached in a day, week or even a month!) requires tremendous focus. In addition to laser-like focus, we need to be highly motivated and most motivated people are positive, can-do thinkers.

While you’re working towards fulfilling your goal or New Year’s resolution, commit to optimistic thinking, even if you need a coach or buddy to help you maintain that attitude.

Concentrate on failure. And throw in bad luck and fate while you’re at it!

According to the Law of Attraction, what we think of most – consciously and especially subconsciously – is what we draw to us. Often, people who concentrate on failure also believe that bad luck and fate are what draws failure to them, and therefore that failure is, for all intents and purposes, out of their control.

Don’t have a contingency plan. Just wing it.

Even the best laid plans go awry. Even people with tremendous stamina, determination, optimism and faith have set-backs. By not considering options and alternatives ahead of time, we are far more likely to abandon our goals when we hit a bump – or bumps – in the road. And just like writing our goals down adds to the likelihood that we’ll reach them, having some alternate actions or plans written down will give us confidence to overcome the unexpected.

Be prepared to quit, or better yet, admit defeat before you’re defeated.

In the final episode of the TV show The Biggest Loser, the final 3 contestants are challenged to complete a full marathon, which is 26.2 miles and grueling even for a physically fit person. What has impressed me most is not that they attempt the race, but that everyone so far has completed the race. Many of them have had to walk the majority of it, sometimes with support and encouragement from a family member, trainer or past contestant at their sides for part of the distance.

But each contestant to reach that point in the competition has expressed similar thoughts as they’ve struggled – sometimes in excruciating pain – to finish the race. And the consistent theme has been, “Failure is NOT an option.”

Never create an action plan. And forget about making small moves over the short term!

We all know that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Hell, we even know it took Mother Nature millions of years to carve the magnificent Grand Canyon. Why oh why, then, do we mere mortals think that we can reach a goal in one giant step? It just doesn’t work that way!

In reality, it is ALWAYS the small, incremental steps that add up and get us to our goal. And even when we encounter a single obstacle or experience many set-backs on the path to our goal, if we keep moving forward, we will eventually succeed.

Reaching our goals is a lot like playing the childhood board game called Candy Land. Remember that? When playing the game, I often thought it would never end, that I’d never reach Candy Castle. With all the chutes and ladders, taking two moves forward and 5 moves back, the game just went on and on. Even if you were fortunate enough to land on one of the two shortcuts, Rainbow Trail or Gumdrop Pass, the journey to Candy Castle looked endless.

So now that I’ve outlined all the sure-fire ways to NOT reach your goals, I want to give you what I think is the most important TO-DO TIP:

Make Many Mini-Moves!

Even saying it is fun…try saying that 5 times fast! And to make it even more powerful, perform these mini-moves over as short an amount of time as possible.

This is perhaps the most valuable piece of advice I can give to insure that you reach your goals.

Why? We like to “win” the game. We like to feel we’ve accomplished something at the end of the day. We like to check things off our lists. We like to get a pat on the back. We like to see measurable results. We thrive on action, not inaction.

By defining small tasks that can be done in a short amount of time but which cumulatively still move us along towards our long-term and final goal, we will remain motivated because we’ll see things getting done. We’ll be able to handle set-backs when they come because our focus will be on the now, instead of only on the future. It’s much easier to shift small gears than try to turn completely around.

We won’t be as tempted to quit, because we won’t feel like we’re running a 26.2 mile marathon, when we’re just walking around the block. Without just long-term, unreasonable or unrealistic goals looming ahead, we will be much more likely to feel capable of reaching the smaller, interim goals we set for ourselves in our master plan.

Small steps over the short term can generate huge payoffs over the long term.

  • Losing just 1/2 pound a week of weight loss equals 26 pounds over a year.
  • Increasing your savings annually by 1% over 16 years can quadruple your nest egg.
  • Regular moments of quality time with a loved one add up to a better relationship.
  • During the heating season, every degree you go down from 72 F saves three percent over a 24 hour period.

Whether you always wait for January 1 to start afresh setting new goals or making new resolutions, or like me, you find any day of the year perfect for turning over a new leaf, I wish you success in accomplishing what you set out to do.

As one of my favorite authors, T.S. Eliot wrote in his poem Little Gidding: “What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Switch to our mobile site