How to achieve big goals with small steps

When I started swimming this summer after almost a year’s break, I could barely do two lengths at a time. Disappointed with my fitness level, I set myself a goal to do 25 lengths (625 meters), without a break, before the season was over. I had six months to achieve the goal but the voices from inside said ‘that’s too hard’, ‘but you are traveling half the time’, ‘why not 20 lengths that I used to do comfortably?’

My only response to the voices was: ‘Small steps towards big goals’. It’s a principle that has always worked for me, and for many others that I have shared it with. It’s a simple principle:

  1. Break it down: Whether the goal is about weight loss, savings or achieving sales targets, it gets easier once you break it down into small, manageable pieces. These can be monthly/weekly milestones or weekly/daily action steps. My dream of writing a book only materialized when I committed to write one chapter every weekend – I had the book ready in two years (100 chapters in 100 weeks).
  2. Stay focused: Once the goal is broken down, only focus on the small steps instead of worrying about the big goal. For example, focus on losing 1kg per week instead of worrying about 20kgs in five months. Or meeting one prospect a day to close one order a week, rather than the seemingly huge annual sales target.
  3. Persist: Don’t give up on the goal, or the action steps. Even if you don’t see the results, or even if the results are not so obvious. You may go through a week without losing 1kg despite the diet and exercise, but carry on the next week and the next. Professional salespeople know this very well – zero order this week often means two orders next week, as long as you continue to see new prospects every day. The more goals you give up on, the harder it will be to set new goals.

Most importantly, we must understand the difference between a wish/dream and a goal: A goal is specific and has a deadline. ‘I wish I could swim like that guy’ or ‘I need to improve my stamina’ is not the same as ‘I will swim 25 lengths in one go, before the end of October.’

In summary: Pick one thing from your wish list. Convert it into a six-month goal. Break it down into monthly milestones and daily or weekly action steps. Start the action; don’t give up. Every goal achieved will give you more confidence in yourself and the principle.

“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘you cannot paint’, then by all means paint. And that voice will be silenced.” -Van Gogh

PS. I did my 25 lengths today. Next goal: 1km swim before the end of the year.

[Photo during River Li cruise with Salma – another one of the important goals achieved this month]


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