We all have dreams. Big dreams. At least I hope they’re big dreams because otherwise what’s the point in getting out of bed every day. But (of course there was going to be a “but”) those dreams can often seem way far out of reach. Like Timbuktu out of reach. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed, not knowing where to begin, and then we give up because it’s impossible and who has time for dreams anyway when you have to pay those bills. The thing is you don’t have time not to dream if you want a life worth living. Dreams are part of what makes life sweet. They give us a direction to move in. They provide the basis for the adventurous, joyous journey that we want out of life.
Still it’s normal to feel some fear when setting goals. To have some insecurities or not know exactly how you’re going to get there. But if that renders you immobile then you’re going to be stuck and miserable. Of course action is the key component to realizing a dream but where most of us get tripped up is in thinking that it has to be major action. We need to move from 0 to 100 by next week. In fact we should have already arrived yesterday. The problem with that is we didn’t and in most of life lasting, quality change occurs in small increments rather than quantum leaps.
This expectation that we should have already accomplished something or we should accomplish it in an unrealistic amount of time is often what leads to feeling overwhelmed and keeps us stuck. If you were to completely break down every goal you’ve ever accomplished into all of the steps it took for you to get there you would see that nothing happened over night. Rather it was the accomplishment of many, many, many mini goals that led to you meeting your larger goal. So all you have to do to accomplish a major goal is to set enough mini goals to reach it. Phew, much easier! Here are five tips to get you started:
Determine Ultimate Goal
You need a destination in order to move at all. This is your north star. The end point to keep in mind no matter what challenges may pop up along the way. If you don’t have this you will simply wander around lost until you do.
Set Mini Goals
A mini goal is anything that can be done in 5 minutes or less. Make one phone call. Send one email. Read one article. Write one paragraph. Or one sentence. Or one word. This may seem silly. “What’s the point of writing one word when I’m trying to write a novel?” Because a novel is a collection of one words so you have to write one word in order to write more. Or “What’s the point of only running around the block when I’m trying to finish a marathon?” Because you’re trying to develop new habits and stack up accomplishments along the way. If you’ve never run a day in your life and the first time you run it’s the marathon you’ll often find yourself disappointed. Either you don’t finish or you don’t do as well as you’d hoped and you feel like a failure vowing to never set such a high goal again. However, if you give yourself several months in advance to train and you initially set a goal to run the half mile around your block and you do it you’ll have run farther than you’ve ever run. You’ll also feel more motivated to set another slightly longer distance goal and you’ll do that over and over and over until you run that marathon and you’ll feel accomplished the entire time you’re doing it.
Make Sure Goals are On Point
So pick a mini goal, anything at all, long as it seems like it’s pointing you in the direction of your ultimate goal. Just get started. Of course you can’t know for sure it’s the right direction until you complete the goal. But that’s okay. After you achieve a mini goal, if you realize it isn’t pointing you in the direction of your ultimate goal then you still win. You win because you didn’t waste a lot of time and energy heading in the wrong direction. You also win because you learned new information that will help you to head in the right direction. So then you continue to set more mini goals for as long as it takes. Asking for guidance from someone with more experience counts as a mini goal btw!
Attach Mini Goals to Habits You Already Have
You get out of bed every morning. If your ultimate goal is a hot bod do 5 pushups every morning as soon as you get out of bed. If your ultimate goal is to write a novel write words with your morning coffee or tea. If your ultimate goal is to have a cleaner, more organized house pick up miscellaneous items for five minutes right after brushing your teeth. That initial habit is the anchoring habit. It reminds us that we have something else to do. Soon the new habit (mini goal) becomes as routine as the anchoring habit and then we can set another one.
Know That Even the Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men Go Awry
We can set a path to a destination but of course trees will fall across it or we’ll get distracted by a beautiful pond and jump in for a swim, putting us a little behind schedule. But that’s okay because therein lies the adventure and opportunities. To learn something new, to trust, to have a unique experience. It’s cliche but also true but it becomes so easy to only focus on the destination that we miss out on the joys of the journey. Sometimes we also miss out on the opportunities along the way that may help us reach our destination faster and more smoothly. That’s why it’s important to keep an open mind and sense of humor when taking on any goal.
This whole process may sound overly simplistic but life really is that simple if we allow it to be. Any larger goal we have ever accomplished has been made up of numerous smaller goals that we frequently weren’t even aware of. If we start to look at the entire process differently we can be mindful in planning out our smaller goals so that we can reach our ultimate dreams with more ease and joy.