I’ve got a pretty quick one for you today about goal setting.
I was already planning to write a post on small goals, and then I read a book last week which got me excited to write it this today, called ‘Stick With It’ by Sean Young PhD (seanyoungphd.com). The book is well worth a read, and has a heap of really useful tools and ideas in it for how to create lasting behaviour change, including a much more detailed look into the psychology behind why small goals work.
Here’s how I’ve used small goals to my benefit in the past.
Too big, too soon.
When setting goals, a mistake that I often made in the past and still occasionally do, is making the goal too big.
It’s fantastic to have big goals, however when it comes to setting yourself up for a win, they really need to be broken down into smaller chunks.
The problem with a big goal is that when you’re just starting out and the novelty value is high, it may be easy to stick to. When the novelty wears off however your motivation disappears, and you fall off the wagon.
Failing at any goal, big or small, that you’ve set yourself isn’t good, as it kills motivation and you end up feeling like you’ve lost.
Let’s look at my nutrition for example, which is something I’ve always struggled with.
I used to set unrealistic goals for myself, like switching from the ‘junk’ diet I had to a completely clean diet all at once, with no cheating.
Inevitably I’d get excited to get started the next Monday, and usually begin really well.
By Thursday though my motivation was dropping, at which point I’d give in and eat some ‘junk’ food. And then I felt like I’d lost so I didn’t bother with the rest of the week.
As that process repeats, the losses pile up which does you no good at all.
You start telling yourself that maybe you just can’t do it.
Plan small, achieve big.
A much better approach would be to start by breaking your big goal into something smaller.
In the case of my nutrition, I would pick a number of meals per week that I thought I could manage to do completely clean. It had to be a number that I thought I could manage easily.
When I reached that goal I felt like I’d won, and my motivation would build to where I’d actually be excited for the next week.
The next week I would aim to build on the last one, by adding say one more clean meal in for the week.
By piling up these small wins, you’re building your confidence in your ability to achieve goals, as well as slowly building sustainable habits.
If I happened to have a week where I didn’t hit my goal, then I wouldn’t make a big deal about it, but simply try to hit that goal the next week.
With the majority of your goals getting hit, the occasional miss is much less likely to derail you.
Give this approach a try, and let me know how it works for you.
If you’ve already had success with small goals I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll catch you next time.