In a Facebook post recently, someone asked what is the biggest mistake people make setting goals. My answer? They set goals that are way too big. In order to make significant life changes, most of us need to start small. Really really small.
I see this every day in my coaching practice.
In our first few sessions, clients always set lofty goals. We talk about an issue, maybe have some insight, maybe not, and they charge ahead, excited to transform their lives.
I’m going to keep a food journal every day!
I’m going to purchase and read that book we discussed!
I’m going to meditate 20 minutes daily!
I try to pull them back a little. How about doing this just three times? How about just finding the book to purchase? How about doing 5 minutes of meditation every day?
The truth is, our lives work a very specific way. If we aren’t working out daily, we’re not going to be able to sustain daily workouts for very long. If I want to do 30 minutes of cardio every day, that may sound easy. But let’s think about it.
First, I have to find a place to do cardio. Will I walk around the mall? Will I ride a bike in my neighborhood?
Then, I have to make sure I have the right equipment. Do I have proper shoes and clothes for cardio?
Next, I have to commit the time. When will I do this cardio?
Next, I have to face the fact that 30 minutes of cardio is probably at least a 60 minute commitment: there’s getting dressed, getting to the cardio location, and then cleaning up afterwards.
Finally, what did I eliminate from my life? I just took 60 minutes of time from my day: what am I going to give up? Will I give up doing dishes, cleaning the kitchen, balancing the checkbook, taking the cat to the vet, volunteering, or leading my networking group?
It is this last step that so often trips us up.
We don’t realize just how much we have to let go of in order to embrace something new. We don’t consider the whole cost of this giant new habit we want to sustain.
So you want to get some cardio in your life? Start small. Do you have steps in your house? Climb the steps 5 extra times a day. Do you use parking lots? Park in the spot furthest from the door. You might find that you can actually put 30 minutes of cardio into your day without joining a gym! Even if you don’t find 30 minutes of cardio in your daily life, at least you are able to have a partial victory by finding some extra activity before making a big time commitment.
Using baby steps gives us small quick victories that will reinforce our bigger goals.
Baby steps also help us to create new habits that will fit into our lives.
To change my diet, for example, I can’t just throw away all my food and buy different food. That won’t be sustainable. It could also distress my digestive system and give me unwanted side effects: fiber can cause bloating and gas, after all. Instead, I can incorporate one change a day. I can substitute one vegetable for a starch in our dinner every night. After a week of that, I can add two glasses of water to my daily beverage consumption. This gives my body time to adjust to each change.
Finally, using baby steps allows us to fully explore our bigger goal.
A business owner might set a revenue goal in January and then begin pursuing every possible income stream. This leads to “Shiny Object Syndrome” and prevents focused sustainable growth. Instead, a business owner might set a revenue goal and then break it down. How much income comes from each service or product? How many must be sold per month? Historically, how many sales calls does it take to sell one unit? This leads to a specific action plan that can be custom tailored to the normal rise and fall in sales each month.
What are the baby steps within your goal?
Look at your goal and analyze what changes need to happen. Then look at the tiny shifts you can make in order to facilitate those changes. Find the tiniest goals you can, and then focus on those, one by one, week by week. This is the path to success.