Much has been said and written about the power of big fat hairy goals, what I call audacious goals.
Far away and seemingly impossible goals can keep you moving forward for the years they may take to accomplish. But today I’m going to embrace my full contrarian self and sing the praises of the exact opposite: setting a few absurdly simple, easily accomplished, tiny goals.
The Easily Accomplished, Tiny Goal
This was something I did for a long time before I recognized it for what it was.
For example, I’ve written before about my manipulation of my virtual running partner Frank. I set him to run at an absurdly slow pace so I can be sure to beat him on days when I need a mental boost.
But come to find out, this is a real thing.
I recently heard Tim Ferriss (productivity blogger and guru) talking about this very thing in a video with Entrepreneur magazine.
The gist of his idea (and what I’d been doing without realizing it) is setting a ridiculously tiny goal for yourself so you know you can accomplish it.
Rig the game so you’ll win, as he puts it.
The Journey Of A Thousand Steps…
Big audacious goals are great for the long haul, but sometimes those goals can be intimidating precisely because they are so big.
Achieving them can seem impossible at times. Progress can be slow. Sometimes painfully slow.
This is where tiny goals can play a part, especially when you tie your tiny goals up into bigger and bigger benchmarks. Before you know it, the tiny goals will lead you to achieve your audacious goal.
The book The One Thing does a great job describing how this process can work.
The idea of the book is to figure out the tiny thing you can do today, such that by doing it, makes everything else easier.
Why Tiny Goals Need A Place
They Are Actionable
Big monster goals aren’t actionable.
There isn’t one thing you can do to get you from where you are, to where you need to be to accomplish your massive goal.
But when you break down your massive goal far enough, you get little activities you can do every day to move you forward.
You can’t do the big stuff, you do the little stuff.
They Aren’t Intimidating
If you set a big goal that stretches your limits, that can be intimidating.
You may talk yourself out of trying because it’s scary and you’d have to push your limits.
Running a marathon if you are a couch potato or doing 100 push-ups can be terrifying.
But running a single block? Doing a single push-up?
Not remotely intimidating.
They Get You Over The Starting
The hardest part of nearly every project is the starting.
Heading out the door for a run, or starting with a blank page when writing the next great American novel. That first step and that first word are often harder than all the others put together.
If your goal is ridiculously small, you can’t make any (legitimate) excuses not to do it. And once you get started, you may as well keep going.
I read somewhere about someone who set a goal of flossing one tooth a day. That is such an absurdly low bar, he had no excuse to not floss a single tooth. But once he did that, he was much more likely to keep going and floss all of this teeth, he’d already started after all.
They Build Habits
What You Do Every Day Matters More Than What You Do Once In a While. – Gretchen Rubin
Regular, tiny, successful goals will keep you moving in the right direction on a daily basis. These small goals will get you in the habit of taking action every day.
The small goals are actionable and easy – so you do them. Every day.
This keeps you moving in the right direction and reminds you regularly of what you are trying to accomplish.
They Create A Sense Of Accomplishment
I regularly do the Monday New York Times crossword puzzle. They run the easiest puzzles on Monday and get progressively harder through the week. While the Sunday puzzles can be a fun challenge, I hate the feeling of being stymied by ink on a piece of paper.
I like Monday puzzles because I know I can finish them. My brain doesn’t care that the puzzle is easier on Monday, it only knows I finished it.
Reaching a goal makes you feel good. Your brain doesn’t know (or doesn’t care) that you rigged the game.
You set a goal and you accomplished it.
That feels good, no matter how small the goal was.