By Alex Davis
Happy Sunday, ladies! Did you set any New Years resolutions this year? How are they going? (A blog post on this very topic is right this way.) Sometimes, we outdo ourselves when we set big goals. We devise grandiose plans but never follow-through. My husband shared a great quote with me recently that meets this all-too-common tendency head-on: Dream big dreams, but set small goals.
I absolutely love this.
It is all too easy to fall into the trap of setting the most massively unattainable goals for ourselves. But this is just setting us up to fail. For instance, if you don’t work out at all right now, setting a goal to work out six days a week probably isn’t feasible. You will end up frustrated and irritated that you “failed,” when in reality, the problem was the unattainable goal you set – not you. Similarly, if you have been hoping to earn a higher salary, diving headlong into a blind job search may be fruitless when instead, you can focus on growing and progressing in your current position.
Dream big dreams, but set small goals.
One idea that my dad impressed upon me when I was in college and law school was that success stems from a series of small, good decisions. Not massively lifechanging ones (however, the sum of small good decisions WILL change your life). Not drastic ones. Small ones that, sure, require a substantial amount of discipline at times to execute, but do not require moving, crash-dieting, job-quitting, or other system-shocking, colossal life changes.
For example, imagine that your dream is to run a marathon one day, but your current workout routine consists of lifting a fork to your mouth (hey, no shame. I’ve been there, too!). Before you shell out $200 and book your flight to Boston, start by making the small good decision to bust out your old beat up running shoes and walk for 15 minutes. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has 15 extra minutes. The next small good decision is to walk for 20. Then to walk for 30, and sprinkle in some jogging. You see the idea.
Or say your big dream is to buy a house and make a substantial cash downpayment. Start with the small good decision of making your coffee at home rather than stopping at Starbucks. Use a coupon if you want to go out to eat. Say no to the new shoes you don’t need, even if they are 50% off (remember: you save 100% by not buying something you don’t need simply because it’s on sale.).
A series of small good decisions is not only attainable, but it can add up to some pretty wild success.
Now, let’s talk about you. What are some of your big dreams? Let’s do an exercise together:
1. Take out a pen and paper and write down some big dreams. And I mean big. The ones that keep you up at night. The ones you find yourself daydreaming about while at work. It can be anything: start a business, run a race, save up for a big vacation, change jobs, get promoted. No dream is too big or unattainable, so give yourself permission to go wild!
2. Write down some interim steps you will need to take to get there (e.g., in our marathon example, your steps might be: Run one mile, run five miles, run ten miles.). Label these interim goals Step 1, Step 2, etc.
3. Finally, write down ONE small, good decision you can make this week to get to Step 1. Just one. No matter how busy your schedule is this week, I promise you will find time for this one thing. And maybe the one thing involves eliminating something from your life. For instance, if you are trying to eat more nutritiously, your ONE thing might be ordering black coffee at Starbucks instead of the salted caramel mocha.
Give this a try and believe me, the results will amaze you. You know the adage that you can only eat an elephant “one bite at a time?” The same goes for your goals. Going from 0 to 26.2 in a few weeks is not possible, but thankfully, no one is asking you to do that. You may feel that colossal obstacles are standing in between you and your dreams, but try to restructure the way you think about this: what stands between you and your dreams is a series of small, good decisions.
Sounds pretty do-able, right? Let’s get to work! Get ready to take the world by storm, one small, good decision at a time. I can’t wait to see what you do!
Featured Image by Haute Chocolate.