Personal Growth

Why to Start Small When Setting Goals

We’ve all been there. We’ve approached a new year with excitement about how we’re going to change our life in next 12 months, and, to that end, we set big goals. 

But I think we all know how this ends. We give it our all for two, maybe three, weeks, only to fail before the first month is ever over.  

You want to know why? 

We don’t start small. 

I get it. You have big dreams and big dreams require big goals. But let me share with you the power of starting small.

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Here are some reasons to start small when setting goals and some tips for getting started with small goals. 

Big Goals are Overwhelming 

First, I need you to know that there are two ways to set big goals: (1) set one big goal that isn’t actionable, and (2) set a lot of little goals. 

One Big Goal 

When you set one big goal, your brain physically can’t comprehend what needs to be done in order to accomplish the goal.  

Let me give you an example. A big goal might look something like this: “Earn $100,000 in my business this year.”  

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love big goals. I think it’s important to set goals that are big and scary and seem unachievable. The problem is when they’re not broken down into smaller goals.  

Big goals only work if there are smaller goals driving action. 

Lots of Little Goals 

I tend to fall into the second trap of setting a ton of little goals. I mean, if I’m going to change my life, I need to set goals in every area of my life, right?! 

But instead of nailing all 6 goals, my brain gets completely overwhelmed and I fail at all of them.  

A juggler doesn’t learn to juggle by starting with six balls. Instead, they start with one ball and slowly add in more. It’s the same with goals. 

If you’re setting a lot of goals all at once, you’re setting yourself for failure. 

Little Wins Are Motivating 

When you start with a big goal, like the $100,000 example above, you can easily get burnt out long before reaching the goal. Because the timeframe is long and goal is big, it feels completely unachievable, and, after weeks and months of hustling, you still feel like you have nothing to show for it. 

With small goals, though, you get a lot of little wins to drive you forward. 

If your goal is to make $5,000 this month, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s easy to measure your progress along the way. Working long nights doesn’t seem quite so terrible if it’s only for four weeks. 

Then, once you’ve achieved your monthly goal, you have the excitement of that win to propel you toward next month’s goal. 

Related: 5 Simple Steps for Setting Long-Term Goals

Habits Build Off of Habits 

This is probably the most important point and, if you walk away with nothing else, remember this: habits build off of habits.  

Knowing this is particularly important when you’re setting personal goals. 

Does this sound familiar? You decide to start a morning routine and go all in with a long list of things you want to get done every morning. You want to get up at 5am and workout and make breakfast and journal and work on your side hustle. 

But the reality is that your body is used to waking up at 7 and convincing yourself to get up two hours earlier is next to impossible. You try and you fail.  

Yep, I’ve been there, too. 

So here’s the trick: habits build off of habits. If you can wake up just 15 minutes earlier for 3 weeks to make breakfast, this will become a habit. Then, if you wake up just 15 minutes earlier than that to journal each morning before making breakfast, it won’t feel like such a big adjustment. 

As you start to form little habits, you can keep adding on to them in increments and trick your body into believing that nothing’s really changed.

Related: How to Turn Long-Term Goals into Short-Term Goals

Finding New Reasons 

Here’s where most people fail in starting small: most people depend on the excitement of the new year to act as a catalyst for achieving their goals.  

This is great for the first 3 weeks, but, after the excitement wears off, your desire to wake up early wears off, too.  

The goals that you set 6 weeks ago don’t feel as important anymore and no one else is talking about their goals because the new year’s wave of goal-setting has come and gone. 

The truth is this: “New Year, New You” isn’t going to cut it. You need bigger and better reasons for wanting change. 

So take some time to think about why you really want to change. Do you want to get up earlier to make more time for your side hustle so that eventually you can quit your 9 to 5? Do you want to run every day so that you can finally achieve your dream of running a marathon?  

What is it that’s truly driving your goals? Write it out as if it’s already happened and put it somewhere you’ll see it often.  

If you want to build your business so you can quit your 9 to 5, write “I am going to quit my 9 to 5 and live a life of freedom.” If you want to run a marathon, write “I am going to run a marathon.” 

Notice that I didn’t write “I might run a marathon someday.” No. You need to write out your reason as something that is definitely going to happen. “I will…” “I am going to…”  

Then you need to truly believe it. 

One Last Note 

Every year we take the time to set our goals, knowing that achieving them will change our lives. This year, let’s actually achieve them. 

Let me know in the comments what your goals are for 2019 and how you’ve made them small and achievable.

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