Recently, I've been talking a lot about goals – with friends and clients – and thinking about them in my own personal reflections. That's hardly surprising, since the early part of the year is a typical time to consider goals and new beginnings. But something has changed. Whereas I used to ask "Are you thinking big enough," I'm now asking "Are your goals small enough?"
Huh? What? Yes, you heard me right. Each day, I find I'm reminded of the huge value of setting tiny goals.
Quick story: One of my long-standing goals has been to clean my office. I mean really clean it out. Embarrassing to say (and I won't tell you how long-standing this goal has been), this is actually a big goal for me because I've let it go too long.
The cleanup now feels so daunting and every time I think about it – something far more important (or interesting) takes precedence.
So the shelves get heavier with stuff that doesn't need to be there and the desk – where's my desk? Oh yes, under that pile. This has been a great source of frustration and my procrastination has kept me stuck.
Instead of saying "I have to clean my office," I changed my goal to "I want to clean that tiny corner of my office today."
Guess what happened? I cleaned that tiny corner in my office. It was fairly effortless, yet it made a massive difference to me. I felt a huge sigh of relief (clean space can do that), and I'm now ready to set my sights on my next tiny space.
I'm not saying all goals need to be tiny. What I'm saying is that there is huge merit in including tiny goals in your life. Sure, big goals have a place and are energizing, too, but even in those there may be nuggets of opportunities to achieve tiny goals along the way.
Five reasons why tiny goals can make a big impact
1. Tiny goals are easier to start with. Setting tiny goals can overcome the procrastination factor. Developing a new habit such as getting in shape is a heck of a lot easier if you set realistic, smaller goals that you can build on rather than going for an Ironman Tiathlon before you've even donned your first pair of running shoes.
2. Tiny goals can be part of a larger goal. We've all heard of the expression "chunk it down." By chunking down a large goal into smaller goals, the challenge becomes more attainable and is easier to focus on. Got any massive reports to write or businesses to build? Can you create smaller goals to map out the journey to completion?
3. Tiny goals give you the experience of success and momentum. Action momentum is what happens when you successfully take steps, achieve results and feel motivated to take further steps. But often it starts with the first step, which can be shaped into a tiny "start" goal.
4. Tiny goals allow you to celebrate, which bolsters positivity. We now know that positivity has been scientifically proven to broaden your mind and increase your potential for success over time. In fact, people who keep themselves in a positive frame of mind are more apt to achieve bigger goals. Why not use tiny goals to help you gear up toward greater success?
5. Tiny goals can help you develop a habit of setting goals, achieving goals and celebrating goals – which can make you happier. Pursuing meaningful goals is fundamental to experiencing meaningful life. Often people don't even realize they are living without goals. Learning to set goals regularly and to right-size them can contribute to a happier, healthier, more meaningful life.
Eileen Chadnick (@Chadnick) is a work-life and leadership coach and principal of Big Cheese Coaching in Toronto. She is the author of Ease, a book offering strategies to manage overwhelm in times of 'crazy busy.'