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How To Think Small To Achieve Big

By Paul Lyons | PaulLyons, Leadership |


It seems like a hundred years ago now that I attended some management training where I was asked “How do you walk around Australia?” To me it was just another trick question that I didn't know the answer to, a feeling that was confirmed when the presenter triumphantly announced the answer as being “one step at a time".

She was right of course, although I didn't see the significance of this until later in my career when I faced some big big tasks and needed to chunk them down to make them more accessible and achievable.

Reading this post by performance specialist Kerry Greer on the excellent Game Plan website by Adidas reinforced the need to think small when achieving success.

Over to you Kerry

Have a big goal in mind? That’s awesome. You want to dream big? The key to success is to think small. While it might seem counterintuitive, research shows that setting small, achievable goals along the way can improve your chances of reaching your big goal. Here’s how:

1)   They help uncover your motivation

As you set your short-term goals, you have to ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” If it’s to lose 60 pounds in time for your annual family lake vacation, ask yourself “Why is this important to me?” If it’s important to you because you want to enjoy playing with your kids, again ask yourself “Why is this important to me?” Your answer might be that you want your kids to have fond memories of your vacation. And this might be important to you because you didn’t take family vacations growing up. Continue this exercise until you find the truest, deepest reason behind your goal. Now you can set short-term goals that build on that intention and keep your motivation at the forefront. Without that intention, reaching your goal is less likely and falling off track is much easier

2) They provide a clear path to success

It’s so exciting to set a long-term goal. But how are you going to get there? Let’s say you want to run a 5K in less than 25 minutes. The specificity of your goal is ideal, now you need to set clear steps to success. Developing a series of incremental goals will show you what you need to do each week, month, or year. If the goal is a 5K in under 25 minutes, you can start with a smaller goal of running 1K in six minutes, and then build on that goal.

3) They allow you to track your progress

With any long-term goal you need to know where you’re starting .The starting line is just as important as your destination. It can be as simple as a pre-assessment at home, for example, weighing yourself, or a more precise body composition with a professional. Your short-term goals will now act as checkpoints. Did you take a minute off your 5K times? Are you building more muscle? Whatever your goal, you’ll be able to see if the steps you’re taking are leading to change.

4) They keep you accountable

Let’s say you set a goal to lose six pounds every four weeks. If you make it to your first six-week checkup and you’ve gained six pounds or haven’t budged, you’re forced to take a hard look at what you’re doing. We’re all bound to slip up, so don’t beat yourself up. Use this as a chance to refocus and get back into the swing of things.

5) They can help keep you focused

The challenge with a long term goal is that it can seem so far away – weeks, months, or even years – that it doesn’t feel quite so detrimental to put off progressing. You may find yourself asking, “Why not tomorrow?” Short-term goals allow you to focus in short increments so that you’re so focused on your next mini goal that you don’t have the time to put things off.

Think of your short term goals like events in a triathlon . Each time you reach a new part of the race you get to celebrate but you are immediately required to refocus and keep pushing forward.


Paul Lyons is an experienced CEO who coaches leaders to improve their performance and wellbeing by developing their mindset. To learn more about building your mental toughness contact Paul or Mental Toughness Partners






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