Career Success

The secret to accomplishing big goals is to set and achieve small goals.

Did you decide that this is the year to make a big change? Maybe get a new job, change careers or start a business?

If so, you’re not alone.

Have you made significant progress on that change?

If not, you’re not alone!

The Myth of Bigger is Better

One of the biggest hurdles to accomplishing goals is the myth that you have “aim high” or “think big” which leads to people believing they also have to act big to accomplish their goals.

It’s not surprising since many of the famous self-help gurus preach about the extremes.

And no one working in the business world has escaped the concept of “stretch goals.” The idea that by shooting for larger than life goals, or those that you are unlikely to achieve, you will work harder and achieve more.

Believing that the one big gulp will get you to your goal may be what’s holding you back.

Instead, science has shown that setting small goals is actually more likely to get you to your big goal.

Small Wins Make Winners

Have you heard of the idea of small wins? It means setting yourself up for smaller, more frequent successes, rather than taking massive action that requires a much longer period of time before you achieve a goal.

This works because of the way your brain works.

Your brain rewards closure, or completing something. When you tell your brain you want something and you take (even itty-bitty) small steps to accomplish it, and each of those little steps is a small goal in itself, you release feel-good chemicals in your brain. These chemicals cause you to feel good about yourself and encouraged about your accomplishments.

So, when you take your big goal and break it into tiny pieces, those small wins cause a constant dose of pleasure chemicals.

And it becomes an infinite loop of accomplishment.

You want to feel the way you felt when you accomplished that small win again.

So, you keep moving, bit by bit, inexorably, toward that big goal.

Good Things Come in Small Packages

There are plenty of studies that show breaking a big goal down into smaller, more achievable goals leads to a much higher success rate.

Rather than waiting for months or years or five years to be successful, you are rewarded with encouraging daily or weekly success milestones.

Also, when you are rewarded more frequently, there is a much greater likelihood you will stay on the path to achieving your bigger goal.

Want to make massive change in your life? Make it one small goal at a time.

How do you keep working toward your goals when you have setbacks and things go wrong?

It’s easy to feel good about your goal when you’re humming along, and things are going well.

It’s a lot harder when you run into bumps, obstacles and setbacks.

The journey to achievement of any goal is going to have bumps and problem, like when a step you take or decision you make doesn’t turn out quite like you expected.

Maybe you set yourself a goal to get a new job this year. And you’ve been faithfully networking, searching, and applying. And nothing is happening. You feel like you are spinning your wheels.

Or worse yet, you had an interview for a job you were really excited about and you didn’t get an offer.

When you work hard and don’t get results, it is frustrating and discouraging.

You might feel like giving up on your goal. Setbacks can do that.

Don’t Make a Setback into a Failure

For most people, failure is a scary word. For most, their mental map on failure is loaded with negative connotations and fear.

Your mental maps are groups of mental shortcuts. We all have them. In fact, we each have an entire atlas of maps. We build them for things like driving, going to school, living in families and working in companies. And these maps contain unwritten rules and assumptions that once learned, we rarely question.

It’s important to recognize that many of these unwritten rules and assumptions you did not even consciously choose. You learned them from other people–parents, teachers, coaches, and friends.

The failure map often says that failure is not just a bad thing; it’s a personal flaw. Only winners have worth. Only winners are good. Winning is their reward for doing all of the right things.

On the other flip side, this same map says that if you fail, there must be something wrong with you. Failure is a judgement of you and your worth. It’s the opposite of winning. If you fail, the map says, you must have done something to deserve that failure. You must not be good enough to succeed.

So, if you turn a goal setback into a failure, and your mental map says failure is a judgement on what you deserve, it’s difficult – if not impossible – to pick yourself up and keep pursuing that goal.

No Plan Survives Full Contact with Reality

Setbacks happen. If you’re not expecting them, you’re not thinking realistically about what it’s going to take to achieve your goals.

A better way to handle goal setbacks is to not just accept that they happen, but expect them to happen. Make them part of your plan.

Think about the last time you learned a new skill. Or when you learned how to ride a bike, ski or skate. The first time you attempted the new skill you were likely pretty awful. In fact, you might have been awful the first few times. You were also very likely afraid, not only before and during your initial attempt, but also before and during each subsequent attempt, again for quite some time. You might have fallen, or even hurt yourself.

So, learning any or all of these new skills was, in the beginning, a series of setbacks.

Then, something unexpected happened. You started to master the skill. You went from stumbling and awkward to graceful and swift. You felt exhilarated. You succeeded.

If you had let your fear, awkwardness, or embarrassment stop you when you were learning, you would have missed out on the success you ultimately achieved. Instead, you persevered. You learned to treat your setbacks as part of the journey to success.

Bring that same mindset to your current goal setbacks.

Being able to endure setbacks, and even expect them, will go a long way towards making the journey of achieving your goals faster and easier.

Three tips for keeping a New Year’s resolution or promise to yourself.

Did you make a New Year’s resolution this year? Maybe you made one of these popular 2017 resolutions (according to Google):

1.    “Get Healthy”
2.    “Get Organized”
3.    “Live Life to the Fullest”
4.    “Learn New Hobbies”
5.    “Spend Less/Save More

If you did make a resolution, chances are you already broke it.

The consolation? You’re not the only one!

Why is it so difficult to keep a New Year’s resolution?

One reason we fail at resolutions is that we resolve to make too big a change.

With that new year/fresh start mindset, people mistakenly believe that a resolution must involve a momentous change (which is the most difficult to accomplish).

Another reason is that we don’t have the emotional leverage needed to survive the transition.

The good news is that it’s never too late to start again. And this time, to keep your promise.

How to Keep a New Year’s Promise

Ready to start again and succeed this time? Here are three tips:

Be the Tortoise, Not the Turkey

Except for significant addictions, cold turkey is not the way to succeed.

Making change gradually is less of a shock, plus it allows your brain to physically change its pathways.

Gradual change also lets you make mistakes and still move toward your goal. When you aim for all-or-nothing, you leave yourself little room for learning how to change.

2-How Do You Eat an Elephant? One Bite at a Time.

Break your oversized goal into easily-accomplished chunks: this quarter, this month, this week, today. Then celebrate accomplishing each of these small goals.

Breaking your elephant into small bites lowers the bar as well as the intimidation factor.

And celebrating small wins gives you positive reinforcement to help you keep on track.

3-Why, Oh Why?

Ask yourself why you want to make the change, and then find a tangible object to symbolize that reason.

I call them touchstones, and they can be as simple as a penny or as complex as a collage. Whatever helps remind you of your emotional commitment to your chosen promise.