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10 Reasons to Focus on Steps, Not Goals

10 Reasons to Focus on Steps, Not Goals

When you want to improve an aspect of your life, it’s important to set goals. This is how you know where you want to end up. However, once you’ve set a goal for yourself, you should focus on the small steps you’ll be taking in order to reach this goal. You should always keep your final destination in sight, but know that it’s the small steps that will guide you there. Here’s what you can expect by keeping the small steps in mind.

1. You won’t feel intimidated

Maybe your goal is to become a master guitarist, but you don’t even know how to play a chord. It can be incredibly intimidating to watch a Grateful Dead concert as Jerry Garcia moves up and down the fret board for hours without breaking a sweat. You’ll most likely get the feeling that you’ll “never be able to do that,” and run the risk of quitting before you even get started. By taking small steps toward your goal, you’ll feel less intimidated when you see others who are above your level.

2. You’ll see progress constantly

If you’re constantly looking at your endgame as your only goal, you won’t think you’re getting anywhere when you make a small improvement in your skills. When you focus on the small steps, you’ll see progress almost instantaneously. Yesterday, you might have set out to memorize the order of the guitar strings. It can be highly motivating to see this goal accomplished. It might not seem like a huge accomplishment, but you’ll know you’re one step closer to achieving your overall goal.

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3. You’ll appreciate the process

When you focus on the small steps, you’ll realize that even the experts have been in your shoes at one point in their lives. It’s hard to imagine a time in which Garcia didn’t know the difference between an E and an A string, but he had to have started somewhere, right? The small steps might be boring at times — do you think Michael Jordan really loved taking foul shots all day? — , but going through them is an absolute necessity if you want to reach your goal.

4. You’ll learn the basics

It might be tempting to skip steps at times in order to reach your goal faster. However, this will only lead to confusion and frustration in the long run. Imagine a child trying to learn multiplication before he or she learns how to add. So much instruction would be lost in this method that the child wouldn’t possibly be able to succeed.

The old saying is true: “You have to learn to crawl before you can walk.” Take baby steps to ensure you can handle the small stuff before moving on to the big time.

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5. You’ll learn more

While you’re learning the basics, you should slow down and try different methods to accomplish your short-term goals. There’s always more than one way to get something done. Going about a task in a variety of ways will lead you to the most efficient way for you to complete the task at hand. You might learn something about the whole process that you would have missed had you rushed through the small steps.

6. You’ll understand the fundamentals

It’s not enough just to complete the small tasks — you have to understand why you completed them. Tuning a guitar might seem pretty straight-forward, as you can just memorize each string’s open note and tune it. However, it’s important to take the time to understand the relationship between the strings, and how each is utilized when forming chords and scales. Go beyond rote memorization and truly comprehend each step as you progress toward your goal.

7. You’ll anticipate success

If you schedule the small goals to be accomplished, you’ll know on Wednesday what you’ll be able to do on Friday. This not only gives you an idea about how you’re moving forward, but it also motivates you to keep up the hard work. If you schedule out your week of practice and growth, skipping a day will set everything back. When you’ve put it all in writing, you’ll be even more motivated not to let yourself down.

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8. You’ll adapt your goals

Then again, some days you might not do as well as you’d hoped you would. That’s certainly alright. By setting mini-goals along the way, you’ll be able to modify them depending on your progress the previous day. While you would most likely feel disappointed in yourself for skipping a day of work, there’s no shame in getting stuck on a previous step as long as you’re making strides to overcome it.

9. You’ll celebrate small victories

When you set smaller goals, you’ll be able to celebrate more. Like I said, making a schedule and anticipating success will allow you set your sights on a short-term goal, possibly a week-long one. Once you reach that smaller goal, you’ll definitely feel much more accomplished than you would if you’d reached that point without considering it a “goal.” Every small accomplishment is reason to celebrate, so don’t downplay your improvements.

10. You’ll keep pushing yourself

If you set one major goal for yourself at the beginning of your journey, you run the risk of becoming complacent once you reach that goal. For example, if your goal was to run a six-minute mile, and it took you months to get to that point, you might just breathe a sigh of relief and consider yourself a success. While that would undoubtedly be a great accomplishment, there’s still room for improvement. If you had spent months improving your time and acknowledging each incremental improvement, you’re more apt to celebrate your milestone and then get back up the next day and work to shatter your own record.

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Featured photo credit: Flickrr via farm3.staticflickr.com

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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