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10 Reasons to Focus on Steps, Not Goals

10 Reasons to Focus on Steps, Not Goals
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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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Matt Duczeminski

A passionate writer who shares lifestlye tips on Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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