We’re all in a hurry, it seems. The pace of life has increased and rushing through our days—through our lives—has now become the norm. We want everything now; happiness now, success now, health now, love now. Not surprisingly, this is the way we approach our goals and life changes as well. Patience is hard to come by: we expect results now, and if we haven’t reached our goal yet, it must be because we’re not working hard enough or fast enough or we’re lazy and undisciplined.
Hard work and discipline are certainly valuable traits when trying to make changes in our lives or attain important goals, however, even diligence and persistence are often not enough to get the results we’re looking for. The lack of an effective strategy is often our greatest obstacle. In our impatience for results, we try to change too much at once, and expect too much of ourselves, and this impatience usually leads to frustration and failure. This is why most people fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions.
Sometimes we don’t even take the first step because our dreams, goals, and desires seem so overwhelming, so intimidating, and so unachievable that we give up before we even start. Maybe we just need to try a different strategy. I’m reminded of the popular saying, “Life is a marathon, not a sprint.” That same philosophy can be applied when we’re attempting to make changes in our lives: it’s true of career advancement or building a business, educational goals, weight loss or fitness, organization, habits, and certainly when trying to build or change relationships.
Learn to take baby steps
This may be the simplest, yet the most effective strategy we can use, as consistency, and learning to build on small victories are the keys to success.The happiest and most successful people will tell you that they have achieved their level of life and work success by taking small steps, and making one positive choice after another.
Look for the mini victories
What is a mini victory? A mini victory is a realistic, quickly-achievable, smaller portion of a larger objective. This bite-size goal will vary depending upon our specific intention, time frame, and motivation.The reason this strategy works is because we are able to see tangible progress, rather quickly, so we feel a sense of accomplishment and are encouraged to move on to our next mini goal, using the small successes as stepping-stones to larger change.
A few examples:
Consider health goals. When we are attempting to lose weight, be more fit, or achieve better health, it’s much more effective to set intermediate targets than to fixate on what might be a massive change.
- Set a mini-goal of losing 5 pounds each month, rather than a goal of 60 pounds in a year.
- Swap out one unhealthy snack for piece of fruit, or eat one vegetarian meal a week, and replace one soda or cappuccino with a glass of water. When we try to eliminate all sugar, or soda, or junk food from our diets, we usually fall off the bandwagon within the first week or two. That’s not a very good success rate.
- Train to run a 5K, then a 10K, then a half marathon rather than training for full marathon all at once. This advice holds true even when tackling the full marathon as well: many successful long-distance runners say that they don’t run 26 miles, they run 1 mile 26 times.
Most of us want career success, but it usually comes one rung up the ladder at a time.
- Take one course at a time.
- Achieve one certification.
- Improve one skill.
- Make a few new contacts at each event, conference, or gathering and slowly build your list of business contacts.
It’s better to cultivate good relationships with a small network of contacts, and then gradually expand that network.
We all want to be more organized, but when we attempt to organize or de-clutter our entire home or office all at once, we usually get overwhelmed and don’t finish the project. Instead, when we try to organize one area at a time, change one messy habit, or develop one productive routine, we have better success. Tackle one project, and then add in another change when the first one is well established.
- Make a master list of everything you need to do.
- Eliminate one or two piles.
- Clear off your desk or the kitchen counter.
- Sort through old mail.
- Clear out your email inbox.
- Start cleaning off your desk at the end of the day.
- Study or read for one hour a day.
- Gather the empty cups, bags, and papers each time you get out of the car.
This strategy is useful in almost every area of life, and when trying to achieve nearly any goal. Just work towards one mini-victory at time and make sure you celebrate each achievement in some small way—a little success goes a long way in propelling us to the finish line.