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There is nothing like setting big goals on New Year’s Eve. You’re celebrating with old friends—or 100,000 strangers on TV. Brightly colored fireworks pop in the air. White confetti dances with gravity. Adrenaline races through your body. So you dream. You dream big. You reach for the nearest piece of paper and boldly write your 2013 goals:
• Goal 1: Lose those stubborn 20 pounds.
• Goal 2: Double my income with less work.
• Goal 3: Learn to speak a new language.
Now fast-forward. The confetti is gone. The pounds are still here. Thanks to the holidays, you have more outgo than income. You even settled on text messaging as your new foreign language. What happened? Life did. But maybe not in the way you think.
It’s not that you’re simply busier. You have always had lots to do. It’s not that you’re suddenly less intelligent. In fact, you have more life experience now than when you set your goals. The truth is that when you give up on big goals early, it’s likely your goals were simply too big in the first place.
Now hold on a minute.
Before you say I’ve lost my mind or that “Jason Dorsey must no longer be a motivational speaker,” hear me out. Big goals are good. In fact, they’re great. I get it. But most people never reach their biggest goals because they can’t stick to them in the beginning. That’s the part I’m talking about: the all-important first 30 or 60 days. That’s the period when the magic happens. That is when you put in the hard work to get to a new or different result. In fact, you have to put in twice the work in the beginning, because you’re starting a new habit and breaking an old one at the same time. This is where I can help.
In my work with leaders around the world, I’ve learned a powerful truth: Old habits are the enemies of new goals. For example, getting in shape sounds great until you nearly pass out in your first Zumba class. Doubling your income sounds wonderful until you have to face your fears about starting a new business. And learning a new language sounds amazing until a friend’s 4-year-old makes you look like a slow learner. No problem. I’ve got the answer. The key is to start small, win fast and build forward.
When you set small goals, three powerful things happen:
1. You achieve goals on your list right away.
2. You see yourself making progress every day.
3. You gain the courage necessary to pursue bigger goals.
I realize that crafting small goals may not seem as inspiring as big goals, but that’s because you pursue them with less fear. The reason: You know you’re going to achieve them. So you do. This soon puts bigger goals within reach—and ultimately makes reaching them a series of small goals that you conquer.
If you’re still not convinced, give small goals a try. In fact, make setting a small goal your first goal. Maybe something like: Lose 2 pounds and keep them off for a month. Invest 10 minutes a day researching business opportunities. Or try learning one new word in a foreign language every day.
Trust me. In my work I’ve seen just about every goal-setting technique you can imagine: visualizing, painting, dancing and even singing. All these techniques add value in their own way. But the most consistent one I’ve ever seen to reach big goals after an uninspiring start is to restart with smaller goals. This way you spend next New Year’s sharing how you lost all that weight. Did I mention how good you look in the future?