Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.— Oscar Wilde.
Choosing a goal is a great way to give yourself direction. Without goals, you make decisions without the guidance of where you want to be, who you want to become. Goals help give you motivation to do things you may otherwise pass on, like exercise when the couch would be the easier alternative. But goals by themselves lack the guidance of how to achieve them. Even well thought out SMART goals are missing a vital aspect to success – the step-by-step guide of how to achieve them. SMART is an acronym for helping you design your goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Adding such dimensionality to your goals helps to really define them and understand what qualifies for to say you achieved them. But how do you get there?
Creating an action plan to achieve your goals helps give you a guide on how to go about achieving your goals. But getting started can be overwhelming. There seems to be so much to do! Sometimes a goal may need to take a year or longer, and when you look at the task as a whole can feel overwhelming. At least for me, that is where I get stuck.
Want to write a book? OMG that is a lot of words and I need a good start, middle and conclusion but where do I even begin? The first sentence has so much importance to draw the reader in and encompass the book as a whole and I don’t even know where to start.
Want to run a marathon? OMG that is a lot of miles and right now I cannot even run a full block! What was I thinking? This is too much and I have no idea how to be ready by the time of the race.
Getting Started can be overwhelming. The problem is when you look at the task as a whole: the final 323 page book, 26.2 mile run. The way to get started, the only way, is to take a first step. There needs to be some first step towards getting you to that goal. What would be that first step? And how small can you make that first step so that it isn’t overwhelming? For a book, write down some thoughts about how the introduction should feel. Or write a rough draft of an outline. For a marathon, take a walk around the block. Run for ten seconds and then let your heart recover.
It’s those first steps that also start a new habit. Trigger yourself into getting started, taking that first step. Write a few thoughts down on paper, even if it isn’t about the book. Get into the practice of writing something – anything. Take a walk if running is too much. Get into the practice of walking, and then small bits of running. Start the habit.
The next step is to find something step-adjacent. Once you take the first step, the next step is not to write an entire chapter, or run half a marathon. Figure out a step-adjacent action that works towards your goal that is a “first step” from your current step. A small adjustment. Something UNDERwhelming. Something easy to add on to what you currently do.
And that is the cycle of progress to get towards your goal. Along the way may require adjustments to your direction, obstacles to figure out, and changes to be made. But taking a new “first step”, something easy, 1% improvement, and then building on that with something just a little bit more, is the path to successfully achieve a goal. Sometimes we get super motivated when New Years resolutions come by or we sign up for a race and we go all-in towards the goal. But usually that is not sustainable. It’s the small steps of improvement, with consistency, that works.