Why I Prefer Small, Easy Goals Over Big, Hairy Ones
As I work on my current book, I’ve discovered something about me: I prefer smaller, fish-in-a-barrel sorts of goals over big, audacious, daring goals. I know the typical Live a Good Story sort of advice says to shoot for hairy goals that force you out of your comfort zone, but when it comes to almost every area of my life, it seems like small, do-able goals end up much more effective.
When I first started working on this book, I made daily goals of 5,000 words. I cleared out my work day, and for whatever reason, I figured it’d be a piece of cake. My posts here average 800-1,000 words, so that writing goal amounts to only five to six blog posts per day. No big deal. I’m a fast writer.
But then I remembered: my writing is crap after 2 p.m., no matter how looming the deadline. Even when I’m totally in the Zone, I really only have about 3,000 words per day, max, percolating inside me. After that, and I’m tapped.
Know what I did? I shifted my daily goals to 2,000 words per day (special circumstances notwithstanding). Once I did that, I easily hit 3,000 words, and occasionally a bit more. When I aimed for twice that, I’d only get about a thousand words in before discouragement would tell me to toss in the towel.
It’s more encouraging for me to blow an easy goal out of the water rather than almost meet an audacious one.
I think this has to do with my preference for small. A big, hairy goal feels like asking me to reach beyond what I’m capable of doing with what I have in front of me—and that’s the very ethos of small, slow, simple living: to do what you’re called to do with what you have.
Reaching for the stars feels like fruitlessly trying to grab at more than what I’m meant to have.
Small goals acknowledge my humanity, and I like living in full awareness of my humanity. Write a book? That’s big. But write 2,000 words a day? I can do that, plus get enough sleep and hang out with my kids when they get home.
It’s why I like the kaizen approach to setting goals. Waking up earlier, two minutes earlier a day? No problem. But this time next month, I’m up a full hour earlier than I was, and I barely felt the pain.
As you pursue that thing in your life right now (you know what it is), maybe consider a smaller approach, not a bigger one. That whole slow-and-steady thing turns out to be pretty true: small, do-able goals, a bit at a time, add up to a finish line with your humanity fully intact.
Sounds good to me.
p.s. – This is why I talk about quarterly goals instead of annual ones in Like Your Life.
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