Small Steps Over Bigger Goals For Better Results
There’s something to be said for massive goals and big dreams.
Without big dreamers, businesses like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft wouldn’t exist. Big dreams shrunk the world with boats, cars, and planes. Big dreams make the world go ‘round.
Here’s the rub: the dream isn’t enough — it isn’t even the most important bit. It’s just the thing to aim for.
Cognitive science tells us that you’ll get more out of focusing on your habits than you will out of focusing on your goals.
Goals are important. They act as a guide to get us where we ultimately want to be. But habits are the legs and back that support us along the way. Without the right habits, we’ll be stuck only dreaming of grand results.
What Makes A Habit?
There’s a lot of misinformation about habits out there. Some have said that it takes two weeks to form a habit. Others claim it takes a month.
The science seems to be out on the exact timeline, so here’s some no-nonsense advice: it takes exactly one day to start or break a habit.
What do I mean by that? It’s simple: you don’t wake up every day at 7 if you woke up at 8 today. This is true for both good and bad habits. You may still be addicted to cigarettes, but if you didn’t smoke one today, you don’t smoke every day.
Is that too black and white? Too harsh?
Look at it like this instead: habits are votes you cast for who you want to actually be. They are the molecules of your day. They are the things you do — non-negotiably.
It may well take many days to create a new habit (a process James Clear breaks down well here) and even more to break bad ones, but the trick is to always be moving in a positive direction. Today you woke up on time. Tomorrow you will too.
Today you made the choice not to smoke. Build on that momentum tomorrow. That’s how we make or break habits.
Some more advice: don’t fail two days in a row. It kills your momentum.
Start Small For Massive Results
You know what’s more powerful than a plan to double your income next year? Two new appointments set today.
Action now is better than a plan for tomorrow — and it doesn’t have to be some huge thing right now to get massive results in the future. Small, consistent, sustainable efforts now compound in time to become life- and business-altering behemoths.
Instead of committing yourself to a stretch goal or an unreasonably heavy schedule today, commit yourself to a small change in the right direction. Master that and make it automatic. Then, add on.
If you just keep adding, you’ll find that the unreasonable goal that would have burnt you out six months ago is well within your reach.
It’s the small stuff — like daily success habits — that gets you the biggest results in the end.
If you don’t write it down, it didn’t happen.
If you adopt that mindset, you’ll change your life because you’ll have learned something that most people never quite figure out: without the data, you have no true insights.
Track every habit, every move you make toward your massive goals. This will tell you what’s working, where you’re gaining traction, where you’re flagging, and what you need to focus on to get where you want to be.
It’ll also (conveniently) help you with the next step:
Adjust As You Go
The only constant is change.
Expect ups and down on the path to your massive goals. Expect disappointment and failure. Expect unearned successes. It’ll all happen and you probably can’t fully control when it will come your way.
What you can do is adjust your habits for your situation. You can increase or decrease them as you need, with your goal as your guide. Just remember that your goal is only possible because of the work and habits you’re putting into it.
That’s what this is really all about: your goals are made up of your habits. Any plan without a set of habits to back it up is empty and doomed to fail.
Instead of focusing on your goals every day, focus on habits that will create the you who can make your goals possible.
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