Small Goals: A Simple Strategy to Stay Motivated

Are you familiar with this scenario?

You’ve set a big goal that you’re excited about. And initially, you make some progress toward it.

But fairly soon, life starts getting in the way. You get interrupted a few times and lose your momentum.

And from that point forward, your goal stops pulling you forward and starts weighing you down.

For each day that passes, it seems increasingly daunting. And eventually, you give up, slightly more discouraged than you were before.

If you can relate to this scenario, you’re not alone. We’re all susceptible to the planning fallacy: a strong tendency to underestimate the time needed to complete a future task.

When we set goals, we don’t make room for unexpected interruptions. Instead, we assume that everything will go exactly according to plan.

So, when we bring our optimistic plan to our unpredictable life, it quickly falls apart. In the wise words of boxing legend Mike Tyson:

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.

If you constantly set unrealistic goals, you’ll keep getting knocked down. As a result, you’ll almost always feel like you’re behind.

And that’s problematic because it’s crucial for your motivation to feel like you’re making progress1.

Every step forward makes the next step forward more likely.

So, I invite you to try a radically different approach. Put your big goals to the side, and set small goals instead.

Make them so easy that you’re basically guaranteed to achieve them. That way, you’ll create a margin of safety that protects against the inevitable interruptions of life.

And that will make it possible for you to consistently make progress, build your motivation, and achieve many more goals in the future.

Footnote

  1. The Power of Small Wins