Here’s why you should consider keeping your goals small and simple.
It’s time to put Big, Hairy and Audacious back in the small box they came out of. When James Collins and Jerry Porras revealed this idea to the world nearly 10 years ago, they spoke of a BHAG as something an individual or company sets as their long-term vision. And they were exactly right. Here’s the case for small.
But since that time, it seems we have blown it out of context. “Bigger is better. Go big or go home!” And even mind-numbing gibberish such as, “Shoot for the moon. Because if not, you’ll at least catch the stars!” We love showing the world we’re on fire and we mean it.
Yet when you peel back the layers and study how high achievers accomplish so much, you discover a beautiful truth that is so simple, it’s hard to swallow: the heights of achievement are bolstered from enormous piles of small wins. Piles that are built so gradually, so subtly that oftentimes even the achiever does not even realize what she’s building or how far she has come
Achievement is a gradual process.
This is why the road to success is laden with disappointment and discouragement. Remember Monty Python and the Holy Grail? Haven’t you ever felt like that man continuously running in the field.
When climbing the spiral stairs to the top of a lighthouse, all you can see is the one step in front of you. You have never been to the top but you hold a mental picture of what it looks like up there. That’s your vision. It inspires you on your journey to reach it. The steps are your goals. That’s where consistent, repetitive action happens. The tortoise had it right.
If you’re working toward a goal more than 90 days out, your brain has a very difficult time even fathoming it. It’s why new year’s resolutions seldom work. The grandiose goal becomes abstract and you find yourself going through the motions to avoid guilt because “at least I’m doing something.” It’s so far out there, you think it makes you look cool for chasing it.
Misalignment is the enemy of progress.
What happens is your belief system does not match your goal. Every goal has at its foundation a belief system of equal or greater value (to quote a famous coupon). If you don’t truly believe in your core that you can and will accomplish what you’re pursuing, you are “top heavy” and your foundation cannot support your lofty goal. And any engineer will tell you if a structure is top heavy, it’s bound to fall over. Even you.
But doesn’t it work for some? Sure. There are some lottery winners who make the rest of us feel like we’re doing something wrong. But the rest of us need small, everyday wins that support our “One Main Goal” (OMG). A goal that is close enough to smell but just far enough away that you can’t quite touch it. That’s your sweet spot.
The solution is to set small goals for now.
Achieve them, build your belief foundation and leverage that to incrementally larger goals.
Daily progress toward your goal puts you inside what I teach as the “Success Spiral.” Just like Dorothy’s first step on the Yellow Brick Road, it begins with small action—even something inside your comfort zone (yes, I said it). You might call it a slam dunk.
That win produces a tiny stream of belief inside you, increasing your self-confidence. Endorphins are released as you feel good for having checked an item off your list. The confidence spurs momentum, resulting in a greater action. Another win. Bolstered belief. More endorphins. Momentum kicks in; you’re building your foundation.
This cycle repeats and grows as long as you keep feeding the front end of it: action. Conversely, if you’re in a funk, you have likely stopped achieving small wins.
And a side benefit to the Success Spiral is that often, it’s when your passion is discovered.
So yes, by all means, have a big vision. Set out to change the world, Daniel-San. But for crying out loud, stop confusing your vision with your goals. Instead, pursue your vision achieving small goals–smaller than you think. After all, if you’ve never been to the top of a mountain, should you really be shooting for the moon right now?