The Life-Changing Magic of Micro-Goals

Micro-GoalsIf it seems like you've been hearing the prefix "micro-" a lot lately, you're not alone. There's micro-dosing, micro-economics, micro-brews…you get the idea. Put simply, micro-anything boils down to one thing: doing less to get more. And achieving success through micro-goal setting is no exception.

Why we fail at regular goal setting

Setting and achieving big goals can be super-intimidating. Think about those lofty New Year's resolutions most people set. Studies have shown that less than 25% of people actually stay committed to their resolutions after just 30 days, and only 8% accomplish them.

Unfortunately, when we're revved up about achieving a new goal, it's human nature to bite off way more than we can chew. This inevitably leads to overwhelm and can ultimately cause us to give up altogether. But there is another way. If you're struggling with lingering discouragement from past failures, stop right now and consider doing things differently—consider starting small.

What is micro-goal setting?

Micro-goal setting is a pretty simple concept. If you've got a big goal in mind, start by breaking it down into bite-sized, immediate action steps that are super-easy to accomplish. In other words, work backwards. Shift your focus from that big, intimidating objective to one small nugget of bite-sized progress at a time. It’s like putting together a giant puzzle. You start with one piece and, little by little, the big picture emerges. Micro-goal setting is not about changing everything all at once and using sheer willpower to make it through. In fact, it's just the opposite.

Micro-goals are easy to attain

The ticket to micro-goal setting is to start immediately with a simple action that is almost effortless (or at least pretty darned easy). Here's an example: Let's say your overall goal is to get healthy. You might come up with an action plan that includes eating clean, losing weight, reducing stress and making exercise a regular part of your life.

But if on day one, you start off by cutting out all carbs, dairy, caffeine and alcohol, going for a three-mile run and meditating for 30 minutes, you're setting yourself up for epic failure. I mean, realistically, who could do all of that at once and sustain it?

What if instead, you started day one by cutting out dairy and meditating for 3 minutes? Keep that up for a week and then add walking for 20 minutes twice a week to the mix. Stick with that for two weeks and then increase your mediation to 5 minutes and limit yourself to only one cup of coffee a day. The following week add in one more day of walking and limit alcohol to one night a week. Get the idea? Keep adding and cutting in small, regular increments to make steady progress without feeling overwhelmed or deprived.

Setting micro-goals is about starting immediately with something easy to attain, getting through one simple task at a time and building upon your successes gradually.


Why micro-goal setting works

A boost of confidence and a sense of accomplishment never hurt anyone, and that’s exactly what you get each time you achieve one of your micro-goals. The fact is that we're hard-wired for the satisfaction that comes with completing a task. Once you've accomplished something—even something simple like making your bed, folding the laundry or taking the dog for a walk—the sense of satisfaction you get can energize and motivate you to keep going.

Remember, an object in motion stays in motion. Once you've started being productive, you tend to stay productive because the satisfaction of making small strides toward big progress feels so good. Pretty soon you'll be achieving your micro-goals without even trying—and making exponential progress toward your overall goal almost effortlessly.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

Success has to begin somewhere. Consider what tiny step you can take right now, this very second, toward reaching one of your goals. Those tiny steps can add up quickly if you're consistent. So, if you're determined to reach your goal, start small and start right now. You might be surprised at the results micro-goal setting can bring.


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