We’ve all experienced it: a diet gone astray, an exercise routine run off track, a home improvement project left unfinished, a new year’s resolution forgotten. Why is it that we always fail when we commit to big, life-changing goals?
Simply put: it’s because of the very fact that we are committing to big, life-changing goals.
So, today I humbly propose a solution. It’s super complicated, it’s going to take everything you’ve got, and it’s a doozy. But, it’s guaranteed to bring you success in everything you do.
You with me? Good. Here goes: Start small, aim low, go slow.
Yeah, baby. Look at the floor, can you see your goals down there in the distance? If so, they are too high. I’m not just talking floor or basement. I’m talking sub-basement, the cellar, the hidden room under the foundation.
“But, Laura,” you say, “That’s crazy. You set earth-shattering goals all the time. You’re always going on about the audacity of the big idea, the scary-as-hell dream, the revolution! How can you possibly tell us to set tiny goals, to aim under the basement, to go at a snail’s pace? That’s not what you do, you fucking hypocrite, you.”
Except that it is.
Here’s the secret to success: set radically insurmountable, magnificently breathtaking, bowel-shaking goals. But, then within them, start small, aim low, go slow.
Want to lost 100 pounds? Lost one pound this week.
Want to run an ultramarathon? Run a mile today.
Want to become a confident public speaker? Get up an give a toast at dinner tonight.
We all start somewhere, and the inflexible pursuit of perfection lines the road to goal attainment with potholes and tire-spikes. In fact, if we set “the new normal” as perfection and perfection alone, the minute we fall off the wagon we relapse and lose all progress. Remember when you vowed to be more assertive at work and a jerk in a meeting shut you down simply because he was having a bad day? Remember when you promised to get to the gym every day this week, but missed Monday because of a snowstorm and then bailed on the rest of the week? Remember when your sugar-free new year’s resolution ran headlong into those fiendish young cookie sellers known as Girl Scouts?
I know two things to be true. First, if eating an entire sleeve of Thin Mints is wrong, I don’t want to be right. And, second, starting small, aiming low, and going slow allows for resetting and starting again. Tomorrow is a new day (and a day free of Thin Mints because, burp, they are all gone. Problem-solving, huzzah!). Remember that is not the success itself that defines the actual success and gives us confidence that we can meet our big, life-changing goal, it’s the grit and tenacity to continue to pick ourselves up, recover from failure, and start over. Today is today, tomorrow is tomorrow. And, as the great Arthur Ashe once said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”