“Reach for the stars and settle for the moon”, they say.
I say “Reach for the sky, prepare your luggage, go to the airport, get on a plane, and reach the sky you intended to.”
Less catchy but it works.
We’re often told to set big goals so we can accomplish half of them. My experience has shown I’ll give up out of desperation before I reach even a quarter. When we overcommit to goals out of our reach, we put ourselves at the mercy of our mood on the day we realize we won’t reach these big goals.
The most life-changing things I’ve accomplished in my life are the ones I never struggled to do. These were easy to start, easy to continue, easy to finish tasks. These were tasks so minuscule they could be done every day and always made me feel like I was progressing.
We set big and lofty goals to push ourselves and change our lives. In reality, they make us stay in bed anxious because we’re still galaxies away from them.
The Smaller The Better
Small tasks make the world go round. Erase the task of cooking from our world and we’d all be eating raw rice and potatoes. I love me some good potatoes but have you tried them raw? Yuck.
How convenient would be your life if your eyelids didn’t blink on their own? How much could you accomplish if you couldn’t open a door? How far would you run if you couldn’t walk, let alone stand?
Every single thing that is large enough to matter relies on many smaller aspects. Every big, lofty, goal relies on countless middle-sized tasks that rely on smaller tasks.
We hate pushing ourselves to run that extra mile, cook for an extra meal, or write an extra 50 words. We unconsciously consider ourselves better than the cleaning personnel in our company even though we wouldn’t be able to work without them.
It’s the combination of small tasks that creates incredible things. It’s the compounded results of tiny habits you develop.
Erase The Risk of Being Overwhelmed
When your goal is to create the next Instagram, to write the next New York Times bestseller series, to revolutionize an industry, you’re heading for despair. To be more precise, you’re planting a cardboard panel stating “Available to be overwhelmed”.
I’m a polyglot who speaks six languages now. Do you think I began learning my languages with that goal? No, I started by reading manga, then by watching anime, then by looking up the Hiragana, and so on. My journey was full of tiny tasks that, bundled together, helped me become a polyglot more than a decade later.
When you set lofty goals, you’re putting “everything” on the line. You think that’ll motivate you but it instead freezes you up.
How many times have you pushed away answering a client or your boss because you feared huge consequences? How often do you plan on exercising for an hour but end up not doing anything because you only have 45 minutes available?
When you concentrate on tiny tasks to reach just the next milestone of a small goal, you can keep going for a long time. You can let small goals compound with each other and show larger results.
Big goals aren’t the solution. They are the problem.
We need to take our distances with big goals and focus on everything small. Instead of planning about 10 years later, focus on today and tomorrow. Instead of learning the 5,000 most common words for a language, focus on learning 5 or 10 now. Instead of trying to write the next trilogy masterpiece, focus on writing the next line and the one after. Instead of planning on doing 50 push-ups, do 1 now.
Reframe everything to make it accessible. When it’s within range, you can grab the opportunity and make the leap.
Soon enough, you’ll be looking back at a mountain of progress. You’ll be amazed by all you’ve accomplished. When you do, enjoy for a bit. You deserve it.
And then turn back to the next small task on your agenda.