I want you to think about the biggest goal you have right now. What is the most ambitious goal you’ve set for yourself? Can you picture it? Can you visualize what you will have to do to achieve it? If you have it in your mind, you are probably feeling intimidated and overwhelmed. If you don’t, your goal might be too small!
We like having ambitious, challenging goals to push us beyond our comfort zone and our current limits. Too many people set goals that are small and limiting, leading to average success and unfortunately, wasted potential. For those of us who set gigantic goals, we run into the opposite problem. The goal is so huge that even thinking about it can feel exhausting. A big goal can have you stuck for days, weeks, months, even years just thinking about how to start, what approach to use, and if it’s even worth exerting the effort if you can’t guarantee that you’ll reach the goal.
There is a simple fix that can help us out of that rut when we are stuck at the start of a huge goal with little hope of accomplishing it… Goal Chunking! The concept is as follows: You take your big goal and chunk it down into smaller pieces, so you don’t have to work towards the WHOLE goal, just a part of it. As you accomplish small parts, you get to feel the satisfaction of accomplishment while still having direction in continuing to chase your goal. When you feel stuck, you only need to figure out how to approach that one piece of your goal to stay motivated and on track. Here’s an example:
A student of mine wanted to participate in NANOWRIMO. That’s a competition where you write an entire novel in 1 month! Most people can’t finish a novel in their whole lives, so one month is a demanding challenge. What’s worse is she signed up for this competition while being a full time student with a full time job. It was ambitious but she wanted to challenge herself and reach beyond her comfort zone.
I checked in with her after week 1. She had a detailed outline of her characters and everything she wanted to write about. Her page count? 0. She had opened the word document probably 100 times, changed the font, changed the title of her novel repeatedly, and deleted every first sentence she began to write. After a long talk, she explained to me that she really wanted to reach this goal still but it was so overwhelming that she felt like starting was pointless. She didn’t know how she would reach the whole goal.
I told her to stop worrying about the goal. Focus on a small step. Take one character and give it a setting. Then, give it an action. Do that tomorrow and check back in.
She came back the next day with almost 20 beautifully written, intriguing pages. She found it easy to deal with one character and put it in motion. That day I asked her to take another character and do the same thing. The next day I asked for a plot twist. Each day became a different small add-on to her novel. At the end of the month, she had a novel-length work ready to submit. The goal was reached and her sense of accomplishment led to her setting even bigger goals of editing it and searching for a publisher!
How did she go from “can’t write a word” to pumping out a novel in 3 weeks? She put the big goal in the back of her mind and used it only to inspire her to keep trying. Her entire focus shifted to small tasks, or chunks of the goal. Every time the goal felt difficult, she realized how close she was to accomplishing a chunk of the goal and it would keep her moving. With each chunk that she passed, it affirmed her ability to keep going and reach the lofty expectation she placed on herself. A quick shift in focus took her goal from a wish to a reality!
Now go back to your goal. Don’t think about the enormity of the goal and the many things that you will have to accomplish. Pick one step. One small thing that you can do today to get closer to the end of your goal. Do that small thing with the best of your ability, then go to the next small thing. Repeat process and soon enough, you’ll be passing your goal before you even realize you reached it! Mindset makes the difference!