Thursday, July 28, 2011


“It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward. 
~Old Chinese Proverb

Las Pozas by Lucy Nieto

This week the focus is personal CHANGE. 
  • Day one we discussed intentional CHANGE. 
  • Day two the focus was on the first step to CHANGE: confronting the brutal facts of our current reality. 
  • Day three was all about asking the right questions to direct your CHANGE, setting a micro-goal and planning the next 7 days.
Today, we elaborate a bit more on this concept of micro-goals and small steps.

I fully believe that the reason so many people fail in personal CHANGE efforts is because they set too lofty of a goal with no plan of reaching it. Big goals are exciting, challenging, and fun – but, it takes tremendous discipline to sculpt the goal, set a plan of action and follow through. I’m all for big goals…but first you need some momentum (micro-goals).

Why is it that most people at least think about New Year’s resolutions each year only to forget them in a couple of weeks? When we set these goals, we are sincere and really want to follow through. The problem is momentum. It is just too difficult to change long-entrenched habits in a day or two. That is the power of micro-goals.

“Making resolutions is a cleansing ritual of self assessment and repentance that demands personal honesty and, ultimately, reinforces humility. Breaking them is part of the cycle.”
~Bill Vaughan

Next is a 5-step process for creating a micro-goal:
  1. Decide on your big goal. (i.e. walk for 30 minutes, 5 days per week) 
  2. Set a micro-goal for the next 7 days. (i.e. walk 5 minutes for 5 days this week) 
  3. Use integrity and commitment each day to reach this micro-goal (Who can’t walk 5 minutes a day for 5 days?) 
  4. After 7 days, create another micro-goal (i.e. walk 7 minutes for 5 days this week) 
  5. Repeat this process until you are walking 30 minutes, 5 days per week
Some lament this process and say, “It will take forever to reach my goal. At that rate, it will take me six months to walk 30 minutes, 5 days per week.”

The problem with goal-setting and goal-achievement is that we think we have to have “it” now. That is a product of our “give-it-to-me-now” society. That is not the way true and lasting change occurs. It takes process – setting one micro-goal after another until you reach your big goal.

“You reap what you sow, more than you sow, later than you sow.”
~Charles Stanley

Does this process make sense? One of my favorite quotes by legendary basketball coach John Wooden explains this process very clearly. Read it and let it sink in.

“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens – and when it happens, it lasts.”
~John Wooden

My challenge to you today is to set a 7-day micro-goal and determine for yourself if this process works.

Using micro-goals is how one step leads to another and another until you reach your goals.

Now…go and make a difference today. The world needs you!

Tomorrow we will wrap up this series on CHANGE with a few thoughts on perseverance.

QUESTION: Have you ever used the process of micro-goals to reach a larger goal? If not, can you think of a way to try out the process in your own life? Please leave comments below.


Anonymous said...

I have trained for a couple of marathons and several half marathons. The main goal is to complete the race. The micro goals are completing each training session. I actually created a spreadsheet to help me plan out my workouts and track them as I went along. At the end of each week, I could see how many miles I had logged, and I could see where I might need to make changes in the following week in order to meet my overall goal.

Haack said...

I was going to say the same thing about running. I'm training for a 5k in August and remember doing intervals at the beginning (running 1 minute/walking 5 minutes) and thinking, "This is going to be too easy!" But, they weren't easy. Even the littlest steps toward change can be surprisingly difficult. Thank you for reminding us of this and encouraging us to commit and persevere!

Jason said...

@Jon - Exercise seems to fit into micro-goals very well. I love a good spreadsheet! Thanks for the comment.

@Haack - I think the hardest step is the first. Once we gain a little momentum the next step is easier. Thanks for the comment.