Small Steps to Reach Big Goals
“Reach for the Stars!”
We are all familiar with these phrases reminding us that no goal is too large and no mountain too high for us to climb. I firmly believe that having goals is essential for us to grow as individuals; however, when we have one big goal, it can quickly become intimidating and result in negative self-esteem, feelings of defeat, or giving up altogether. We so often look at the big picture that we can forget that we need a roadmap for how to get there. Thus, it is essential to create small, achievable goals to climb the ladder of success. Remember, this focus is on achievability - no goal is too small if it means that you will be able to reach it.
Let’s use Mary as an example: Mary is studying for an important licensing exam. As the due date inches closer, Mary remains paralyzed with anxiety, to the point that she doesn’t know where to start. Mary’s overall goal is to pass her exam, however looking at the big picture causes her intense stress, leading to negative thought cycles and inaction.
With the help of her therapist, Mary broke down her large goal into smaller tasks: Mary decided to make a basic study schedule for her week, starting with basic things already built into her day (e.g., when she planned to eat her meals, wake up and go to sleep).
Remember, small, realistic steps: it's great to say “I’m going to wake up at 5 am,” but if you currently sleep until 9 am, it is unlikely that you will be able to get up at 5 am. This is an example of a currently unrealistic goal, guaranteeing that Mary will start her day at 9 am and feel as though she has already failed. Instead, let’s think: what is a more realistic goal? How about waking up at 8:30? Or 8:45? Remember, no goal is too small if it means you will be successful.
Next, Mary built in some relaxing, healthy, and fun activities, such as walking the dog, playing video games, or chatting with a friend.
Lastly, Mary and her therapist identified a reasonable amount of time to study. For example, even though “studying for 12 hours” might sound impressive, it is unlikely that this is a realistic or healthy amount of time.
By breaking down her study schedule into small, realistic goals, Mary was able to create an achievable schedule that not only allowed her to begin studying and reduce her anxiety but also increased her odds of being prepared for her exam.