Anyone who has taken on a big goal knows how intimidating it can be and it’s normal to wonder if it’s possible to achieve it. While there are many steps to writing a great goal, thinking about steps to actually being successful with your goal is another ball game altogether.
This is why I always encourage my clients to have a two-pronged approach to achieving their goals.
The first step is breaking the BIG GOAL into monthly goals or milestones. By taking this step, you’re already finding ways to be successful with your goal without always focusing on the final outcome. Monthly milestones simply give you smaller goals to work on every month, keeping your focus on a certain aspect of your bigger goal.
The second step is developing small action steps that talk to your monthly milestones. It is these small action steps that are actually key to success and they’re the ones that really matter. These are the steps that keep you on track and maintain action at all times.
Read on to find out why these small action steps matter when you want to be successful in achieving your ultimate goal.
1. Gets You Started
How many times have you spent days (years?) dreaming about your goal and then writing it down elaborately only to put it aside and never look at it again? I'm sure you’re nodding your head in agreement!
And, that’s fine. It happens to the best of us. But, if you’re serious about achieving your ultimate goal, you do need to take some action beyond dreaming about it and writing it down.
This is why milestones and small action steps are vital for the success of your goal. Setting these “smaller” goals makes your bigger goal seem attainable and empowers you to take the first step towards taking action.
2. Stops the Overthinking Mind
Too often we get mired in overthinking the process and as a result, nothing happens. When you overthink what “should” be done to achieve your goal, you end up doing nothing but thinking. In order to be proactive and to stop the overthinking process, having baby steps planned gives you tasks towards achieving your monthly milestones.
When you plan baby action steps every week, you’re giving yourself actual tasks that need to be done within a certain timeframe. This leaves very little time for mulling over how you’re going to be successful in achieving your goal and instead, pushes you into doing what needs to be done NOW to reach the final outcome.
3. Builds Capacity
Small action steps determine what skills and knowledge you need to tap into to achieve your goal. And, if you don’t have the necessary capacity, you get to figure out what still needs to be built upon in order to help you reach the finishing line. With small action steps, you’ve got the starting point.
Action steps build up your strength and confidence as you develop new skills and grow your knowledge base. These smaller steps point you in the right direction all the time so you maintain your focus while building your capacity to fulfilling your dreams.
4. Keeps You Regular
If you take All-Bran every morning you know how it keeps you regular (my partner assures me this is the truth!) Small action steps also keep your momentum regular! By knowing what you need to do every day, you’re keeping your sight of the goal all the time.
These action steps, when done regularly, take away the fear and anxiety often associated with achieving parts of your goal.
Inertia is often the result of all this fear, anxiety, overthinking, and lack of confidence. And, inertia kills a goal every time! To avoid this from setting in, having smaller (and achievable) action steps that need to be achieved on a regular basis will ensure inertia stays at bay. Working on your goal every day is more effective than doing bits and pieces haphazardly.
5. Gives You New Learning Experiences
Your list of small action steps that need to be done on a daily basis gives you the scope to discover new things about yourself and your goal. They can also lead you to new opportunities, expanding the outcome of your ultimate goal. Small action steps highlight areas of possibilities that should be explored and they force you to think out of the box.
Small action steps are also key to moving you out of a fixed mindset. You may not realize how narrow your outlook on life is until you challenge yourself to learn something new every day.
An open mindset is essential if you want to be successful in life and one of the ways to go about expanding your way of thinking is to take those baby steps every day towards action.
6. Energy Flows Where Attention Goes
A shamanic principle (and one that is used in all self-development programs) is “Energy flows where attention goes”. And, small action steps mean you’re always paying attention to certain aspects of your goal by taking action every day. It’s only natural to expect the energy to flow in the right direction!
Small action steps keep the momentum going by making sure your attention is in the right place. Instead of getting distracted by the outcome and falling into the trap of feeling overwhelmed, small action steps keep your focus on what needs to be done NOW. Remember, NOW is the moment of power!
“No more excuses. No more self-sabotage. No more self-pity. No more comparing yourself to others. Time to step up. Take action right now and start living your life with purpose.”
― Anthon St. Maarten
Read Eckhardt Tolle's book, "The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment" to learn all about the power of tapping into the moment.
7. It’s a Process (not an overnight success!)
Rome wasn’t built in a day. But it was built brick by brick, hour by hour (at least according to the poet, John Heywood.) The theory behind this statement is that when you want to create something great, it’s going to take time and patience.
And, the same applies to your goal. I’m always reminding my clients that achieving their ultimate dream is not going to be done overnight. It’s a journey of many little steps.
Smaller action steps give you the process through which you undergo to maintain direction and focus while striving for ultimate success. Laying bricks may seem arduous at times, even boring sometimes. But, the very process of laying bricks keeps you active and ultimately achieving the desired result.
By seeing small action steps as the bricks of your goal, laying them are the steps you need to take to be successful. Science has also proved that taking action counts! Check out this video for more information.
Whenever I think of taking small action steps, I think of the tortoise. Every day it takes small but steady steps towards reaching its destination. It always gets there as long as it’s taking action. Sometimes the tortoise has to overcome a small challenge such as a hole in its pathway or a hill to climb.
But, by learning new skills to navigate its way around these minor blips on its journey, the tortoise is building on its own capacity to succeed.
The tortoise, unlike the hare, is in no rush to get to its destination. Instead, it enjoys the journey, learns along the way, discovers new opportunities, and still reaches its destination. And, when it does, there’s a huge sense of accomplishment.
That’s the power of small action steps. It keeps you moving all the time, in the right direction. You’ll reach the finishing line having grown in confidence and in many other ways too. This is what it looks like to be successful and it’s all doable when you take small action steps.
It helps to have a little reminder of the strength of the tortoise when taking small action steps and keeping a talisman of this special creature is a good way to tap into its energies.
This post was originally published on August 13th, 2021, and updated on October 3rd, 2022.