Tiny goals is one of Shaunta’s key lessons, but it’s one that’s always been difficult for me to internalize.
In writing, and in real life.
I don’t need to eat healthy today. I need to lose 350 pounds, and I need to have lost the weight 10 years ago. I don’t want to spend 10 minutes writing; I need to write 5,000 words so maybe I can finish this book, and maybe I can get an agent and maybe I can get a book deal and maybe I can see my name on a shelf in Barnes & Noble before I turn 30.
(Accepting that I am going to turn 30 without seeing my name on a bookshelf is one of the worst feelings in the world. Other people my age have careers, kids, relationships, Instagram success. I have a failed novel, super-extra-morbid obesity, and high blood pressure.)
I’m always focused on the end result. I think it’s because I expect that, at the end, once the hard work is done, things get better.
You finish the book, and you get an agent, get published, and see your name in print.
You lose the weight, you get to fit in with the rest of society, sit in chairs without worrying about breaking them, fly in an airplane without having to buy two seats or the risk of getting outright thrown off. You make more money. More people like you. You face less discrimination. You don’t cower in shame when the movie audience starts laughing at a hot actor in a fat suit.
To hell with the process, to hell with the struggle. I’ve had enough struggle. I need the end result! I need the end result a long time ago. Or, at worst, now.
I need the win. Preferably without all of the work that goes into getting the win. When you’re low on energy and high on personal failures, you just want the universe to throw you a bone.
Shame that life doesn’t work that way.
If nothing else, I’ve accepted that the idea of having a tiny goal, a goal so small that it’s easier to do it than to not do it, is at least better than doing nothing. And that small goal will provide you with a stepping stone to meeting your bigger goals.
10 minutes of writing a day is not as good as 2,000 words a day. But it’s better than doing nothing. And, chances are, if you’re not faced with some kind of drastic emergency, you’ll blow past the ten-minute mark. You might even hit the 2,000 word mark. (And if not, well, you got your 10 minutes!)
Cutting out unhealthy snacks isn’t going to make me look like Chris Hemsworth. But it at least opens the opportunity that my disaster of a body will start to lose weight instead of piling those M&Ms onto my thighs. (I don’t really trust my body to lose weight if I eat healthy. But that’s another post.)
And again, that eating healthy makes you crave less crap. (I’m even trying to cut back on my beloved Diet Coke! Egads!). I’m not going to commit to saying that I might feel like exercising one of these days, but who knows: with enough fruits and veg in your system, you might actually want to take that next step!
The point: Small goals are cumulative. If you give them enough time, you will really see them start to add up. If you write 10 minutes a day, you will eventually finish that pain-in-the-ass chapter. If you keep at it even longer, you’ll finish that pain in the ass book. And finishing is important.
So, if you’re not writing, set that goal: Ten minutes a day. Five minutes a day. A paragraph a day. A sentence a day. Something small enough that it’s easy to do. Something that will let you keep inertia.
If you’re having trouble reading (like I currently am): start with a page a day. a paragraph of day. Keep the book beside you in bed, and read it before you get up.
Some of these goals that we set for ourselves are so big and awful and complicated. They’re multi-year projects. It’s like trying to eat an entire elephant.
Okay, I’ve never been fond of that damn metaphor. But you get the point.
If you set set each individual bite as a goal, the damn thing will eventually get done. It won’t be fast. It may not be pretty. But progress will happen.
Prove Zeno wrong: motion is possible. Keep moving on your goals.