Achieving Big Goals: Have You Taken Your One Step Every Day?

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Rob O’Loughlin

I’m a strong believer in the power of consistency. Doing something small consistently can make a big difference in the long term. Your goal might seem big like an elephant, but if you take your one step every day you will eventually achieve it.

The problem, of course, is it’s not easy to be consistent. It’s easier to just follow your mood and do things that you feel like doing. But consistency is essential to achieve big goals so you should learn to put it into practice.

Here’s how:

1. Set a goal you believe in

You need a powerful source of motivation to stay consistent in the long term. Because of that, your goal should be something you believe in, something you really care about. Otherwise you won’t be able to keep at it for months or even years.

2. Allocate time for it every day

Don’t just wait until you have time. Instead, make the time. I usually allocate a minimum amount of time to work on my goal daily. You may want to take time off on the weekend and some other occasions, but other than that thrive to meet your commitment.

3. Use the time for real work

What’s the use of allocating time if you use most of it to procrastinate? So make sure that you do real work during it. For this purpose, I use a timer. Whenever I stop working in the middle of a session, I stop the timer. Then I restart it when I get back to work. This way I know that I’ve spent the whole allocated time for real work.

4. Take the shortest path

Allocating time for your goal won’t help if it doesn’t take you closer to your goal. A common pitfall is using the time for things that aren’t really necessary.

To avoid this, always keep your goal in mind and build the desire to achieve it as soon as possible. Setting a tight deadline is a good way to help you stay focused.

***

What do you think? How do you achieve big goals?

Photo by Zach Dischner

34 Comments

  1. Good points. I might also suggest to begin with some necessary research. A little time spent in the beginning becoming an expert in the area you are focusing a goal in will save you a ton of time in mistakes or confusion down the road.

    • Great point, Bryce. “One minute of planning saves 10 minutes in execution.” – Brian Tracy.
      The most vivid example is the failure rate of new businesses in the United States. Barrier to entry is minimal (G-d bless this entrepreneurial country). Majority of new entrepreneurs do not even take the time to write out a well-thought through business plan. As the result over 95% of businesses fail within the first 60 months.

  2. This is especially true with wanting a successful blog. Thank you Donald! 🙂

  3. This is something I must remind myself each day. It’s like the Chinese proverb where if you want to walk 1,000 miles, you begin with a single step, and then another and another …

    Thanks for the reminder of this important concept.

  4. One step at a time is a lesson I have trouble remembering. When my latest goal is going well, I often set a new and unrealistic target. Instead of the next obvious step, I jump ahead and over commit.

    Since I know my new plan for the day’s work is beyond my ability, I procrastinate and do all sorts of little tasks related to my work but not what I should be doing. I wander off the shortest path. Sometimes I get lost for days. The solution is always going back to where I wandered off and continuing again. It’s a good thing life is all about the journey.

    • I have had the exact same problem for years, David. Oh heck, I still do this sometimes. The remedy that I found is to separate things that are related to accomplishing goals, and list those under Goals section, from small tasks (I list that under Tasks) that are not related to achieving your big goals.
      I review all goals and tasks every morning to stay on track and separate what must be done to bring me closer to the important stuff.
      I have looked for a good system to keep myself focused. After trying everything from writing all of this down on pieces of paper, MS Word, Excel, and some web-based services, but not finding an adequate solution, I decided to create a tool that would help me stay better organize.
      I do not want to shamelessly self promote here, but if you are interested in seeing if it would help you organize better, please reply or e-mail me.
      Good luck

      • Like you, Sasha, I’ve been using an Excel spreadsheet to keep me on track. The table has tasks highlighted by priority, days until they reoccur, last work, and due dates. As long as I refer to the table, I stay on track. That’s a limitation of any tool. It must be used to be useful.

        I suspect that I go off track because there are no financial consequences at this point in my writing life. If I one day find I’m making money from my writing, my focus could get a sudden bump up.

        • “It must be used to be useful” 🙂 Brilliant!

          May I recommend that you do a little planning how to monetize your writing. I would actually suggest writing a business plan (I know, who in the right mind enjoys doing that?!) if you know how to and have the business know how. I recently learned a very simple concept of what an entrepreneur must know to become successful:
          1. “ins” and “outs” of their business
          2. the business of business
          3. he/she never knows enough about 1 and 2 to stop learning and improving on both

          If you take the time to analyze your writing as a business and all of the things that can make it a business, you will know whether you should keep sporadic (sorry, baseless assumption) attempts to make it a business OR how to actually make it a business that makes money and focus on it.

          David, I really hope you didn’t take my advice as arrogance. I am simply interested in helping others by what I know.

          To Your Success!

  5. Procrastination has always been a huge monkey on my back. I might offer three related tips that I have found useful:

    1. Prioritize: I think we all have a number of competing goals and aspirations. What is most important? What will make the biggest impact? Focus on that first.
    2. Do it first: I recommend not only allocating time, but specifically targeting first thing in the morning. If you allocate 3pm as your time, it’s too easy to let it slip. Plan it out before you go to bed and get it done first thing in the morning and that will set a positive tone for the entire day.
    3. Outsource it: If it doesn’t absolutely require your specific talents and expertise, then get a virtual assistant and outsource it. I’m using a great VA from the Philippines who is college educated and works for $2 per hour. So many more of my ideas find life and get implemented because I have assigned the next step to someone else, freeing me to come up with another brilliant idea!

  6. Even the longest journey starts with one small step.

    Great advice here Donald.
    Starting small and building your way to success is the only way you wil succeed.

    Working daily on the project will make it build momentum and move it faster and faster towards you.

    It gives you a sense of fulfilment to see it coming which motivates you to work even harder.

  7. Pearl points Donald,

    In my life also I experienced in achieving the short term goals. By achieving the small goal, I get the confidence “why can’t the big one …..”

  8. Bryce,
    I agree with you. It’s better to learn from those who have done it than learning things yourself the hard way.

    Sean,
    You’re welcome 🙂

    Clint,
    Yes, that proverb really describes it. Focus on consistently taking your steps and you will eventually reach 1,000

    miles.

    David,

    It happens to all of us, I think. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Mark,
    Those are really good tips you shared with us. Thanks!

    Daniel,
    You pointed out something important: building momentum. I didn’t really think about it when I wrote the post.

    Viki,
    Yes, small victories can lead to bigger and bigger victories.

  9. Great points, especially doing somethin everyday towards your goal. Most of the goals people set for themselves depend on the law on continuing returns. You can’t get into great physical shape, build a business, or have a better family in one day. Investment, even just a little each day, done consistently for a long period of time is how these things happen.

  10. Excellent points, I absolutely agree: a bit of something everyday is a lot along time (and you don’t even need that much time, considering how fast the days go by!).
    I would also add, perhaps, defining goals very precisely. I used to have problems with that until I started to apply the SMART (Small, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time framed) pattern. I recommend it to anyone who has such problem.

  11. JD,
    Exactly. Doing that will make a big difference in your life.

    Nacho,
    That’s good advice. Having a well-defined goals definitely helps.

  12. Nice article! I really like the idea to focus on your goal and desire, and eventually on bigger goals and aim on bigger.

    Keep it up! I enjoy the post!

  13. I love the polished look!

  14. Taking a step a day is the way to go. Work smart, not hard. Persistence is key and a little really does go a long way.

    • You summarized it well, Michael.

    • Brilliantly simple, “work smart, not hard.” I’d add that to work smart, rather than hard, one has to keep track of how they spend, or rather invest their time. I learned this when I ran into an issue of not having enough hours in the day to effectively do/accomplish all I wanted to do in a day, week, month, year.
      Once I tracked how I spent MINUTES of my life, I learned exactly how to stop wasting TIME of my life. I got rid of all of the things I wasn’t best at doing by outsourcing. I looked at my priorities and scheduled things to make sure my life is balanced (this especially related to my family – working too hard and too many hours was putting a strain on everything personal)- work, family, health all has its time of the day. I feel much more fulfilled at the end of each day knowing that I did all or most of the things I wanted and meant to do.

  15. Great post, Donald. I have recently subscribed to your blog and truly enjoy reading your insights.
    Thanks

  16. Great article. I am a big believer in chunking down the steps to achieving my goals. Doing it the way you suggest makes the whole process so much more manageable. #3 hit home for me the most as I am currently working on streamlining my productivity.

    By the way, I like the new design

  17. Just wanted to give additional insights on Lesson #2. We must MAKE time for the needed tasks that paves way to attainment of our goals. “Waiting for the right time” is a loser’s principle, I believe. There’s a vast difference between cautiously weighing issues to avoid setbacks and being stuck in the quicksand of indecision. It’s all about making wise decisions quick, never about overly thinking to play it safe.

  18. It’s just what I needed!
    Procrastination has always been my enemy!
    Great artical. Thank you!

  19. […] an elephant can be done one bite at a time. So can big goals. Life Optimizer talks about this at “Achieving Big Goals: Have You Taken Your One Step Every Day?”. My big problem is getting to the “real […]

  20. Inspiring writing!

    I’ve always been a big fan of your work.

    Keep doing what you’re doing.

  21. Nice Blog!! Goals don’t seem so hard to achieve when you break them into little pieces and taking a step day is great way of achieving it. It’s not surprising that people who establish goals achieve more than those who don’t. Learning how to establish and achieve goals is one of the keys to success at work and in one’s personal life.

  22. Great advice Donald! Thanks for this post. Consistency is something I have been pondering a lot the last couple of weeks. It is so important to the foundation of success in every area of life.

    Your timer method is my favorite tip. I have thought about using it myself before but… you know just never got around to it! After reading this I certainly have been given the “hint hint” from my conscience to put it into practice. In fact, I think I’ll go set my kitchen timer right now…

    – Dalas

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