If you hope to set goals for January and for the rest of the year (and that’s a big if because goal setting, resolutions, and making changes is not a prerequisite for ringing in the new year), there is a simple but often underappreciated approach to ensuring you reach your hopes and dreams. And that is the power of small.
We see new tidings and beginnings and think of fresh starts once we pull down the last month of December and hang up a new inspirational and quote-filled calendar. But January looks back at us as a long, dark, and decidedly cold month. The bright warmth of optimism and hope is not always found on an exhausted midwinter Monday. Those enthusiastic goals seem more challenging than anything else.
The problem with goal setting, yearning for change, or racing towards a target, is that we become inevitably and quickly consumed by that end goal. An end goal that is pretty far away takes intense effort, plenty of time, commitment, and a generous dose of passion. All of which we have, but we often forget that committing to a change or reaching for a target is not a race.
To get there, to get anywhere, it’s one foot in front of the other. Small, steady steps.
So how can we use the power of small and take actionable measures to set up the year ahead of us this January?
Know Your Goal
Despite knowing that big goals are challenging to unearth, we will nevertheless start big in our endeavours. It could be to run a marathon, be a calmer parent, hit a specific sales target in our business, or rest more. Regardless of how big your goal is, know what it is. It is, in essence, a target you hope to achieve, but the aim of the power of small is not to become consumed by its overbearing load but rather break it up into tiny actionable steps. So first things first, know your goal.
Now that we know what we are hoping to work towards, it’s good to recognise what we do that may stop us from making any small steps towards that target. Remember that only 2% of us who make resolutions or commit to changes in our lives successfully reach that target. That’s 98% of us who often falter at the first step.
We may look at our goal and think how daring we are to assume we could reach it in the first place. This is a block. A hurdle. We may also believe we don’t have the time to make small changes to reach our goal. Another hurdle. So how can we jump over these obstacles to take those small steps? Our habits are ingrained in us. They have been with us for quite some time. It takes no time to make a habit, but quite a bit of pushing to break a habit.
Our first step is to identify those habits that are blocking us from any progress and work towards changing our habits, one at time, in small steps, to continue on the path ahead of us. To break a habit, we can substitute our behaviours. So, instead of thinking, “I can’t do this,” we can alter our thinking patterns to be supportive and cheerleading in our goals. We can forgive ourselves when we take one step back and see if we need to change our mindset. And we can remind ourselves daily why we are altering our habits and what the outcome of these changes is likely to be.
When we navigate change, we can overcome so many different thoughts that can push us further away from those small steps we aim to take. Be mindful of your thoughts, aware of the sensations and feelings these thoughts bring up for you and release any judgement. This is your safe place. As we work towards our goals and desires, we are being mindful and grounded to appreciate, understand, and support ourselves in this journey of change, transformation, and hope.
Starting small sounds simple, but first, we have to know what small is. What are the small steps we can take in working towards our goals? It’s unlikely that we can put on our running shoes and take to the pavement, winning on our first run with a target of 10km. Warm up by starting small and build on your successes with shorter walks, jogs, and runs.
If being a calmer parent is on the cards for you this year, it is not a case of being wonderfully zen every day. That simply won’t work and will likely see you falling asunder by the end of the week as the overwhelm and exhaustion of maintaining a calm presence in a wonderfully chaotic home with kids is hard to maintain. Start small. Aim to pause for five seconds if you feel tension rising when a bowl of cereal is knocked over. Instead of shouting, count to ten when the kid’s behaviour is difficult. Release the tension in your shoulders, unclench your jaw, and uncurl your hands. Small behavioural changes become habits and alter your reactions, perception, and overall outlook. Don’t aim for overall calm; aim for small moments of calm.
And if raising your profile or hitting a new target in your business is your aim for 2022, figure out the small actions you need to take to get there. Slow and steady wins the race! One reel a week on Instagram, one call to action mail to your subscribers, that email to that one person who can help you take your business forward. Small, actionable, and purposeful steps.
The power of small is about recognising that our goals may be mountains, but they begin with one step, one short hike, and continuous effort. Take five minutes every day to work towards your goal, and you will find yourself halfway up that mountain in no time, closer to success with supportive and workable effort. Practice breathing, grounding, and mindfulness to help you stay focused on those smaller goals in the grand scheme of reaching that target, which may have seemed impossible at the beginning of this chat.