All of us humans always strive to achieve something. We live our lives from day to day in order to reach certain objectives and to get certain outcomes. Some of these objectives are small ones like saving money to buy another guitar. Others are big strategic goals like building a successful business to retire a millionaire. In either case, to achieve desired results, we need to actually do the work that leads us to them. And with any kind work there are more and less effective ways to go about doing it.
I’ve already achieved quite a few things in my life that I can be proud of and I have much more planned ahead. Recently I have been thinking about some of the key principles that empowered my successes so far, and I could clearly distinguish several basic ideas for myself. One of those ideas I want to share with you in this note.
This idea is the idea of the small steps. You will greatly increase chances of achieving your goal if you engineer your way towards it in such a manner as to make small baby steps, but as regularly and frequently as possible. This is counterintuitive for most people who think that big goals require big ambitious resolutions. In reality most of the initiatives fail precisely because once the initial excitement fades away, people get overwhelmed with what they committed to and give up.
For example, one of my current goals is to read the whole Bible. Most would consider it to be a challenging task that requires serious dedication. Many people start it but few finish. What I did was simple: I split the reading into 365 tiny pieces and now I’m going through it one piece a day. It’s a short 10—15 min read every day, which I do with joy. As of today I’m 93/365 through. How big are the chances that I will successfully finish it on Dec 31, 2014? Very big.
Another example is how I made physical exercise a regular habit. Since my teen years I tried to incorporate some “strength-building” into my life. I started various initiatives when I was in the “right” mood, but none of them lasted for too long. Until finally, about a year ago I approached it with the small-steps mindset. By that time I was already an avid swimmer and runner, so I just decided to add a short 5-minute workout of primitive pushups and abs exercise as a prelude to my running or swimming workout. That was so easy that I even had doubts if it was at all useful. But I stuck with it since it was nothing. A few months later I found myself adding quantity and expanding the workout without even thinking about it. Now that prelude lasts around 30 minutes and is one of my favorite parts of a day. And oh, by the way, I did get somewhat bigger and stronger.
The last example I’ll give is about Spanish language. I learned Spanish from absolute zero to fluent level in several years, without attending classes. The method I used is again pure small steps. Every single day I listened one 15—30 podcast during my commute. Then once I got the basics I started listening to Spanish music, just a few songs per day. Later, I read several books in Spanish, most notably “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, again just a couple of pages per day. After that I began to listen to Spanish radio while preparing and eating breakfast, 15—20 minutes every morning. A few thousand small steps later I proudly speak Spanish with my Argentine colleagues and my Spanish-speaking friends from all over the world, and enjoy it immensely.
So if you are thinking about achieving something big, consider applying my small steps method. After all, how does one eat an elephant? One bite at a time!