Action Goals

The difference between long-term goals and short-term goals is that long-term goals are essentially wishes by themselves. Very few long-term goals can be acted upon by themselves. “I want to be rich.” Okay, but that’s just a hope or dream, it’s not an actionable thing. “I want to be thin,” or “I want to be married,” etc.

Those are directional, and I’m not saying it’s not good to have direction. But you can’t leave it there. You have to break your long-term goals down. The smaller the unit you can break them down into, the better.

“I want to lose weight.” Okay, break that down. How much weight? By when? What will it take – what do you have to do every day, every hour, to get there?

Too Big: “I want to lose weight.”

Smaller, But Not Small Enough: “I want to lose 3o pounds this year.”

Getting Better: “So I want to lose 2.5 pounds per month.”

Even Better Still: “So I want to lose about a quarter of a pound every three days.”

Okay, now we’re onto something. Losing a quarter of a pound doesn’t sound hard at all, does it? You can probably lose a quarter of a pound by going for a walk around the block each day and not drinking soda with lunch for three days.

So even better still: “I will walk around the block each day and I’ll cut out soda. I’ll measure my progress every two weeks and look for at least a pound of loss.” Now that’s an actionable goal! That’s an actual thing you can do, every day, and commit to. And it’s not super hard at all! If you just focus on this really easy thing, you don’t even have to pay attention to the big, daunting goal at all.

Measure your progress. Maybe you’ll need to change, maybe you’ll need to adjust. Maybe it’ll work better than you thought! (Note: I’m no diet guru. This is just an example.) But you now have actionable steps you can take, instead of just wishes.

This method works for pretty much anything you want to do. Break your long-term plans into your action steps, and you not only make real progress, but you don’t make yourself intimidated by a lofty goal. Losing a quarter of a pound is easier than losing 30, writing a page (or a blog post) is easier than writing a book, and working an hour of overtime is easier than coming up with thirty grand for the new car you want.

Baby steps to a better world.

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