Small steps, great leaps

David Kentish explains why the former can result in the latter, and help you to reach your career and life goals.

Everyone has certain goals they want to achieve, whether they be financial, business, career, family, health, personal development. The list goes on….

Whatever the goal, achieving it may sometimes feel like a daunting prospect. But if you take small steps to reach that goal, it will always feel more achievable. It’s rather like the saying ‘how do you eat an elephant?’. The answer, of course, is one bite at a time – but we often fail to apply that to our day-to-day lives.

A proven technique to achieving your goals lies in creating S.M.A.R.T. goals. This stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-specific.

When you have a goal in mind, you need to be:

Specific You must be able to define your goal so that there is no ambiguity and go into as much detail as you can to bring that goal to life. What does it look like, feel like, sound like? Describe it as if you already have it.

Measureable You will need to measure where you are now in relation to achieving your goal – on a scale of one to ten, one being you are nowhere near and ten you have reached it. Be honest and mark where you are on that scale. If you are at a four, how are you going to move forward and what resources do you need? What do you have now and what do you need to achieve your desired outcome? How will you get from a four to a five? Put a plan in place to move you from where you are now to where you want to be. And do it in small steps.

Achievable Deciding you’d like to buy an Aston Martin is a great goal, but if you have no money in the bank and you want it tomorrow, is that achievable? Well, it might be; but only if you win the lottery that day. If the goal is not achievable, you will give up and you may tell yourself that all your goals are not achievable, so set yourself up for success with an achievable goal.

Realistic Is your goal something you can realistically attain – and if for any reason it isn’t, can you revise your plans to make it more realistic? The more flexible you are, the more able you will be to meet your goal. For instance, if your goal was to play for the England football team at next year’s European Championships, is that realistic? Probably not, unless you are in the squad already. Being flexible means that instead you find a local football team to play for next season, and suddenly the goal becomes realistic and measurable and you can find ways to pursue it.

Time Your goal must be time-specific. Without a deadline there is no impetus to reach the end goal. So look at the measurable timescale, and work out if it is achievable within that period or not.  By taking small steps, will you get from four to five, five to six, six to seven, seven to eight, eight to nine, and finally to reaching your goal?

Quick wins within the SMART process will give you the confidence to take things further. For the Aston Martin, for example, the small step may be just to find out the price. If your goal is fitness related, a small step could be to find out what gyms there are in the area.  Just taking a small step will start to give you the belief that you can achieve your goal if you follow the process.

In this way you can move from a four to a five, rather than trying to move straight to a seven in one hit, which is just not realistic. In fact, when people try and do too much in one go they might fail and may feel ready to give up. If you do get knocked back, treat this as an opportunity to re-evaluate the situation. Maybe even considering, was the goal something you really wanted in the first place?

And if it isn’t maybe there is a different goal you want to go for instead.

Should it remain your goal (and it has to be your goal, not someone else’s), see it as an opportunity to examine how you’re going to overcome those obstacles. Look at the reasons why that small step didn’t work for you and track back a bit to explore other avenues that will allow those small steps to move forward.

David Kentish is co-founder and Director of people development specialists Kentish & Co.


This article first appeared on 22 March 2016

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