Many of us have had the experience that good intentions aren’t enough for the long haul. Sometimes, overly ambitious goals, combined with a lack of knowledge regarding motivational factors and a naïve understanding of optimal goal framing and strategy creation, can lead to exhaustion, poor results and unanticipated failures and injuries. I propose this phenomenon exists in the personal and professional arenas and that it can be solved via adopting a “Thinking Small” mindset. Please note that “Thinking Small” is not about giving in or giving up, or even about compromising on what is most important to us in life; it’s about embodying a simple and highly powerful seven stage process that consistently leads to “Big Results." The essential stages in this process include:
1. Clarity of Vision & Outcome: Think of this as the “what” in terms of your goal. Ask yourself: “What do I truly want?” Then keep asking yourself this question until you get to the essence of what you truly want in service of your highest values. For example, I might say that I want to lose twenty pounds or that I want a promotion, when the essence of what I truly want is a healthy lifestyle, professional recognition, increased self-esteem or increased income. As you repeat this question about what you truly want, you will ultimately get to the essence of your goal. Clarity of outcome results from your answer to the question: “How will I know when I get what I truly want?”
2. Clarity of Motivation: Think of this as the “why” in terms of your goal. Who are you setting the goal for – you or someone else? What do you think reaching your goal will do for you? Many people fizzle out on their motivation due to a lack of clarity regarding the "why" and/or a misguided sense
of what achieving their stated goal will do for them.
3. Staging Change: Think of this as the “how” you will reach your goal. Step three is where the “Thinking Small” concept comes into play. Your goal needs to be mapped out in small enough steps to set you up for success - steps that are doable in a reasonable time frame. In this step of your "Thinking Small" process, you will want to stage your “how” in a manner that increases the likelihood of success in both the short- and long-term.
4. Taking Action/Making Choices: Strategically structuring your “how” directly leads to your action steps and your daily action choices. In this stage of your process you are accountable for taking action in a manner that moves you forward toward your goal – the goal you are committed to making happen. Several questions that I have found to be most helpful in this stage, particularly when my motivation plummets in the moment, is to ask myself: “Am I still committed to my goal?” and "Will my choice (or lack of action) result in moving me closer to or further away from my goal?”
5. Tracking/Adjusting: We live in an ever changing world in terms of information and resources, necessitating our stepping back on a regular basis to track, assess and adjust our actions and movement toward our goals. An example that is particularly powerful for me is the automated system on an airplane that serves (hopefully) to keep the plane on course. It is continually adjusting the course of the plane within fairly tight parameters when indicated to keep the plane on track for its intended destination.
6. Acknowledging: This stage is essential for keeping our motivation going, especially when our goal has a longer-term trajectory. Many of us were trained to acknowledge success only for an end result. Our staging of the “how” via stage three provides us with natural assessment points to acknowledge our seemingly small successes along the way to our big result, thus replenishing our motivation, commitment and energy.
7. Celebrating: Image what it would feel like to celebrate your progress along the way to your goal and when you’ve accomplished it. It’s quite powerful to allow yourself the necessary luxury of stopping to appreciate and celebrate your vision, intention, commitment and “Big Results,” achieved via the “Thinking Small” mindset and process.
Try this approach for just one goal in any area of your life and notice the shift in your internal experience and the increase in the quality and quantity of your results. Notice how "Thinking Small" can consistently lead to "Big Results."
Related posts regarding goals, change and the power of “Thinking Small” include: