Have a big goal in mind? That’s awesome. You want to dream big. The key to success: think small. While it might seem counterintuitive, research shows that setting small, achievable goals along the way can improve your chances of reaching your big goal. Here’s how:

They help uncover your motivation.

As you set your short-term goals, you have to ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” If it’s to lose 60 pounds in time for your annual family lake vacation, ask yourself “Why is this important to me?” If it’s important to you because you want to enjoy playing with your kids, again ask yourself “Why is this important to me?” Your answer might be that you want your kids to have fond memories of your vacation. And this might be important to you because you didn’t take family vacations growing up. Continue this exercise until you find the truest, deepest reason behind your goal. Now you can set short-term goals that build on that intention and keep your motivation at the forefront. Without that intention, reaching your goal is less likely and falling off track is much easier.

They provide a clear path to success.

It’s so exciting to set a long-term goal. But how are you going to get there? Let’s say you want to run a 5K in less than 25 minutes. The specificity of your goal is ideal, now you need to set clear steps to success. Developing a series of incremental goals will show you what you need to do each week, month, or year. If the goal is a 5K in under 25 minutes, you can start with a smaller goal of running 1K in six minutes, and then build on that goal.

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Don’t skip the planning step of goal setting. It’s the foundation for your success.

They allow you to track your progress.

It can be as simple as a pre-assessment at home, for example, weighing yourself, or a more precise body composition with a professional. Your short-term goals will now act as checkpoints. Did you take a minute off your 5K time? Are you building more muscle? Whatever your goal, you’ll be able to see if the steps you’re taking are leading to change.

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Small goals can work like stepping stones on your way to larger goals.

They keep you accountable.

Let’s say you set a goal to lose six pounds every four weeks. If you make it to your first six-week checkup and you’ve gained six pounds or haven’t budged, you’re forced to take a hard look at what you’re doing. We’re all bound to slip up, so don’t beat yourself up. Use this as a chance to refocus and get back into the swing of things.

They can help keep you focused.

The challenge with a long-term goal is that it can seem so far away – weeks, months, or even years – that it doesn’t feel quite so detrimental to put off progressing. You may find yourself asking, “Why not tomorrow?” Short-term goals allow you to focus in short increments so that you’re so focused on your next mini goal that you don’t have the time to put things off.

I’m nine years with EXOS where I’ve delivered this goal-setting approach to numerous clients who not only successfully change their fitness habits but bring the sample principles to bear on improving their careers.

Are you approaching your fitness and your career with same short-term wins for long-term success? I’d love to hear your story.

Want to learn more about upgrading your personal success story?

Be inspired by EXOX founder Mark Verstegen

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