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The Huge Advantage to Making Tiny Goals

02/09/2014 11:22 EST | Updated 04/12/2014 05:59 EDT

Tiny is the new big -- when it comes to goals. Are your goals small enough to make a big enough difference?

Recently, I've been talking a lot about goals (professional and personal) -- with friends, with my leadership coaching clients and in my own personal reflection. Not surprising since the early part of the year is typical timing to reflect on goals and new beginnings. But something has changed. Whereas I used to ask "Are you thinking big enough?" I'm now asking "Are your goals small enough?"

Huh? What? Yes, you heard me right. Each day, I find I'm reminded of the HUGE value of setting TINY goals. In fact, I'm now so BIG on TINY that I might even have to change my company name from Big Cheese Coaching to Tiny or Little Cheese Coaching.

Not really. But just saying so to make a point.

Quick story: one of my long-standing goals has been to clean my office. I mean really clean it out. Make the shelves and all the other spaces actually workable instead of storing old, irrelevant 'stuff'. Embarrassing to say (and I won't tell you how long-standing this goal has been), this is a BIG goal for me because I've let it go too long and there's lots to clean-out.

The "project" now feels so daunting and every time I think about it -- something far more important (or interesting) takes precedence. So the shelves get heavier with stuff that doesn't need to be there and the desk -- where's my desk? Oh yes, under that pile. This has been a great source of frustration and my procrastination has kept me stuck, stuck, stuck.

Until one day recently when I changed the goal. Instead of saying "I have to clean my office," I changed my goal to "I want to clean that tiny corner of my office today."

Guess what happened? I cleaned that tiny corner in my office! It was fairly effortless yet it made a MASSIVE difference to me. I felt a HUGE gust of relief (clean space can do that). I'm now ready to set my sights on my next TINY space.

Lesson learned? Right-size your goal. I'm not saying all goals need to be tiny. What I'm saying is that there is huge merit in including tiny goals in your life. Sure -- big goals have a place and can be energizing too -- but even in those there may be nuggets of opportunities for tiny goals along the way.

Think about your own goals? Do you have enough tiny goals in the mix? Are you focusing only on the big ones? Getting stuck? Bogged down by the 'bigness' of them? Can you break your big goals down into multiple smaller goals?

It's time for TINY to step it up and take the spotlight!

Here are 5 Reasons Tiny Goals Can Make a Big Impact:

1) Tiny goals are easier to start with. Setting tiny goals can help bust or mitigate the procrastination factor. Similarly, getting started on working towards a goal like getting in shape is a heck of a lot easier if you set realistic, smaller goals to start with -- and then build on from there. So rather than going for "Ironman triathlon" before you've even donned your first pair of running shoes, how about something like building up towards your first 5k or 10K?

2) Tiny goals can be part of a larger goal. We've all heard of the expression 'chunk it down'. By chunking down a large goal into smaller goals, the challenge becomes more attainable and it is easier to focus on one part (milestone) at a time. Got any massive reports to write or projects to complete? Can you create smaller goals to map out the journey to completion?

3) Tiny goals give you the experience of success and momentum. The adage "success generates success" isn't just a nice saying, it really is true. When you successfully take steps and achieve some results you are more likely to feel motivated to take further steps and will experience "action momentum" which helps you to continue taking positive steps towards your goal.

4) Tiny goals allow you to celebrate which bolsters positivity. We now know that positivity has been scientifically proven to broaden your mind and increase your potential for success over time. People who practice positivity are more apt to reach and achieve bigger goals. Why not use tiny goals as positivity bolsters to help you spiral upwards towards greater success?

5) Tiny goals can help you develop the habit of setting goals, achieving goals and celebrating goals -- which can make you happier. Pursuing goals is fundamental to experiencing a meaningful life. Often people don't even realize when it's time to refresh goals or create new ones for where they are in their work and life. Learning to set meaningful goals regularly and to right-size them can contribute to a happier, healthier, more satisfying life.

Now isn't that a worthy goal in itself?

Eileen Chadnick is a work-life and career coach and principal of Big Cheese Coaching in Toronto and author of a new book, Ease: Manage Overwhelm in Times of "Crazy Busy".

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