Admit it. We've all done it. We've all written a list of goals, maybe a mental list. And then a year later realize we're still daydreaming about accomplishing those goals. Why is it that we can have such clear, strong convictions about something we want to achieve, yet that feeling fades and we're left stuck in the same place we were before?
The answer is simple: It's more fun to daydream about reaching our goal than doing the necessary work to get there. However, focusing on the end result can actually hurt our ability to achieve our target. While it can be a nice escape to sit back and envision what life would be like to be debt free or have toned arms and a six pack, this actually can hurt our motivation because we realize how far away we are from that end goal.
Instead, we need to move the goalposts on our dream from something way in the future, to something much closer. Author Mel Robbins in her book The High 5 Habit gives the example that if you want to get in shape, you should start by setting out your gym clothes right next to your bed. When you get out of bed and get dressed, you've already achieved a goal - you're dressed for the gym! The idea is that you have to break down your goal into simple, repeatable steps. Once you've replaced your daily habit of wearing your pajamas all morning and find yourself ready to workout, you're much more likely to actually take that next step and hop on the treadmill or do some pilates.
The idea of breaking down our goals into small repeatable actions is an idea made popular in the groundbreaking book Atomic Habits by James Clear. He discusses the importance of establishing daily rituals instead of focusing on the end result. In the book Clear says, "It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis. Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action."
He goes to say, "Meanwhile, improving by 1 percent isn't particularly notable- sometimes it isn't even noticeable- but can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run. The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding."
So if there is something you've been wanting to archive, like getting healthier, being debt free, learning a new language, or starting a new business, start small. Don't focus on the long-term benefits or rewards. Focus on the process and how you are going to achieve your goal. Set smaller, process-focused goals. And each day, as you do the little things, the 1% improvement, over time you'll be much further along the path to your end goal.