When Setting Goals, Think Small vs Bigger. Here’s Why…

Woman looking happy at some paper

In my previous post, I spoke about self-care for entrepreneurs in terms of taking care of ourselves to prevent burnout. In this next post I want to build on that. I’m going to discuss goal setting and why, when we’re deciding on goals – bigger isn’t always better.

Goal setting for success: a list of tasks

Walk, Don’t Run

I think a lot of us go about setting goals all wrong. We’re taught to be ambitious, think big and change the world. Now, I don’t want to seem pessimistic. But being pragmatic; if we start the day with big, lofty goals that are unrealistic – by the end of the day, we haven’t realised any of them. And that can feel deflating. 

Taking that feeling to bed with you and waking up the next morning, you feel a bit lesser off. Your confidence is knocked. If we repeat that process over and over, we can find ourselves falling into a downward spiral towards burn out.

What I have found really useful – especially during tough times or when my back was against the wall – is to aim small.

Aim small enough for you to succeed.

a bulletin board of goals to complete using sticky notes

Inch Towards Success

If we take action with tasks we know we can accomplish, ticking those off and succeeding: that builds confidence. Arriving at the end of the day having achieved what you wanted to is satisfying. And that will incrementally build day after day, each time we tick off one of those goals.

You sleep better as a result and wake up the next day with that little ‘lift,’ knowing that the day before was a success. It doesn’t matter if they’re not huge things. They are do-able. If necessary, you can look at it as “aim low enough to succeed.” Because, in comparison, aiming high with no short term objectives to complete in between – will lead to burnout.

The overall aim of small goal-setting is: are you in a better place than you were yesterday? If a day can be answered with a yes, then that is progress. And (like I explained in my previous post) it’s far better to aim for ‘done,’ rather than ‘perfect.’

A dart hitting a dartboard way off the bull's eye - analogy for completing tasks even though they're not 'perfect'

The Science Bit

When you start completing achievable goals in a measured way, you accumulative positive experiences consistently over time. When we complete a task, our brains give us a little hit of dopamine – the achievement hormone “that enables you to make the effort it requires to be successful.” If our goals are messy and unclear, it is difficult to quantify measures of success in completing them. For instance, if your only goal in business was to “open a hotel” – you wouldn’t achieve that one goal for months, even years. This makes it very difficult to stay motivated if we are never seeing rewards for our hard work. So ‘aiming low enough to succeed’ – can actually be far more productive and beneficial.

As an entrepreneur, I’ve had my fair share of aimless days when by the end of the day, I didn’t even know what I’d achieved. I’d just think of all the things I didn’t get done, rather than the things I did – because I couldn’t see any tangible results.

Why is this important now?

Speaking from experience, I can say that setting small goals has a lovely way of building momentum, taking you to a really good place. And this, I think, is especially important right now. The accumulation of these positive moments will most certainly benefit you in the challenging times we are currently facing. It is during these unpredictable times when it is more important than ever to have that bit of confidence to get you through, knowing you have progress behind you. 

A woman looking happy as she completes/achieves a task

I hope in sharing this with you, you can see the value of applying this technique in the long-run. How do you set your goals in business and in life? Are they manageable or do they seem overwhelming? Drop me a message, and see if you’re using your time as best you can.