Confucius once said, “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
This quote reminds me of why most people can not achieve their goals.
What would you say if I asked you to identify your top 10 goals? I’m confident that you will be able to name 30 goals in less than 3 minutes. You probably had some of these goals for the last 10 years. Lose weight, make more money, write a book, drink less alcohol, spend more time with the family, quit smoking, etc.
According to the University of Scranton, 2 percent of people who set goals never achieve them. What do the 8 percent know about goal accomplishment that we do not? The top 8 percent has clearly prioritized to-do-lists, schedules, time frames, and they take daily tiny steps to accomplish their goals. There are three reasons why taking tiny steps helps you reach your goals faster.
Let me introduce you to two different brain parts: the prefrontal cortex (wizard) and the cerebellum (lizard brain). The prefrontal cortex is responsible for thinking and planning. The lizard brain is responsible for our survival and processing our emotions. Our lizard brain’s main job is to keep us alive, so anytime our wizard brain plans or try to execute a difficult task, our lizard brain fights it because it is unfamiliar, and it cannot determine if it is safe or not.
The lizard brain’s ability to react to threats without consulting with the wizard brain kept us alive for millions of years. We call this reaction flight or fight response. Any time you plan to do something worth sharing, the resistance shows up in your head. Steven Pressfield wrote a book about this resistance, you can never eliminate the resistance, but you can learn to live with it and be stronger than it.
So anytime you feel that your brain is resisting working on a difficult task, being self-critical, or making excuses, I want you to know that your lizard brain is winning over your (wizard) brain. I want you to trick your lizard brain by taking tiny steps. Your lizard brain thinks that tiny steps are safe.
According to Robert Maurer, taking small steps keeps the fight-or-flight response in the “off’ position. By taking these tiny steps, you will be able to sail calmly past obstacles without any resistance from your lizard brain.
I also love Stephen Guise's explanation about taking tiny steps, “Small steps have no competition in personal development — their unflinching effectiveness embarrasses every other strategy.” He encourages his audience to ask themselves two questions, “What strategies are you using to move forward? Are you succeeding consistently with these strategies?” If you answer no to the second question, you will have a hard time reaching your potential.
If you want to read one book per week, focus on reading 20 pages per day. If you want to lose 52 pounds this year, focus on losing one pound per week. If you want to paint your house, focus on painting one room per week. Break your goals into tiny steps, so it will be easy for you to crush them. Small steps help us create valuable habits, which help us achieve big goals. As Olin Miller wisely said, “If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.”
One of the biggest things that prevent people from making smart choices is decision fatigue. Science proved that your willpower is like a muscle. The more you use it, the more exhausted it gets. Every time you make a decision, you are using a limited amount of energy.
When you commit to taking tiny steps, you will be able to manage your cognitive load easier. Meaning you have more energy and headspace to deal with all of your thoughts and plans. To avoid decision fatigue, you need to plan all of your tiny steps so you do not have to spend your day making decisions.
Winning the battle against your lizard brain and taking tiny steps helps you avoid decision fatigue and develop healthy habits that help you reach your goals faster. As Rich Litvin states to his clients, “ Impossible things are just a bunch of possible things put together in a different order than usual.”
Your challenge today is to break your goals into small, easily achievable tiny steps. I want you to tiptoe past your lizard brain, keep it asleep, and unable to fight you. What is the tiniest step you can take today to get closer to accomplish your biggest goal?
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