Monday, June 13, 2011

Small Steps to Your Goals

One of my friends asked me what I’m doing this summer.  She is one who plans things for the entire coming year.  She makes lists, puts events on her calendar and always has something going. Next to her I always feel very behind and scattered.  But I have to stop and remind myself that her goals are not my goals.  And how I reach my goals is very different than how she reaches hers.


Often when you read about goals, you might read about short term, intermediate and long term goals.  Each of these may have time frames connected with them.  An example might be a short term goal could be 1-2 years; mid-term goal of 3-7 years or long term could be 10 years.  Unfortunately, these types of definitions do not take into consideration a person or family’s situation.


People and families who tend to plan and write down their goals are more likely to achieve those goals.  How people and families define their goals is very different.  Short term for me could be one week.  Short term for someone else might be one month or even one hour. Overall time frames should fit the needs of the person or family—not what some definition says.


A key to meeting goals is to make sure they are realistic and manageable.  One way to make them manageable is to create small steps to reach that goal.  Here is an activity you can do with your family or a group to help people visualize how small steps help you reach your goals.


Have everyone line up against a wall (with their backs against the wall). The goal is for everyone to get to the other side of the room.  How do you get there? Is it possible to leap across the room in one big step?  Probably not.  So have everyone go across the room and count their steps. 


Discuss the following:

·         Did everyone reach the goal?

·         How many steps did each person take?

·         Did everyone reach the other side at the same time?

·         Were there any obstacles (chairs, furniture, other)?  How did you decide to handle those obstacles?

·         Do you wish you would have taken a different path?


Then have a discussion as how this relates to setting and reaching goals in life.  We have to decide on a goal and break it down into manageable small steps or tasks.  Some people could accomplish a goal in 5 tasks, but another family member might need 8 tasks to finish the same goal.  If things get too challenging, people often quit.  It might be you need to rethink a goal and break it down into even smaller steps.  Or give yourself more time to reach that goal.

One way to break a goal down into manageable, smaller steps is to write the goal and then write the steps to accomplish that goal.  An example could look like this:

·         My goal is:

o   Today, I will:

o   Tomorrow, I will:

o   By the end of the week, I will:


Another could be breaking a large task into smaller tasks over a longer time frame. Two years ago I started a very long book.  After reading for a year and a half, I still had 379 pages left!  It struck me one day that if I read 1-2 pages every day, I could finish the book within a year.  And right then it felt manageable.  Reading 1-2 pages was do-able.  But when I sat and stared at 379 pages, I felt overwhelmed.


Maybe your goal is to save for a summer trip.  You figure out you will need $400 to cover expenses, and for your budget that is a huge amount to come up with all at once.  What if you break it down by days and months?  Could you set aside $3 a day for 3 ½ months?  Or $2 a day for 6-7 months?  That might be much more do-able than taking $400 out of the budget all at once.


Make things manageable for you and your family. Small steps make a big difference in helping you reach your goals!


University of Missouri Extension Building Strong Families—Go For It: Setting Goals module


Lucy Schrader
HES Associate State Specialist and
Building Strong Families Program Coordinator
University of Missouri Extension
162 Stanley Hall
Columbia, MO  65211


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