Three Steps to Big Goals
How do you eat an elephant? And, you're asking me "Why would I want to eat an elephant?" Maybe if I ask it another way: How do you eat a 1,000 pound marshmallow? Is that a little more palatable? Either way, the answer is the same: One bite at a time! Do you have a big goal? Does it seem overwhelming but yet something you really want to accomplish?
Copyright (c) 2008 Dale Stuemke
How do you eat an elephant? And, you're asking me "Why would I want to eat an elephant?" Maybe if I ask it another way: How do you eat a 1,000 pound marshmallow? Is that a little more palatable? Either way, the answer is the same: One bite at a time!
Now, I doubt that you want to eat either an elephant or a 1,000 pound marshmallow. But, do you have a big goal? Does it seem overwhelming but yet something you really want to accomplish? Is the goal so big that you just can't figure out how to "just do it"?
This is more normal than abnormal. Most of us have some big goals, things we want to accomplish that will take concentrated effort over a long period of time. We each have our own version of the 1,000 pound marshmallow and we'll each have to figure out how to eat it one bite at a time! How can we do that?
Step 1: Analyze
The first step is to examine your goal and determine what smaller, more managable goals will lead to the accomplishment of the large goal. Years ago I was working for a computer company that had its own huge goal. (In fact, that's the first time I had heard the question "How do you eat a 1000 pound marshmallow"!) We were going to develop a brand new computer with all new hardware, all new software, all new everything!
Step 1 was very important because we had to know what all the pieces would be before we could plan how to put them together. Your big goal is like that too. What are all the "pieces" that you'll need to accomplish in and of themselves before you can bring everything together to achieve your goal? This is an important part of the process, so do the analysis carefully and get help if you can't answer all the questions yourself.
So, in Step 1 you need to analyze where you are right now. You can't really start working toward the goal until you understand how big the project will be. What, exactly, is the goal you want to achieve? Do you need additional skills or education? How much time and effort will you be able to apply on a regular basis? Are you going to need someone guiding you along the way, or can you create your plan on your own? If you have a big goal, you need to do a thorough analysis of what needs to be done before you start.
Here's a tip. Take your time with this step and do it carefully and you'll gain a lot of time as you progress down the road. The time you spend analyzing and planning the achievement of your goal is not time spent, it's time invested and it will pay great dividends as time passes!
So, step 1 is where you really examine the marshmallow and figure out how you will divide it into bite-sized pieces so you can eat the whole thing!
Step 2: Plan Your Work
Now that you've analyzed your goal and how you can achieve it you can begin planning how and when you're going to accomplish each bite-sized piece. From your analysis, you know what the pieces are and whether there's a particular order in which they should be accomplished.
You need to create a plan that's broken down into those "bite-sized" pieces. By doing this, you will be identifying the incremental steps you will be achieving on your path to the goal. Be sure that each step provides meaningful progress toward your goal, but don't make them so large that they seem insurmountable. If you do this right, you will move from one step to the next with a good attitude because you have accomplished something significant (in the step you just completed); and you will have no problem believing that you can accomplish the next one as well.
As you develop your plan, you'll find Some things will have to be done in a chronological order while others can be done in parallel. When you can work items in parallel, you reduce the total time it will take to reach your goal.
Remember that computer project I told you about? We didn't need to wait for the processor to be completely built and running before we started developing the software. These things could be done at the same time. But, they both had to be done before we could do any testing of the complete product. That step had to wait for the right time in the project before it could be attempted.
How does this apply to your goals? Perhaps you have a career goal that will require additional education but also require that you to obtain specific job experience. You can probably attend college classes at night while you gain your job experience at your job during the day. You can work on these steps concurrently. By doing so, your job experience and your education will both be recent and relavent when you are ready for the next step.
Step 2 is another high-return investment that you are making in your goal achievement. Be sure to give it the time and concentration it deserves.
Step 3: Work Your Plan
Now it's time to start eating that marshmallow! You are now ready to work your plan. You know you have a good plan and that it will take you to your goal. If you've done your plan carefully you will have milestones (or checkpoints) built in that will demonstrate your progress and give you the positive feedback you'll need to keep going.
Remember that marshmallow? Basically, you've marked it up so you'll know how big the pieces need to be as you cut them. If you cut them too large, they'll be too hard to chew. (Can you imagine putting too much marshmallow in your mouth and having to deal with it?) But, if you cut the pieces too small, you'll munch away and never seem to be making any progress.
As you progress according to your plan, you will probably find yourself more motivated at each step. Why? Because you are experiencing the good feelings of accomplishment, and you are showing yourself more and more that you really can achieve your goal. As you do this, you are actually increasing your motivation AND your momentum!
So, work your plan, track your progress, and reward yourself as you accomplish significant pieces of your plan.
Go ahead, eat that marshmallow! Just remember what your mother taught you about not putting too much food in your mouth at once and to chew each bite thoroughly before swallowing. Soon your "meal" will be finished and you'll be looking for the next one. (whatever happened to that elephant...maybe you're ready for it next!)
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