How do you tackle a really big goal?

Posted by Julie • January 21, 2015 (Last modified June 6, 2022) • 3 min read

Have you had a really big goal? One your manager gave to you, like “Become an expert at social media” or something similarly vast?

I had a really big goal. In fact, it is to become (using tip #9 and adjusting the goal above) “Become more familiar with social media communication.”  NOTE to self: “Expert” too lofty. Familiar? That’s achievable. Becoming an expert (for me) would qualify as #6, a “Great Wall Goal.” Avoiding that.

Anyway, you don’t know where to start. So you think about it for weeks, or a month, or more. You are about to get started. Hang on. Let me get a cup of coffee and check my email one last time…

It’s hard to know the direction of your first step.

Maybe you’ve heard we avoid goals because we’re afraid to fail.  Perhaps. But, the act of failing implies we started, and got far enough to fail. I’d argue that starting (period) can be a bigger obstacle than the fear of failure!

How do we overcome a stalled engine, a goal we want to tackle but don’t know how? Maybe it’s not fear of failure. Could it be that the goal is just too big (I’ll never get that far)? Or the path is uncharted, so we postpone to think about it some more?

Here on some tips on tackling big goals:

1. Seriously, YouTube.  Anything we want to learn is explained there.  I typed in “How to Set Goals and Achieve Them” and came up with no less than 32,600 results.  Watch just a few of these, and discover that it’s less painful to take an action towards a goal in any form than it is to watch a self-help video.  The exception is, of course, when you’re learning to fix your ice maker or something like that.

2. Get organized, and make a to-do list. Start by committing to working on the goal for 10 minutes – at a regularly scheduled time. Progress is about changing habits, consistently. Easier said than done, but true.

3. Build a map, a web, or a visual, something related to the goal and some related tasks. Put it on butcher paper. Or that cute journal you’ve been wanting to use. Add some tasks you can do.

4. Pick a direction. Any direction.   It sometimes doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do something. After all, whatever it is you do, it’s going to change the 2nd and 3rd time you do it anyway.  Can you move just a few feet in any direction?

5. Choose a single goal.  If you know someone who’s life isn’t crazy, suggest they do two goals. But, for the rest of us, be content with one. It’s manageable.

6. Avoid the “Great Wall Goal.” You know the one. A goal so big that you can see it from space? If you have a Great Wall Goal, chunk it into segments.

7. Take a small step forward. It’s important to be comfortable, and too much all at once might have the opposite effect. If we believe we’ve stockpiled energy towards the goal (I worked on it for an hour today instead of ten minutes, so I can skip the next five days (and then you don’t come back to the goal because “I’ll stockpile another hour next week…”)

8. Celebrate movement. You watched a YouTube? You attended your first webinar to learn more? You made that map?  Awesome.  Be happy about it.

9. Be open to an adjusted goal.  You’re not giving up.  It’s just that once you started your goal, you realized the goal you set was too high or too low.  No problem. Adjust the parameters: the time you need, the steps you want to take, or the desired outcome.  Flexibility is key. Don’t torture yourself.

10. Remember what Jake Silverstein said to Lyle Lovett,  “We must not let the perfect enchilada be the enemy of the good enchilada.”  Don’t let perfection be your enemy.  The enemy is doing nothing at all.

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