There are the ongoing type of goals, then there are the BIG goals – the ones that truly are gigantic. You might want to buy an RV and travel across the country. You might want to write a book. You might want to learn to play the guitar. You can’t do those in a day, a week, or even a month. They are goals that have to be planned, have steps, have decisions to be made, money to be spent, people to connect with. They are the goals that can overwhelm you and make you want to go lay on the couch and watch reality tv.
That’s when you need to become an inch worm. I think I have inch worms in my garden right now. I know they are destructive pests and I should probably be unhappy that I’ve seen a few of the tiny beasts sitting on my patio table. But you have to admit, they are kind of cute – so tiny and such a pretty bright green color. They just look so focused and methodical as they inch across my table. Inch by inch, not trying to take big leaps, just moving in a slow, measured way, getting where they are going no matter how long it takes.
Inch worms are really part of the ‘Geometrid’ family which means “earth-measurer” in Greek and are so named because it looks like they are measuring the ground, an inch at a time. We can take a lesson from the inch worm and take a slow measured approach to accomplishing our big goals.
I understand the debilitating effects of overwhelm. As a person who struggles with my own procrastination and perfectionism demons, I can become paralyzed by overwhelm. As an extremely creative ‘idea’ person I have lots of great ideas but many of those ideas are BIG ones and after a joyful period of daydreaming about all the possibilities, I end up mired in ‘what next’. Then before you know it, my energy level hits bottom and I totally waste a few days before moving on to the next bright idea.
Making lists of things to do, steps to take towards my goals are a help, but those steps always tend to be fairly big in themselves. So for example, if I wanted to paint a large abstract painting that I could actually hang on my wall—a very real goal that now I’m so happy to say I’ve accomplished—I would have steps like a) buy canvas and paints, b) buy an easel, c) draw a picture, d) paint the picture, e) get it framed, f) hang it.
Then, if I really had no idea about what kind of canvas or paints I needed, I’d be bogged down in the very first step. So I’d rewrite my list and add a new first few steps: a) learn how to paint, b) measure the wall to see what size canvas I needed. You can see that as I added steps, they would lead to even more steps and before you knew it I’d be watching the Survivor rerun marathon on television.
Then I found SARK. SARK is fun, inspiring and realistic. SARK writes books that are produced in brightly colored, happy handwritten style full of drawings and stars and squiggles. They are perfect books for someone like me who’s a bit ADD and very easily distracted.
They are also full of great ideas. One of her ideas is to take micro-movements, little tiny baby steps towards your goals. On her website she even has a worksheet to help you plan your micro-movements.
Adapting SARK’s micro-movements idea, I could now come up with non-scary steps towards my goals. Now my list of five things I could do towards my goal of painting a great big abstract might look like this: a) find the name of a painting store in the phone book; b) make a list of what I want to ask, c) call the store and ask if they know of painting classes, d) if they say yes and I like the sound of it, sign up for the class, e) if they say no or it doesn’t sound like what I’m looking for, start over with a) and try another store.
Deanna Lohnes is a great example of someone who believes in the value of taking micro-movements. She keeps her list on her night stand and looks at it first thing in the morning. However, the real secret to Deanna’s progress toward her goals is that she takes small steps on a daily basis. Deanna says she can get a lot accomplished as she rides the train to work every day. She reads her list of goals and decides on a small action that she can take right there on the spot if she can. Deanna used this micro-movement technique to write her book, Footwork. Appropriately, Footwork is about how people get stuck in wishful thinking, forgetting that they need to actually take action to achieve their dreams.
Because I’m a very visual person, I like to use mind maps. Mind maps are a free flowing way of recording the results of your brainstorming. Brainstorming is when you just try to think of as many ideas or steps as you can, in no particular order and without editing for quality. You just get it all down on paper. You don’t have to be orderly, just scribble down as fast as you can all over the page.
Big pages are best for this, bristol board, large sketchbooks or even a blackboard. I have one whole wall in my home office painted with blackboard paint so that I can brainstorm in a really big way. After you’ve got it all out, everything you can think of, all over the paper, you start to make connections. First, circle the things that seem to be key steps. Then link the ideas or steps to the main step that they relate to by drawing lines connecting them.
In reality, my mind maps are always large and full of ideas, thoughts, questions and steps that I’d have to take to fulfill my goal.
After I have created a mind map, I can choose the first few steps, turn them into micro-movements and schedule them. That’s key—actually making a schedule to carry out those micro-movements. The first step, looking in the yellow pages for a paint store that offers classes, might be something I could do right away to get me moving.
Don’t use planning as a reason to put off getting started. Just decide on the first five micro-movements and take action now! Before you know it, you’ll be like the inchworm moving inch by inch toward the realization of your goals.
But continuous action is important. Taking tiny little baby steps will only get you where you’re going if you take lots of them, one tiny little baby step after another. So set a goal for yourself of doing at least one thing every single day.
Some of your goals might not be the kind of things that have separate discrete steps that lend themselves to taking one step at a time. Some goals require just hard slogging work, day after day.
For example, writing a book. Some parts of writing can be turned into steps, like going to the library to do research, making an outline, choosing a layout, buying The Writers Market and finding potential publishers, or writing a book proposal. But at some point, you have to just start writing. And then you have to write, and write, and write, and write some more.
With goals like that, set a minimum time limit for working on your goal every single day. If you decide that you’re going to write for fifteen minutes every single day, and do, you are much further along that if you decide that you’re going to write for two hours on Sunday and then get distracted and don’t write at all.
The difference between people who are successful in achieving their goals and those who aren’t is sometimes just showing up. Just show up and do what you have committed to do. Even if you do nothing but write the same word over and over, or just empty your brain onto the page with no direction or plan, show up and do your time!
So what can you do right now, today, that will bring you closer to achieving your dreams? Whatever you think is stopping you is almost certainly a figment of your imagination.
Here’s an idea that might help you get stuff done: Join the D.U.M.B. Goal Challenge. I’ve created a fun video that will tell you more about it. Go see, then download the D.U.M.B. Goal Guide and then send me your goal and start the challenges. You could win a $100 Amazon Gift Card Go here