Small Goals Lay the Path to Big Achievements (or at Least Make You Feel Better about Yourself)
Originally written November 2018, edited and posted August 2019. Featured photo by Cameron Mosier.
It’s been established (by me) that the reason I failed to complete my thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail is that I failed to time manage wisely. I failed to set regular goals and push myself in those regular, daily, weekly ways that would eventually add up to 2,660 miles.
What good is a failure if you can’t learn from it, right? They say the road to achieving your big goals is made up of teeny little micro-goal cobblestones, or something like that, so I’m trying out a new thing: Set 3 small goals each day that will help me achieve my larger goals.
Yesterday my small goals were:
Learn something new about three different people
have a chat with my manager at work, and
finish decorating the house.
Which relate to my bigger, longterm goals of:
Making stronger connections with more people,
finding agency at work to maintain balance between my job and life outside, and
creating a space in which I feel at home.
In my mind, the goals aren’t worth setting unless they’re things you think you might not achieve. If you put something down you know for sure you can do, you’re not going anywhere, you’re just sort of patting yourself on the back for being where you’re at. It’s like writing “make to-do list” on your to-do list so you can check something off your to-do list.
So I tried yesterday to make my goals things that were not certainties, but also weren’t so impossible that I would immediately get discouraged and just brush them aside. They need to be realistic, not cake.
Yesterday was a good start. I accomplished all of my goals, and I was honestly really excited about it. They weren’t insanely lofty goals, but they were things that got me closer to my ultimate goals.
Goal Number 1 challenged me to get out of my comfort zone by starting conversations with people and asking questions, something that is not necessarily in my nature to do and that I’m working on getting better at. It wasn’t easy because it forced me to have thoughtful interactions with my coworkers instead of reverting back to the same easy topics of small talk. Which everyone hates, and if you say you don’t you’re lying.
Goal Number 2 was probably the easiest one because I mean honestly she is my boss, it’s kind of part of her job to talk to me when I need her. But also I wasn’t sure if I could make it happen because it was Sunday and we might have been busy and I might not have had the opportunity. But, simply writing down the goal and making it a priority motivated me to approach her and let her know what I wanted, and then it happened. I was proud of myself for taking initiative.
Goal Number 3 was by far the hardest. We had so many paintings and photos and knick knacks left to place around the house, and no one wanted to do it. I had worked an eight-hour shift at work and all I wanted to do was drink wine and sit in front of the TV. I voiced my goal to Cameron and he voiced his goal to me, which was also to sit in front of the TV lol. But suddenly we found ourselves standing around in the living room, pontificating over where certain paintings should be hung whenever we got around to hanging them, and the next thing we knew we were hanging them because why not just follow the momentum?
All this made me feel so good. It wasn’t huge, but it wasn’t nothing, and it all moved me closer to where I want to be, which I guess is just in a better place than before? Yesterday morning I knew my coworkers OK, didn’t know anything about my vacation time at work, and had paintings sitting all over tables waiting to be hung. By last night I knew a ton more than I did before about not three but five coworkers, totally understood and had planned some of my vacation time from work, and had a fully decorated house, which I absolutely did not expect to actually happen. That’s freaking better! I felt and feel good.
Today I wanted to keep going with this goals thing, but I was tired this morning and didn’t set aside the time to write out three new goals, though I did have an idea in my head of one thing I wanted to try to accomplish at work, which was merchandising a mannequin in the store for the first time. I was able to check that one off the list within two hours of starting work. Boom! New skill acquired, and one step taken toward more responsibility at work.
During my lunch break, I sat down to write two more.
Improving my personal fitness is a big longterm goal of mine, and it’s been tough to push through my post-trail “nothing in Dallas compares to the mountains” mental blocks and into a steady workout routine. After completely neglecting my upper body strength for six months on the PCT, I’ve been getting back into the groove of climbing but haven’t gotten past reds yet (I don’t know the exact V scale equivalents for our gym’s color system, but it goes white, yellow, green, red, blue, orange, purple, pink, black from easiest to hardest). So, my second goal was to send a blue bouldering route at our climbing gym.
The next goal I came up with was to finish a piece of writing. Realistic, definitely not cake.
I was exhausted when I got home. I didn’t want to climb. I didn’t really want to write. I still wanted to take a stab at not giving up on my goals. I proposed climbing to Cameron and he didn’t really want to, which was a relief to me, but also not. So I asked him what the metaphorical equivalent would be of sending a blue.
Next thing I knew I was in the back of Cam’s truck unloading firewood. Was it something I wasn’t sure if I could do? Not really. Was it the equivalent of getting a blue? Eh. No. But I guess part of the goals thing is just setting the goal in the first place and then trying to do something to get yourself in a better place, even if it’s not the original plan. I have a stack of firewood on the side of my house now, and I worked up a micro-sweat. Better.
Oh, and this isn’t my best piece of writing and it’s maybe not even worth publishing, but I hadn’t written anything before and now I’m near the bottom of page two and a complete thought. Better than before? Yeah, better.