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A Simple Strategy To Achieve Big Goals

Earlier this year I took one of my favorite hikes, the Manitou Springs Incline in Colorado. If you are familiar with the Manitou Springs Incline, it is a one-mile rise of stairs that stretches up the side of the lower part of Pike’s peak. Famous for its breathtaking views and steep grade (45 – 68%) while gaining over 2,000 feet of elevation. I’m always filled with nervous energy as I approach the site, and even though I’ve climbed it three times already, I still think to myself when I stand at the base, “I hope I don’t fail at this and need rescue to carry me back down.” One small, brave step at a time I climb all 2,744 steps – as tall as the empire state building.

Reaching the top is always beautiful and exhilarating.

Hiking this challenge served as the perfect metaphor for the times in my life or career when I’ve made a big goal for myself that seemed really exciting in the beginning, but when I faced the reality of executing it, I felt one of two things: overwhelmed and hesitant, afraid I would fail. Or two, stuck in analysis paralysis, procrastinating and trying to figure out the best strategy to accomplish the goal.

The strategy I learned to climb the Manitou Incline was very simple, but not easy. It was to solely focus on one step at a time – just my bravest, smallest next step. In fact, if I looked up to the top of the Incline, I would get dizzy and discouraged – not much different than the feelings that kept me stuck in my career and life goals when I would anticipate too far ahead and not focus on what could be done in the present moment. I’ve used this “small, brave steps” strategy to reverse engineer many of my major life and career transitions, everything from losing 40 pounds to leaving Corporate America to start my own business.  This process works for your personal goals, but also for team goal setting.  

By This Time Next Year

Choose a date in the future. Something very powerful for me is to imagine my life exactly one year in the future, which is why I often title my goal/vision board, By This Time Next Year. Choosing a specific date also works, as in the case of when I’m coaching leaders or teams that may have a specific project plan and completion date. But accomplishing what you desire is far more than just picking a date and writing a goal, so much of what has kept me on track is managing my energy and surrounding myself with the right people.

Make four columns with the labels: DATE | FEEL | DO | WHO. Next, ask yourself the following questions.

  • On this date, how will I feel when the goal is accomplished? Use adjectives to describe the feeling. We take action based on how we feel, so incorporating plenty of activities and people that support your feeling state will help you progress toward your ideal outcome.

  • On this date, write down the actions you’ll (or your team) need to have completed, or will be taking.

  • On this date, who else can be conspiring with me (us) to achieve this goal and stay on track? Successful people know they can’t achieve things alone, and the right people help us build the energy that we need to achieve our goal, and provide us with additional tools, expertise and insight to keep us on track.

Continually baby step the dates backward until you arrive at the present day. Half step your actions until you arrive at a doable step forward that feels of progress. This is a great way to beat analysis paralysis and overwhelm because we’re just reverse engineering until we get to the present. This is taking big leaps starting with your bravest, smallest step.

This feels counterintuitive because we watch other people take what seem to be huge leaps and it seems easy and effortless. But the reality is that much of our meaningful progress forward in life is the result of many small, brave steps. It comes from the courage to set healthy boundaries to protect our energy and choose supportive people and habits that will advance, not hinder, our goals.

If You’re Still Procrastinating…

Your smallest, bravest next step should not feel chaotic. Yes, you might get that “scare-cited” feeling that arrives with a big goal, but it feels of good nervous energy, not dread.  Brave next steps that are fueled by your true Inner Guide always feel of peace, not chaos. If they feel constricting or dreadful, it could be time to gut check your goal and if you’re working toward something that is aligned with your calling and unique talents. Or, it could be too big of a step for today, which I’ve solved by breaking that step in half again until it feels of ease.

Paying attention to our own inner guidance system that knows what peace feels like is often the clarity we overlook to give us the energy and inspiration to move forward. As you’re thinking about your life or career at this time next year, it’s easy to get overwhelmed or continually overanalyze your strategy until you find a “perfect” plan. Overcome this by taking care of how you want to feel, what actions have due dates, and who can help you get there. Reverse engineer it until you can find a small, brave step you can take – today.

Watch the video of this tip here.

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