How Setting Mini-Goals Can Help You Reach The Finish Line

Life July 18, 2016

On a recent trip home to visit family, I told my sister that I wanted to get back into running again. Even though I have been working out pretty consistently over the past year, I haven’t gone for a run in what seems like forever. Running can be hard on my body, especially when autoimmune issues pop up. But I’ve been feeling good lately, better than I have in a long time.

So last week I laced up my shoes, turned on my Nike+ Running app and set off for the trail. My goal was to make it to the end of the trail without walking (about 3/4 mile). After a whopping one-tenth of a mile, I was ready to quit.

Why am I doing this? What was I thinking? This is horrible!

I then reminded myself that the hardest part of running is in my head. The end of the trail was mentally too far away, I needed to set some mini-goals or I would never get there.

Setting a goal is important, but what you do on the way to that goal determines whether you will ever get there at all. So what kind of goal is looming large before you, tempting you to quit? Take that goal and break it down. Figure out what your first mini-goal will be. Get yourself to the bridge, then to the tree, then to the bushes. Set enough mini-goals and all of a sudden the finish line will be in sight.

Ok, I can make it to the bridge. If I can just make it to the bridge, I will allow myself a quick rest.

I made it to the bridge and realized I wasn’t going to die.

Ok, keep going. I can make it to that tree up there, then I can rest.

I got to the tree and realized I didn’t want to stop.

Ok, just make it to those bushes.

I made it to the bushes.

And then? The end was in sight. In fact, it was really close to the bushes. I kept going.

All of a sudden, by reaching these mini-milestones, I had made it to my goal, the end of the trail.

3/4 of a mile without stopping. I know. It seems ridiculous to be celebrating such a small achievement, but you know what? After I ran that 3/4 mile, I knew I had it in me to do it again. So I walked 1/4 mile then started again. This time because I knew I could do it, I didn’t need to set those mini-goals, I just ran 3/4 mile.

Then I did it one more time.

By the time I was finished, I had completed 3 miles, and I had run 2.25 of them. After wanting to quit in the first five minutes, I consider that a huge success.

This experience reminded me that setting a goal is important, but what you do on the way to that goal determines whether you will ever get there at all.

So what kind of goal is looming large before you, tempting you to quit? Take that goal and break it down. Figure out what your first mini-goal will be. Get yourself to the bridge, then to the tree, then to the bushes. Set enough mini-goals and all of a sudden the finish line will be in sight.

Want to write a book? Set a timer for 30 minutes and spill your unedited words onto the screen.

Want to run a 5K? Download a training program and start your first workout.

Want to start a blog? Open a free blog account and start writing (you can change everything else later).

Whatever you want to do, take the first step. Just get started. Set your eyes on that first mini-goal and go. Pretty soon, you’ll be at the end of the trail, wondering why you ever wanted to quit.

 

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  • Elana July 18, 2016 at 10:25 am

    I love this!!! There was a song we sang in music class back in elementary school that I still remember. It was called “Little By Little” and I think of it when a goal seems insurmountable:

    Little By Little

    Inch by Inch…Day by Day
    Step by Step…All the Way
    Piece by Piece…Bit by Bit
    And Little by Little you’re there.

    If you can’t climb a mountain then climb a hill
    That’s much better than standing still
    There’s a way if you’ve got the will
    And little by little you’re there.

    If you can’t swim an ocean then ford a stream
    Just remodel your basic scheme
    Don’t give up ’till you’ve reached your dream
    And little by little you’re there.

    Good things that are here to stay
    Don’t get done in just one day
    Once you start you’re on your way
    So keep on go-ing.

    If you can’t save a million don’t draw a blank
    Just keep filling your piggy bank
    You’ll have only yourself to thank
    When little by little you’re there.

    Every Rose was once a bud
    One small raindrop starts a flood
    An acorn planted in the mud
    will grow … you … know …

    If you can’t walk a mile take one long stride
    Move along with a sense of pride
    Step by step ’til you’re satisfied
    And little by little by little
    You’ll….be…there …
    Little by little you’re there!

  • Brynn at The Domestic Dietitian July 22, 2016 at 10:41 am

    Such a great post! I think sometimes we set such big goals that the “finish” line seems so far away that it’s daunting. I like the idea of setting mini goals. I have tried to get into running but I think I have to admit defeat and just come to terms with the idea that it’s not my thing.

    Love your site.

    • Alysa September 4, 2016 at 2:57 pm

      Thank you, Brynn!

  • Eloise September 13, 2016 at 5:31 am

    Hello there Alysa! I stumbled on this while searching for motivation to study. Thanks for sharing this, it helps alot! šŸ˜€ btw, I am a dietetic student. šŸ™‚