Going for a Small Goal

01/05/2017 09:07 pm ET
BravissimoS, Shutterstock

Every morning I make some delicious, strong coffee in my bodum. I enjoy it thoroughly.

Then, I leave the bodum sitting on the kitchen counter and head off for my day. I return home and the bodum is sitting there. I go to bed with it still sitting there. The next morning, I have to clean the thing and put the old grounds in the compost. This part is very unpleasant for me. I feel mad at the bodum, I feel mad at myself.

Yet, I kept doing it. For years.

Over the past couple of weeks when I started - somewhat reluctantly - reflecting on my "new year's resolutions" and my "goals for 2017", I started to wonder about the potential power in going with a small goal. Really small. Yet, a tiny behaviour that affects the quality of my daily life.

I find I'm increasingly skeptical about big, lofty goals. I've noticed those types of goals tend to set us up for failure and that doesn't feel good. Of course, I’ve got my big goals like most people and I’m working on them to varying degrees. I was also longing for a small goal I could see and feel success with in a consistent way and preferably, immediate way.

I found some guidance in an article interviewing Dr. Kelly McGonigal, health psychologist:“People often get lost thinking they have to change everything all at once. But small changes can pave the way for bigger changes”.

So, I decided that 2017 would be the year I would commit to starting my morning with a nice, clean bodum to make my beloved coffee in.

I'm successful so far and that feels good. My morning routine and my morning mood are better. It's still a challenge to clean the bodum and, I feel motivated to clean it every night. This small goal is meaningful for me. I feel proud of myself when I do it.

As I practice doing my small goal every day, I'm curious to see if working on this seemingly small behavioural change will impact my life in bigger ways. Will my success with this small goal have a positive ripple effect in my life? Will it increase my self-esteem? Will it empower me? Will it act as a foundation of success and inspire me to enact bigger goals in my life? Will it have little impact at all?

I don't know yet. But I'm curious. I feel like I'm engaged in an experiment. And that's fun.

I also wonder if my approach to my goal for 2017 is itself a positive ripple effect from another bigger goal I've been developing for years: more self-compassion.

For example, this past summer, I did some work with a Self-Care Coach. I was prompted to do so because I was caught in a cycle of setting goals for myself, including self-care goals, not accomplishing them and, then waking up with the thought and feeling "I'm a failure".

My Self-Care Coach immediately focused a lot on my mindset towards change. She helped me to set more compassionate and realistic goals for myself. Even further, we worked on relating to my "goals" as options or choices. We challenged the notion of self-imposed goals that quickly turn into heavy “have tos” and flare up into a bunch of yucky internal conflict including the big yucky one I was stuck in: feeling like a failure.

As I loosened my mindset, responded to myself with more compassion, and simplified my goals, I felt better. I no longer woke up with "I'm a failure". What a relief. As a bonus, I was able to experience more success with my self-care goals.

Now, I recognize I've set myself a small goal for 2017 with a big dose of self-compassion. I get to wake up free from feeling like a failure plus I get to wake up to a nice, clean bodum. I'm inspired to see where that leads me.

If you feel inspired, ask yourself these questions:

* If you were to choose a small goal or small New Year's Resolution, what would that be?

* Is your small goal a challenge? Meaningful? Measurable? Attainable?

* What would it be like to set a goal you experience success with as soon as possible?

* Is your goal compassionate to yourself?

No goal is too small to work on.

I’m cheering for you.


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