When I interviewed life coach Tiya Cunningham-Sumter last year, I asked her what she teaches now as a coach that she herself has struggled with in the past. Tiya responded saying she used to have difficulty breaking goals down into sizable pieces.
So many of us suffer from this affliction. We think BIG which is good in terms of brainstorming and visualizing. Itís best not to edit or limit ourselves when weíre dreaming--so the sky is the limit! However once youíve set your sights on a particular goal and youíve made sure itís SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attractive, Realist and set to a Timeline) the next step is to scale back and think small, very, very small. As I wrote last week, once you have a defined a project decide on the next small thing you can do to get the ball rolling.
Many years ago I was at work and got completely fed up with my situation. At the time I held a decent administrative position, which would have been fine if I had been interested in the industry I was working in. I wasnít, so after work one day I went and purchased a copy of a Graduate Record Examination (GRE) preparation guide. Probably either my second or maybe even third copy of basically the same book. I used to go through this about every five years or so.
The pattern is basically the same. I become disgruntled with my life and believe that graduate school is the answer. So I go and buy the GRE book and I take it home walking on air. YES! I think. At long last Iím going to take the GRE.
I get home and open the book and the first thing I encounter is the Verbal section, which gives me hope. After all I am an avid reader and know quite a few vocabulary words. But then I turn to the Math section and all that hope abandons me. There are a lot of angles and stuff on the GRE and I havenít studied Geometry since I was in the 9th grade! I try a few questions, get them all wrong then close the book disgruntled. I try again the next day and maybe even the next. After a little while, I skip a day and another. Within a month, the book is lost somewhere in the shuffle.
Finally after years and years of this dance, I put the goal of taking my GRE on hold indefinitely, mainly because I havenít been able to bring myself to study for the test.
Then recently while cleaning out file cabinets and bookshelves my husband came across one of my long forgotten GRE preparation guides and put it on my desk. I couldnít resist opening it up. This time I completely bypassed the Verbal section and went straight to the Math. I didnít try any of the problems, instead I just looked at the section as a whole.
The Math review section was 100 pages long with about five or six problems per page. So thatís about 600 math problems total. Then I looked at the copyright date of the book which was 2003, and I had an ďahaĒ moment. I wondered what would have happened if Iíd broken this daunting task down into small parts.
What if--when I purchased the guide six years ago--Iíd worked on just one Math problem a day, or a page a week, I could have gotten through the entire section in two years. The following year I could have gone through all of the material again, but more quickly since Iíd be more familiar with it. Then I could have spent the next three years looking for similar practice problems on the internet.
Or suppose Iíd studied one problem a day from 1993 when I purchased my very first GRE prep guide. I was never a whiz with numbers, but I donít believe even Iím so bad that I couldnítógiven sixteen yearsówork through 100 pages of the same Math I had in high school. Had I persevered by now Iíd be ready to kick some serious butt on that test. At the very least Iíd be far more confident with the material than I am right now.
Since Iím a life coach writer and I learn from my experiences, I decided that Iím not going to let another six years go by without working on this GRE goal. So today I signed on to my account at Goalforit.com and I set a goal. I didnít write ďStudy for the GRE.Ē Thatís the humungous goal that has had me practically paralyzed for two decades. Instead I set a small, little itty bitty goal: ďRead 5 pages of the GRE Math Review.Ē Then for each step I listed a page. ďpage 330, page 331 etc.Ē As I read a page Iíll check off a step. Once Iíve read the first 5 pages, Iíll set a brand new goal ďRead another 5 pages of the GRE Math ReviewĒ and so on until Iíve gone through the entire Reviewóno matter how long it takes. Any progression is far better than my current status which is no advancement at all.
When you create a goal on Goalforit.com, youíre prompted to write something to serve as motivation. I wrote a quote by Henry Ford who said nothing is very difficult if you break it down into parts. And thereís another quote that Iíll keep in mind every time I complete a page in the Math Review: ďyard by yard itís very hard, but inch by inch, itís a cinch.Ē