Break Your Goal Down into Mini Goals

Break Your Goal Down into Mini Goals
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. It’s best not to edit or limit ourselves when we’re dreaming--so the sky is the limit! However once you’ve set your sights on a particular goal and you’ve made sure it’s 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 wasn’t, 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 I’m 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 haven’t 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 haven’t 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 couldn’t resist opening it up. This time I completely bypassed the Verbal section and went straight to the Math. I didn’t 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 that’s about 600 math problems total. Then I looked at the copyright date of the book which was 2003, and I had an “aha” moment. I wondered what would have happened if I’d broken this daunting task down into small parts.

What if--when I purchased the guide six years ago--I’d 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 I’d be more familiar with it. Then I could have spent the next three years looking for similar practice problems on the internet.

Or suppose I’d 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 don’t believe even I’m so bad that I couldn’t—given sixteen years—work through 100 pages of the same Math I had in high school. Had I persevered by now I’d be ready to kick some serious butt on that test. At the very least I’d be far more confident with the material than I am right now.

Since I’m a life coach writer and I learn from my experiences, I decided that I’m not going to let another six years go by without working on this GRE goal. So today I signed on to my account at and I set a goal. I didn’t write “Study for the GRE.” That’s the humungous goal that has had me practically paralyzed for two decades. Instead I set a small, little itty bitty goal: “Read 5 pages of the GRE Math Review.” Then for each step I listed a page. “page 330, page 331 etc.” As I read a page I’ll check off a step. Once I’ve read the first 5 pages, I’ll set a brand new goal “Read another 5 pages of the GRE Math Review” and so on until I’ve gone through the entire Review—no 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, you’re 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 there’s another quote that I’ll keep in mind every time I complete a page in the Math Review: “yard by yard it’s very hard, but inch by inch, it’s a cinch.”

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