Take Steps, Not Leaps To Your Goals

Have you ever been enamored by a potentially life-changing goal, just to watch it fall flat on its face two weeks later? Your intention is there, you have your best interests in mind, so why did you not succeed?

Taking over the world

When we are in a passionate state of mind, we feel we could create change big enough and fast enough to take over the world. Our old habits are tossed to the side, and decisions are made on the spot. We are inspired to make a difference in that very moment. Do we have what it takes to carry this passion forward? Most times we simply do not. By the time this thought festers for a week or two, we have all but forgotten our initial passion, and we slip back into our old routine.

Lengthen Duration, Lessen Pain

Dan Ariely is a professor at Duke University specializing in behavioural economics, and is best known for attacking the topic of irrationality. Dan has dedicated his life to the understanding of people’s actions after an incident he experienced as a child. He was involved in an Israeli youth group growing up, and at one of the demonstrations, there was an accident. This explosion involved magnesium flares, and he sustained burns on over 70% of his body. He spent the next almost 3 years in the hospital with little to no skin. Daily bandages had to be removed from his body, leading to excruciating pain. The process was high intensity spread over a short duration, the typical “rip the Band-Aid off” experience. Dan knew a slower process was much easier on him; however, the hospital staff thought this was wrong. There was no winning for him. Dan had a question still stuck in his mind when exiting the hospital: “Can you manage an experience for a patient differently so that it creates less pain?” Dan started researching this question in the lab by delivering pain to people in different ways. Dan would administer pain from high to low, low to high and administer pain over differing durations with differing intensities. Dan used a scale of 0-100 to then rate the subjective pain of each test subject. The scores ranked consistently with his theory from his experience; longer duration with lesser pain was better than short duration and high pain.

Where does this fit into our lives when looking at creating change, primarily around habits? When we are planning our future goals and visions we find an anchor point, such as removing a band-aid, and then place a duration on it. In being true to ourselves, we like to typically shorten this deadline to prove we can do it. This only increases the pain we experience and increases the likelihood of us throwing in the white flag. By lengthening the time we invest in getting to our goals, we keep the intensity much more bearable and set ourselves up for more success.

Learning From Giant Snowballs

What is the best way to create a giant snowball? Pack it in a flat field? Okay, this works, but it certainly requires a large physical and mental expense. How about packing it atop a hill, which lies a few steps away? Harnessing the immediate passion that urges you to start this instant will set the base of success. The snowball will start small and behind pace of the immediate start. As time moves forward, the snowball will grow at a healthy rate, picking up size and momentum as it makes its way downhill. Looking over at the flat field version, it now lies in pieces, abandoned for the next big idea.

Next time you are filled with passion and a desire to create change, remember to take steps towards your dream, not leaps. I see so many people set the goal of writing a book and completely fall on their face because of poor goal setting. Let this post be your starting point for writing a book or, achieving any other goal on your bucket-list.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. - Lao Tzu

- Calvin Simpson (HAPPFUL founder)