This is me doing a yoga "tree pose." Note that it's supposed to look like this:
My goal is to someday do that. At first glance, I would need to be about six to eight inches taller, about 20-30 less pounds lighter, and have a torso you could crack eggs on. But that's not reality, and that's what I love about yoga. It takes all shapes and sizes. My reality is that I'm 5-feet tall, and when you're short, contorting yourself into yoga poses comes with its own degree of difficulty. In my hot yoga class, most of the other students can do tree pose, as well as a whole host of other difficult poses.
On the one hand, I could say I have a pretty steep yoga learning curve, which might discourage me from going back. Yet, if I look at it from a different perspective, I've got a few poses that I'm actually pretty decent at, with another 10-ish left to go. My long term goal may be to master it like the yogi-est of yogis. My short term goal is to learn tree pose. That's my bite-size goal.
When it comes to tackling goals, people often fail because they bite off far too much. They try to "eat the 10-foot hot dog." The goal is too big, too complex or simply unrealistic. The more complex the goal, the harder it is to create a gameplan for achieving it. Many simply give up. Others start somewhere (anywhere!) and keep spinning until they feel they've either made progress or they're stuck. But even if they've made progress, it's difficult to measure, and measurement is key to achieving your goal(s).
In business, when review time rolls around, many companies ask their employees to come up with SMART goals. The exact interpretations for the acronym vary, but here's a general idea:
S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Achievable
R = Realistic
T = Time-based
It's easy to blow through the exercise as just one of the myriad acronyms that managers like to dump into their alphabet soup (and a lot of managers treat it that way), but if you stop rolling your eyes and take time to think about it, the concept is powerful. I had to do a whole assignment on SMART goals for my Project Management class and it changed the way I think about objectives.
If you type "goals" into Google and look at the images, the below image is one of the top results.
It's supposed to be a motivational image to get you all fired up. However, I know for certain that if I was the dude looking at that mountain, I would not only question my choice of haircut, but likely my sanity. The mountain is huge, it's cold, and he's far too underdressed for such an endeavor. But that's what so many of us do when trying to attack goals. We run headlong into the bottom of the mountain, completely unprepared for the magnitude that awaits us. It's no surprise that we abort the mission more often than we'd like to admit.
Here's the hard part. Whether it's in your personal or professional life, it's unlikely that you'll have someone to coach you on goal setting or help you develop a roadmap to achieve them. Many leaders aren't good at growing their employees effectively. If you can find that type of mentor, hold on to them, since advice and accountability from someone you respect is a powerful motivator. But ultimately, it's on you to do the heavy lifting.
So let's shrink the mountain into something more bite-size, like a hill. Here's a nice hill.
It even has a lovely tree that you could rest under after all the exertion. You could even have a little picnic, with wine and cheese and such, to celebrate your hill-climbing success. I don't know about you, but that would definitely fire me up to climb another hill (I'm a sucker for good cheese).
In a Forbes article on the power of thinking small, Lewis Howes writes:
As I approached my yoga conundrum, I decided that my hill was tree pose. To make the goal more bite-sized, I split it into three parts: balance, focus and flexibility. Then, I tackled the first part:
Each day for a week, I shifted my weight over my hip and rested my opposite foot on my calf. I did my best to hold it for 30 seconds, then switched sides. My goal was to do this at least once a day. What I found was that focus naturally became a part of the exercise, since balance is as much about the mental exercise as it is the physical.
When I went to hot yoga on Saturday, I still struggled with a lot of the poses. However, when we got to tree pose, I found I was much stronger than the week prior. Yes, my heel was still on my calf, but my balance was much improved.
So the next time you attempt to set goals, climb hills, not mountains. Develop the skill of belief that you can accomplish goals. Celebrate the small wins, like me being able to stand on one foot for 30 seconds without looking like a spastic tree in a hurricane.
Perhaps someday I'll be able to do this:
...or maybe I'll just be a really good tree.