Harvard psychologist shares the easiest way to achieve big goals.

Goals are a funny thing. When you’re sitting in bed on Sunday pinned between a pizza box and a 2L bottle of Pepsi, beginning your 17th episode of Antiques Roadshow, goals are the only thing getting you through.

This is the week I change it all, you think to yourself. I’m heading back to the gym, I’m kicking my burrito habit, and I’m going to….I’m going to create a multi-million dollar app!

Yep, those big, pie-in-the-sky goals feel like the answer to everything, yet we rarely come around to ticking them all off. In a Think Big video, Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy says it’s all down to the SIZE of these goals.
“They’re so big. They’re so distant,” she says of the pie-in-sky goals such as lunchtime meditation or burrito detoxes. “They require a million little steps in between, and each of those little steps is an opportunity to fail.”
So rather than shooting for the stars, be content aiming for your letter box.
“They’re very much outcome focused, they’re not about how I’m going to feel tomorrow. It’s ‘I’m going to lose this much weight, I’m going to get a this kind of job, I’m going to become a better public speaker, I’m going to run a marathon’,” explains Cuddy. (Post continues after gallery.)
 “A lot of research is showing us that we do much better when we focus on incremental change, on little bits of improvement, we’re not focused on the outcome. So we’re not focused on the grade, or did you get the job or not… you’re focused on the process in this next moment that’s coming up and this allows you to grow over time.”

So what does this mean? Break down your goals into achievable, bite-size pieces. The accumulation of small wins will eventually snowball into larger wins that’ll get you where you need to be.

For example, a larger goal of running a marathon can be broken down into small goals of five kilometres, then eight kilometres and so on. Celebrating these smaller wins will encourage you to keep push forward. It’s all about perspective.

The same thing goes for saving money. Looking at the overall goal – let’s say you’re saving for a new car – feels impossible. How the hell are you going to rustle up thousands of dollars? Break it down. Figure out what you can save each month, each week, each day. All those little penny-pinching moments will really add up.

“Eventually, in aggregate, you get there,” Cuddy explains.

“You may not even realise it, until one day you turn around say ‘Wow, this thing is much easier for me now than it was a year ago.'”


Tara Moss talks to Mamamia about setting goals and working towards them slowly. (Post continues after audio.)

However, allowing yourself to be overcome with dread and anxiety when reviewing the ‘big goal’ is often enough to put people off trying in the first place.

“Too often we approach our lives’ biggest hurdles with dread, execute them with anxiety, and leave them with regret,” says Amy in her book, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges.

“Instead, we need to nudge ourselves, moment by moment, by tweaking our body language, behaviour, and mind-set in our day-to-day lives.”

There’s a reason that babies must crawl before they walk! (No, not just to give their kneecaps time to develop. It’s a METAPHOR.)

So there you go. Next time you’re preparing your long list of hungover, ‘This Week I Will…’ goals, think small. Maybe it all begins with subbing out your 2L bottle of Pepsi with a glass of water instead.

We all need to start somewhere…

Do you set yourself unrealistic goals?