Baby Steps

“Not only does moving the goalposts forward tend to increase our motivation, but we repeatedly prove to ourselves that we’re capable of accomplishing them.” Shane Parrish

The goal gradient theory suggests that we work harder right before we achieve our goal. This has been found in both people and animals. Mice run faster at the end of a maze. Salespeople push harder as they reach their quota. Long-distance runners have a kick of energy in the last leg of the race. So what does this mean to you? It suggests that you break your big goals into multiple smaller goals. This can help buoy motivation as you near each small goal. Plus it gives a sense of accomplishment with each item you successfully complete; another box checked off, another step closer to the big goal.

Imagine you’re heading back to school with the goal of graduating with a 4.0 grade point average. You could set smaller goals for each semester and each course. “I’ll get an A in Economics this semester,” is doable and can be achieved in months rather than years. By the end of the semester you’re close to your goal, and may put out a big effort for the last paper due and the final because you’re so close to that goal. Repeating this each semester keeps you motivated and working toward graduation.