Does that enormous goal look impossible to you? This is how you get it done.
"You can do anything for 10 seconds." - Kimmy Schmidt, protagonist and namesake of the Netflix series "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt".
Kimmy's strategy of pain management/delaying gratification by breaking down tasks into 10-second pieces (however many 10 seconds increments it takes) is a magnificent example of a critical skill to survival and success.
Marcus Luttrell (Navy Seal and inspiration for the movie Lone Survivor in which he is depicted by Mark Wahlberg) endured a radical amount of pain and suffering during his harrowing fight in Afghanistan in 2005. With multiple bullet wounds, broken bones and a concussion, he was only able to manage a painful and slow crawl to escape his pursuers. With thirst, fatigue and maddening pain plaguing him with every breath, he made small and extremely evident goals. He would draw a line in the dirt at his head. His sole goal: drag his broken body forward until the line was at the laces of his boot. He only had to make it 6 feet! Even is his wounded state, the proud seal knew he could accomplish that feat.
Once Marcus had pulled himself past the line, he simply drew another one at his head and repeated the process. Using small, barely manageable steps, he continued forward.
He dragged himself 7 miles that way.
Whether you are fighting for your life, fighting for your business, or just fighting the urge to quit your prescribed 45 minutes of steady state cardio, breaking down tasks into bite-sized pieces is critical to getting through a tough process. When you have a small task in front of you that you KNOW that you can do, you'll carry more confidence as you attack that task. Even though it might not be fun. You'll not talk yourself out of taking the next step. In fact, you'll perform better due to increased confidence and will develop momentum from the snowball effect that's created.
Note that in both scenarios mentioned above, the Big Audacious Goal was survival, and both the heroine and the hero were able to break those big goals down to the most minute objectives. There is something else unique about these micro goals. They are input-focused. Rather than an outcome, the two survivors focus on the inputs aka "leading indicators" that create those outcomes. Not to mention the fact that they have 100% control of the input (crawling forward) and only a minor say in the outcome (not being killed by exposure, shock, enemies, etc).
I first learned about leading indicators vs. lagging indicators from the Four Disciplines of Execution, one of those game-changing books in my life that really helped me turn a corner in my own personal productivity.
Lagging indicators are the last thing to show up on your radar. Usually, this is the desired outcome like increased revenue, more profit or better statistics of some kind.
Leading-indicators are the actions or behaviors that create the desired outcomes. To use a typical example, if you are looking to make more money in your business, simply increase the outbound sales calls. If you dial enough people, you will make more sales pitches, and if you pitch more, you will usually sell more. All things being equal, of course. However, I know things are never truly equal.
Well chosen leading indicators are very much within your control and have the greatest impact on the outcome you are seeking. In business we usually associate numbers with these things, so you can quite clearly track what is working and what is not.
Let's put the concepts of leading indicator and lagging indicator together.
Big Fat Audacious Goal: Create a 1 million dollar fitness business (Lagging Indicator)
Long-Term Goal: Grow revenue to 500K
Short-Term Goal: Grow Revenue to 250K
30 Day Goal: Increase Monthly Revenue by 15% Lagging Indicator, broken down into bite-sized pieces.
Daily Action Steps (Leading Indicators). These are broken down into tasks that could be accomplished every day, especially a busy day.
- Publish Blog
- Contact 15 Leads
- Make 5 phone calls to current network
- Make 5 phone calls to new contacts
- Daily social media shout out
Now that my day is broken down into bite-sized tasks, I can get started with confidence that I complete these today.
Using this method, let's break down another type of mission. Fitness! Your goal is to get into the best shape of your life and for the first time ever, have six-pack abs. After taking measurements and selecting some goals it becomes clear you need to drop some fat and build some muscle.
Big Fat Audacious Goal: Visible abs at a sustainable weight (IE, NO Crash Dieting)
Long-term Goal: Lose 9 pounds of Bodyfat and gain 4.5 lbs of muscle
Short Term Goal: Lose 1-2 percent body fat each month until 12% BF is reached
30-Day goal: Take actions necessary to change habits.
- Lift Heavy Weights and Do HIIT 3-4 times per week.
- Eat Lean Protein and Veggies With Each Meal
- Sleep at least 7 hours per night
- Drink 90 oz of water per day
- Weigh in every 30 days to adjust the plan.
We cannot control the speed at which we lose weight BUT we can control our actions around food, training, recovery and so forth. Our long-term goal is supported by the work we do with our leading indicators. The fewer variables to focus on, the better your data... and your changes will be more sustainable. This is why the scientific method works. Because we only test one hypothesis at a time in an experiment.
Plus, if you try and change everything, the changes are more likely to be short-term and fragile. By fragile, I mean that when life happens (and it totally will!) your system is more likely to break apart. But if you make smaller adjustments using the routines and habits you have established already, then you are more likely to succeed and stay successful.