Baby Steps and Setting Goals

Can baby steps really help you achieve your goals?

It’s that time of the year when the general populace sits with pen and paper and projects big unrealistic goals for the New Year.

I used to be one of those people but I am now a reformed and fully recovered goal-setter.

I can almost hear you shouting, “Now wait a minute—aren’t you a life coach? Don’t life coaches encourage people to set goals?”

OK, OK. Let me explain.

I DO encourage my coaching clients to set goals — realistic goals in which they are guaranteed to succeed.

You might ask, “But what’s the good in setting such simple goals?”

Have you ever seen the movie, “What About Bob” starring Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfus? It’s one of my favorites and I often ask my coaching clients to watch it. Without spoiling the plot line, there is a lot of talk throughout about taking baby steps to reach success.

Break a BIG goal into smaller steps

I recommend breaking our big goals into doable baby steps. The sense of accomplishment and joy you will experience when checking off the first box will spur you onto the next one, and then the next. Kinda like the little gold star your Sunday school teacher gave you in Sunday school when you memorized the shortest verse in the bible, “Jesus wept.” I was so proud of my chart with its gold stars!

Let’s use losing weight as an example. Every year you intend to lose 50 Lbs. but fail—making you feel worse about yourself. Yet, you set the same goal for yourself, again and again, setting yourself up to fail. But, this year you have more of an incentive—your Dr. said you must lose weight if you want to be around to see your grandchild graduate kindergarten. If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while hoping for a different result, how can you change it up so you’ll succeed? How about this year you start with the goal: Lose five lbs. by January 31st. That’s doable. Heck, you should be able to lose that in water weight alone.

Baby step your way

Your February goal is to cut your sugar intake in half. Instead of two teaspoons of sugar in your coffee, use one. You have now lost 7 lbs and you’re feeling better about this weight loss thing. March’s goal is to park your car further from the store and to take a short walk during lunch, all the while maintaining your earlier goal of reduced sugar in your coffee (you don’t even miss it anymore). It’s April and you have lost 9 lbs. Set a goal of skipping seconds of meat and add instead another helping of vegetables at each meal. By May, you’ve lost 11 lbs. and are feeling pretty good about yourself.

It’s no different with your writing goals: Write the great American novel in a year. That’s a BIG goal. What are the ways you can break this down into baby steps? January: write down the storyline that’s been percolating in your head or if it is a nonfiction title, write out the takeaway and mission of your book idea. February: Write a synopsis of your story or an outline of the book.

Are you beginning to see the way this baby-stepping thing works?

How about a goal of reading the bible in a year? Ever failed in that important one? What if you started with the small goal of reading one section of a Bible chapter each day? Not the whole chapter — simply the topic breaks supplied by many Bible versions. In that section find one word, thought, or phrase that resonates with you. Write it down in a journal. Later in the day read what you wrote. At night, before you close your eyes, read what you wrote down one last time. Play that verse while you drift off to sleep. By the end of the year, you’ll know Jesus better than you did at the beginning.

Create baby steps—then celebrate each met goal

Here are a few suggested steps you can take:

Buy a calendar and a book of stickers from your local dollar store for the sole purpose of tracking your goal. NOTE: I do not recommend treating yourself with a cookie if weight loss is your goal. That is a good way to self-sabotage yourself. Instead, use the stickers or give yourself a treat that will aid you in the goal you’re working toward— like a cookbook, writing resource or journal.

Pick one or two trusted friends to join you in baby step goal setting—form a Facebook Group or meet weekly on a Zoom call—their goals do not have to be the same as yours. Community helps encourage us to reach further than when doing life alone.

Weight loss, writing, home projects, starting a new business, or reading through the Bible—realistic goals are easier to meet if we baby-step our way there.

This is how I approach life now and I am much more satisfied and happier than when I set myself up for failure by setting huge unrealistic goals for myself.

Where would you like to baby step yourself to in 2023?


Additional help with realistic goal setting:

Your 2023 Goal Setting Checklist by Terri Savelle Foy

Living up to Your Expectations by Susan Lower

Lifes Short, Aim High by Ron

Cover Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Note-taking Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Diana Flegal

Literary Agent/ Writers Coach/ Freelance Editor/ Collage Artist/ Jesus Follower

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