About 10 years ago, country music superstar Tim McGraw didn't like what he saw. McGraw and his daughter were at a movie when a trailer appeared for a film he had a small part in. McGraw saw himself magnified on a 30-foot screen. He was carrying 40 extra pounds and was out of shape. Eating fast food and consuming too much alcohol on his tours had taken its toll.
It was the turning point for McGraw who embarked on a fitness transformation that's nothing short of extraordinary. During a recent appearance on the CBS Late Show, Stephen Colbert said that McGraw's ultra-ripped physique made other men look bad in comparison. "On behalf of other 50-year-old men, please stop it," Colbert joked.
McGraw chronicles his journey and offers specific lifestyle, nutrition and fitness advice in his new book, Grit & Grace: Train the Mind, Train the Body, Own Your Life. It's one of the best fitness books I've read in a long time because McGraw supports his suggestions with solid science. But the benefits of what he has to say goes beyond fitness and diet advice.
In his book, McGraw writes about the psychology of goal-setting. He offers one specific tip that will help you achieve your New Year's resolutions or any big goal you set for yourself.
Use Microgoals to Achieve Big Dreams
McGraw had read that people are more likely to stick to a goal if they divide it into 'microgoals.' And that's exactly what he did when he decided to take back his health. McGraw's first microgoal was simply to take a morning walk--every day for six weeks.
"Setting microgoals helps break down the bigger dream into actionable chunks," McGraw writes. "It's easier to stay on the path when you aim for destinations that are well within sight."
After he had achieved his first goal, McGraw added more microgoals. For example, he incorporated three days of circuit training every week for three weeks straight. He literally put one foot--or microgoal--in front of the other.
He knew the body he wanted to have in five years and in a decade. But those goals were too big. They could only be achieved by taking it step by step. Throwing everything you have into a big goal at the start often ends in burnout and frustration, according to McGraw.
Research backs up McGraw's approach. A recent New York Times article revealed that 80 percent of people who set New Year's resolutions give up by February. They give up on their commitments because the goals are too ambitious for the time-frame (lose 20 pounds by March) or too vague (get in shape).
Psychologists suggest that goals should specific and measurable. Most importantly, they need to be accompanied by frequent rewards when microgoals are hit.
Immediate and Frequent Rewards Boost Motivation
According to a 2016 study at the University of Chicago, "Immediate rewards increase goal persistence." In other words, you're more likely to stick with your big commitment if you see frequent and tiny rewards along the way.
A reward doesn't have to tangible. Often, the pleasure of completing a task triggers the brain's reward mechanism. It makes you feel good to check something off the list.
This is how the now famous Pomodoro method works. Students use it for homework. I use it for meeting deadlines or writing a book.
Since a 200-page book seems overwhelming at first, I set microgoals--the number of words that have to be written every week, and every day. And the day itself is divided into microgoals using the Pomodoro technique. For example, after focusing on a task for 25 minutes, I'm rewarded with a short break of 5 minutes. The break is the reward. It keeps me motivated and on track.
We all want instant gratification, but as Tim McGraw says, transformations don't happen overnight. Microgoals serve as a "pillar of discipline" to keep your mind focused on your priorities.