Big goals sound sexy.

Take these for instance: "My business is going to make $1 million this year," or "we're going to grow our customer base by 40 percent," or even "I'm going to launch three new products by year end."

All these aspirations seem great in theory, but they can actually do more harm for your progress than good.

Setting the bar too high can serve to de-motivate and discourage you from ever getting started--especially if there isn't a specific plan for how to get there, or if you aren't already on a clear trajectory to hit the mark.

When I first started blogging, I only had one goal: Publish something every day. Sometimes I wrote long and thoughtful pieces. Other times the posts were short (one was only 55 words). But every day, without fail for 11 months straight, I published a blog post.

A few years later, as I started to get more serious about writing, I set a new goal: Write 2,000 words a day. It sounded like a goal a real writer would have. I had heard other popular people I follow say they wrote that much, so it made sense that I should do the same.

Only I didn't. I struggled. At times days would go by when I didn't write a word. The problem was my goal was too big. It was too big to match my current stage of activity.

So if I ever felt like I was in danger of not being able to produce 2,000 words, I didn't even start. The pressure of making such a significant change in the way I operated become too much.

Lots of people struggle with reaching their goals. Research shows only 8 percent of people are able to keep their New Year's resolutions. It's not because they are flakes, they just go about achieving them the wrong way.

They set their standards too high. And when they have trouble keeping up with the level of activity required to meet their standard, their confidence takes a hit, resistance takes over, and it becomes easier to continue operating the way they normally do.

As a result, objectives go unmet.

That's no good for you, your business, or your customers. If you want to dramatically increase your chances of reaching your goals, do this instead: Reach for embarrassingly small goals.

Why embarrassingly small goals make a big impact

You need the right habits to support your ambitions. Habits are born out of consistency. The more you do something, the less resistance you have to doing it. The compound effect of doing the activity over time will help you make significant progress toward your goal.

I picked up this trick from Stephen Guise, author of Mini Habits:

A mini habit is basically a much smaller version of a new habit you want to form. Writing 3,000 words daily becomes writing 50 words daily...Mini habits are too small to fail; and so they lack the common destructive feelings of guilt and inadequacy that come with goal failure.

The minute I adjusted my writing goal from 2,000 words a day to 50, I was able to establish my writing habit again. I could crank out 50 words in less than two minutes. And 50 words is such a small goal, there's absolutely no reason I can't take the time to do it each day.

But there lies the beauty of setting stupid small goals. Much of the time when I start work on doing my mini-habit for the day, I write a bunch more than the 50 words. The small goal reduces my resistance to getting started.

Then Newton's first law of motion kicks in. Once I'm in motion, it becomes easier to stay in motion. Momentum builds, and day by day I make significant progress toward the bigger goals I'm working to achieve.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the key to getting extraordinary results is to go small rather than big. Take the pressure off of yourself to accomplish heroic feats each day.

Lower your standards, so you can establish the habits you need to consistently do the work necessary to reach your goals. Then you'll finally be able to reap the very sexy rewards that come as a result.

Published on: Jan 30, 2017