If you remember the movie What About Bob?, you probably remember the scene where Bob leaves Dr. Marvin’s office with the advice to take baby steps: small, measurable goals to get where he wants to go.
Bob takes the advice literally and takes tiny little steps all around the office, then out to the hallway, and onto the elevator, where his claustrophobia kicks in and causes him to scream all the way down.
There are a couple lessons to take from this. The first is that you can accomplish far more by taking it a day at a time, one small goal at a time, than you can by giving yourself a herculean task. Bob could never have gotten onto the elevator had Dr. Marvin just said, “Get on the elevator.” He needed to take a step at a time to get on.
When you set a goal for yourself, set very small goals along the way. For example, if your goal is to run 3 miles in under 30 minutes, it’s great to have that as an end goal, but it helps to add a small goal, like, “I want to run half a mile in under eight minutes this week.” It’s something to shoot for so you can enjoy immediate results.
This is essentially what the most addictive online games do: they offer you constant rewards, bonuses, and upgrades for each new accomplishment or level gained. People keep coming back for more because they want just one more level. Sometimes, they know what the next level will bring and at others, it’s a surprise, but they know there will be something that makes them better or the game more fun, along with the next challenge or mission.
And that’s the second point: You should have an idea of what you’re getting into before you do it. Bob’s scream on the way down in the elevator was hilarious, but life is not often so funny or forgiving of our mistakes. It’s another reason why we need to take our changes slowly and not go for the huge change all at once. We need to see what’s ahead of us and be prepared for it. You wouldn’t just run a marathon if you haven’t been training; neither should you expect to go from not working out to working out for an hour five times a week and being in perfect shape in three months. You shouldn’t expect to get rich quick, no matter what the plan. It might happen, but in most cases, it’s a slow hike upward with a few stumbles rather than an elevator straight to the top. It’s harder, but your victory will be that much sweeter when you get it.