When I start a new project, I want to capitalize on that energy by going full force. Dream big! Sky’s the limit! You can do anything you set your mind to!
But the problem with me and big goals is that I often don't reach them. Things get hard, or messy, or confusing. I start looking at what other people are doing, and then my project starts looking meager. My sprint slows to a jog, then an amble, and then I stop.
Every time I quit, my confidence shrinks a little. I start saying to myself, I screwed up again. I can’t do this. I should just go back to cooking and cleaning.
Recently I set a different goal: I committed to write a 10-minute micro-memoir 5 days a week for a month. The goal seems almost laughable, and yet it’s working. It's been 13 weekdays, and I've written 32 pieces.
Small goals are hard to fail at. One success, even if small, generates a little more self-confidence. Baby steps lead to more baby steps.
Darien Gee, who introduced me to this system for writing micro-prose, emphasized keeping the steps small, even when things are going well. So for this project, I made sure I only wrote or revised in 10-minute stints.
Containers keep progress clear and measurable. Otherwise, the work spills out and begins to feel overwhelming. Without a time limit, I would spend more time writing some days and less time other days. It would be hard to understand whether I was succeeding or not.
But 10 minutes? Really? I mean, isn’t that an embarrassingly low bar to set for oneself?
The thing is, most of the time 10 minutes is easy to achieve. In fact, the reason I’ve exceeded my minimum goal is that I often have more time to write, so I’ll re-start the timer for 10 minutes and write or revise another micro-memoir.
But there are other days when writing for 10 minutes is a challenge. I almost missed a few days when a childhood friend was in town. But because my goal was only 10 minutes (not 30 or 60), I was able to eke it out, even when life was super full.
When I succeed at goals, even if they’re small, I feel good about myself. And feeling good about myself gives me energy to keep going.
Little steps seem like slow progress, but like the turtle who takes on the seemingly impossible task of racing the hare, you can make it there if you just keep going, tiny step by tiny step.