Do you have a big goal you’re working toward? Like being appointed to the Board of a Fortune 500 company one day, being a senior business leader who is invited to speak at the World Economic Forum, or becoming the youngest female partner in your law firm?

Sometimes, the bigger the goal, the more daunting it is to even get started.

That’s how it was for me when I set out to help 1 million people be better, do more and make the difference they’re meant to make in the world. That meant putting myself out there online to reach more people but I knew nothing about how to get started.

And now I’m writing my 400th blog post with 45,000 people visiting my website each month. While I’m far from “done”, I’ve been able to help hundreds of thousands of people on the way to my goal of helping 1 million. And there have been some lessons I’ve learned that can help you reach your big goals too.

  • Start small
  • Gamify the process
  • Paint a vivid picture of success

To achieve big goals, start small

As the saying goes, if you have to eat an elephant, eat it one bite at a time. So the bigger the goal, the more important it is to chunk it down into manageable pieces. That way, you’re creating a series of small wins to celebrate so you’ve got momentum.

Starting small also allows you to get in the groove – kind of like warming up before you start a workout. And it gives you a sense of whether you’ll enjoy the journey toward the goal or, indeed, the goal itself.

In my case, I discovered I enjoy sharing my ideas in writing. But if your goal is to run a marathon and your knees give out after running six miles a day, then maybe that goal isn’t for you.

It takes time to reach really big goals, so you need to have staying power and make it positive from an energy standpoint. And starting small means you don’t put too much pressure on yourself so you’re more likely to keep going and stay the course.

Which leads to the next point.

Find ways to gamify the process

Making it a game feeds into the human brain’s need for reward. That’s why video games are so addicting. With the badges and levels, there’s always the next thing to shoot for and feel achievement.

For example, famous comedian Jerry Seinfeld honed his craft by writing one joke a day. For every day that he wrote a joke, he got to put a big red X over that day on his wall calendar. And once he had a string of big red X’s, he made it his job to not break the chain. And that kept him going … one day at a time.

Another way to gamify the process is the buddy system. When I was pregnant with our second child, my goal was to be in better physical shape to give birth than the first time around. My friend Wendy (also pregnant) and I agreed to buddy up and meet at the local swimming pool after work. No matter how tired we were and how cold and dark it was, we made it to the pool because we didn’t want the other person to be there alone.

What would help you keep at it when it comes to your big goal?

And this brings us to the third point.

Paint a vivid picture of success

Even as you start small and take steps, it is also important to create the vision for what your life will be like when you’ve done it. This is different from goal-setting in that it’s not about concrete measurements, but rather holding a visual of the destination clearly in your mind.

The picture of success is more about what things will look, feel and sound like when you’ve reached your goal. It has more heart and soul in it and is less about the data or what’s in your “head”. And it’s more qualitative and descriptive than quantitative.

When you capture your aspirations in a way that is motivating, inspiring and energizing for you, it acts like a beacon that attracts you to keep moving toward it.

For example, if your goal is to be able to lift 50-pound weights over your head, your picture of success could be being able to put your carryon luggage in the overhead compartment unassisted. And if your goal is promotion to the C-Suite, your picture of success could be to create a culture of inclusivity, create jobs and make a greater impact on society.

In my case, reaching a million people to help them be better, do more and make the difference they’re meant to make isn’t about counting the number per se, but knowing I’ve helped as many people as I can. And the numerical goal is more to spur me on to dare to think bigger and act outside my comfort zone. It’s knowing in my heart that good people have been able to reach their full potential in their careers and lives.

What is your vision for success when your big goal is reached?

But what if you’re too busy to pursue your big goal right now?

If you’re an achiever, you’ll always be busy. It’s all a question of how you want to invest that time.

And as my father said when I complained about not having enough time to do everything I wanted to do in college, “You’ll never have as much time as you do right now”. He was right.

While it’s tempting to delay pursuing your big goals, this won’t serve you well. Instead, find the counter example of someone who didn’t act on their big goal and struggled as a result.

For a fitness goal, the counter example could be looking at an older relative who is struggling with health because they didn’t take care of their body. Let that visual motivate you to get started.

Or the older colleague who never had time to connect with people outside their unit and ended up pigeonholed into a role they ended up hating. Let that motivate you to build the network so you widen the opportunity set available to you.

The biggest mistake is not getting started

Taking the first step leads to next steps and pulls you forward. And once you’re in motion, you’ll be surprised at the unexpected opportunities that come your way. But you have to start.

This sentiment is best expressed in one of my favorite quotes:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”

― William Hutchison Murray

You owe it to yourself to live a life of no regrets

So give yourself permission to pursue your big goals starting right now. And as you do, remember to:

  • Start small – big goals take time, so don’t put pressure on yourself to get it all done at once. Just make a start.
  • Gamify the process – build in a series of rewards to help you keep going.
  • Paint a vivid picture of success – envision the end result you desire and let it be your beacon.

As the Chinese proverb says, the journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step.

So will I get to 1,000 blog posts? It’s not how I keep track – my team does that, but for me it’s one post at a time and the number takes care of itself.

So, what big goal are you committed to begin?

Leave a comment and let me know.

For your career goals, a great way to build momentum and enjoy regular small wins is to use the actionable tips and trainings in Career Mastery™ to get (and stay) ahead in your career.