Achieve your dreams with micro-commitments

If you were building a checklist of the things you wanted to accomplish in the next 10 minutes it would probably look like this:

   [] Finish reading this article I just started reading

…and that would be it. One and done.

For most of us, doing something like reading an article is a single action, a single event. But it isn’t really. In truth, it’s a series of actions chained together, beginning with you opening your eyes and allowing the light reflecting off the screen to reach your retina where an electric impulse travels along your optic nerve to your brain where the resulting shapes are decoded into symbols which you connect to your stored knowledge, putting sounds and/or meanings to those symbols, linking each word together into a (hopefully) coherent thought.

Or something like that.

The point is that every action we take has smaller component steps, many so small or automatic that we don’t even think of them as being steps in the process. But they are and they’re all important if you want to complete the action. We make a similar mistake when we think about goal-setting. We think of a goal and then create a list of steps to reach that goal, but often don’t go deep enough when we break out our steps to success.

For example, if your goal was to lose 15 pounds, your checklist might look like this:

   [] Eat less

   [] Exercise more

Boom. Simple. But probably a little too simple. How do you plan to eat less? How do you plan to exercise more?

You don’t necessarily want to get ultra-bogged down in the minor details, but there’s a lot of value in the process of making micro-commitments – small, achievable pledges that drive you toward your overarching goal. So rather than saying “I will lose 15 pounds!” and then becoming increasingly distressed when it doesn’t happen as quickly as you’d like, you make that 15 pound drop your goal and then support it with a series of micro-commitments. Commit to researching personal trainers. Commit to picking a gym. Commit to going for jog as soon as you finish this blog post.

You don’t have to lay out all of your micro-commitments end-to-end from now until they touch your goal. In fact, it’s better to take it one commitment at a time. Think it as moving across a busy ten lane highway. Your goal is to get from far left to far right, but there are too many moving pieces to make an effective plan before you’ve even started. So it’s better (and infinitely safer) to approach your goal one lane change at a time.

It works the same for financial goals. Think of what you want to accomplish. Think of the steps you’ll take to get there. Then think of the little pledges each of those steps requires to be completed. Rather than committing to the end result, simply commit to the next step, and then the next, and on and on. Fulfilled commitment by fulfilled commitment, you eventually reach your goal.

Now, on to the next box on your checklist!

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, focused on creating and delivering valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

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