Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Tiny Goals, Big Rewards

Reaching tiny goals can be a great gift!

There are multitudes of books, articles, poems and proverbs about daring and doing, rather than fearfully holding back, or only talking without acting. Often these conjure up visions of what we might consider “great” achievements: Starting a business, getting our ideas widely known and accepted, writing a book, winning a competition, or being chosen for a job or assignment. However, there are equally worthy small goals–even very tiny goals–that will probably never be known by others, but are important to us as individuals. They may seem trivial, but they are not if they have the potential to make our lives better mentally, emotionally, physically or spiritually, or to make us more effective with others.

I am not only talking here about small chunks of a larger goal–although that is one way to consider it. I am also talking about doing small things that we tend to procrastinate, overlook or simply neglect because our time is spent on big things. These tiny achievments are secret gifts to ourselves, that can mean as much as the impressive things we accomplish that others know about.

Tiny goal accomplishment requires the same focus and commitment as any goal–but often the rewards are immediate. Never underestimate the wonderful feelings you can get from accomplishing small things:

  • Running forty-five more seconds on the treadmill than you did yesterday! That’s almost a minute!
  • Getting an unpleasant task done and out of the way, ten minutes sooner than you thought possible. Ten minutes, wow!
  • Driving to the store to get a birthday card, and addressing and mailing it before going home. Your friend will be thrilled!
  • Leaving a restaurant without eating dessert two times straight in a row! Not everyone has that kind of resolution, but you do!
  • The kitchen drawer is tidy again and odd items have been put in their correct places. You’ll like that!
  • Finally, you made the appointment! Wasn’t that easy?
  • Filling up the gas tank without waiting until it was almost on empty. What a treat tomorrow morning!
  • Creating a folder on your computer and working for fifteen solid minutes to move files. Almost done!

Sometimes projects, tasks or things we want to do, are so tiny we cannot even bring them to mind immediately. Our big goals are sitting there all the time saying, “Feed Me!” But, small goals do not seem significant enough in comparison to focus on them, much less to view them as challenges–although they often are among our biggest challenges. Over the next few hours or days, purposely set small goals and achieve them, then congratulate yourself as much as if you had written a book, lost weight or stopped smoking.

How to achieve tiny goals–and sometimes big ones:  There are several effective methods for helping to achieve goals, and over time I will mention some of the best of those, including ancient advice and the newest self-help books. However, one of the best techniques for accomplishing tiny goals is the Sneak Up On Yourself technique. I am not suggesting this approach would work for everyone–or that it would even seem rational to you. It is, however, a method that works for many–and for me.

If you sit (or lay in bed) and think about what you want to accomplish, part of your mind may tend to resist the idea and sabotage your efforts merely by dreading it, planning it in far more detail than is needed, or insisting that you spend at least a few minutes making a list of to-do items and putting them in priorities–which means you run out of time to do the thing you wanted or needed to do. Or, you fleetingly think of the thing you would like to do one day and the part of your brain that often stalls and dawdles will hide it behind a wall in your mind. Or, you find reasons why you should spend your time, money or efforts on something you think of as more significant, even though this small goal, task or wish is important for many reasons too.

Try the Sneak Up On Yourself technique: Before the “Not now” part of your brain can even figure out what to do to stop you, start doing the thing you want to do. The next thing you know, it is done and you will be very happy with yourself!

  • If you want to spend extra time exercising, rev up a bit more energy and keep going so you cannot hear yourself saying you would just as soon stop.
  • If you want to get a drawer or small space organized, turn quickly and start doing your task. Most of your brain will be focused on  something else and won’t even know what you’re up to until it’s too late.
  • If you know you need to put your tax papers in a file and store them, instead of having them stacked on your desk, jump up, grab the file folder and rush through it before the rest of your brain can remind you of things you would rather do instead. (Which is what I just did and now I am chortling for putting one over on myself.)

OK, you may not approach it in quite the maniacal spirit I suggest, and you may not want to refer to sneaking up on yourself, but the concept is still a valid one: To achieve tiny goals and small tasks, one approach is to just do them. Do them with a smile of achievement and accomplishment, thinking of it as a gift to yourself. It is certainly true that accomplishing a tiny goal, or doing a small task, can often bring as much satisfaction and happiness as an incremental accomplishment of a bigger goal.

One last thought about tiny goals and big rewards: If you can fulfill your little dreams, make small wishes come true and accomplish tiny tasks, you will see the proof that you have what it takes for the biggest challenges you will ever face.

April 25th, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 4 comments


  1. Oh Tina, thank you! I needed this so much that it was almost like a miracle to find it when I saw you had a new post. I love the idea of sneaking up on myself. I just did and my kitchen is clean before I leave for work. You are so helpful about real life things. Thank you! SD

    Comment by Stef D. | April 25, 2008

  2. I sincerely want to be helpful about “real life things” so I appreciated your comment very much, Stef! Best wishes to you and I hope you comment again. Tina

    Comment by Tina | April 25, 2008

  3. I have sneaked up on myself and gotten some nagging tasks done today. This is fun!P.

    Comment by P.A.H. | April 25, 2008

  4. I have a few tasks like that to do myself! I’ll use you as an inspiration! Thanks! Tina

    Comment by Tina | April 25, 2008

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