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The Power of Small Goals

By Pamela Kuehl, LPC

Raise your hand if you’ve ever made a resolution to lose weight. Ok, put your hand down. Now, raise your hand if you ever failed to achieve your weight loss goal. Well, if you’re like most people, you’ve crashed and burned a few times along the way trying to achieve your goals.


Let’s face it. It takes hard work and effort to reach your goals. You have to learn to navigate real-life roadblocks that can cause you to fall short in making changes in your life and that make you feel demoralized.


Losing weight takes time and patience. But you can speed up the process by learning how to tackle your goals the right way. Think of the process of goal setting like this:


Big goals can be intimidating. The bigger the goal is, the more daunting it can seem, and the more uncertain you feel about achieving it. At a certain point, you just stop working on it because you feel overwhelmed.


There’s a better way. Break that big goal into many small goals. For example, instead of focusing on losing 100 pounds, you can plan to lose 20 pounds five times. That means when you finish each step you’ve achieved 100% of your small goal and you made progress on the larger goal too.


Yes, it’s true that you still have the same amount of work to lose 100 pounds, but it’s easier to stay motivated when you make realistic smaller goals that you can actually reach.


During my years of practice, I have never met a patient who is successful with weight loss and management by just modifying one behavior. Patients who set small daily goals such as including physical activity, healthy eating, meal planning, and eating in moderation are successful with the long-term (big) goal of maintaining a healthy weight. All of these small goals are smaller steps that help you to lose weight and maintain it. But the bottom line is that you’ve got to start somewhere. It’s a combination of working on each goal, one step at a time that impacts your overall success.


The moral of this story is that whenever you can, divide your goals into smaller goals until you’re able to handle them. Trying to tackle a single big task just slows down your motivation and progress which may make you more likely to quit trying to do anything at all. It’s the small behaviors and goals we accomplish on a daily basis that determine our larger weight loss success and long-term weight management achievements.