Aim small
When it comes to setting and striving for goals, it can feel overwhelming to generate the motivation to shoot for big targets.

By: Mind - Brain Health - 11/15/2018

However, you can make change feel more approachable and sustainable by aiming small or focusing on cultivating daily, manageable, automated habits.  For example, resolving to lose 50 pounds in a year can feel daunting, but focusing on eating less and moving more might seem doable.

In marksmanship, “aim small - miss small” means that by focusing on a smaller part of a larger target, like a button or a pocket, even if you miss the pocket, you’re still likely to hit the bigger target.

You can apply this logic to working towards goals you want to achieve:  With your most important aspirations, “aim small, miss small” by cultivating habits.  That is, think about hitting the mark on a regular basis with small actions that, done regularly, can result in big changes that stick around for a while.

Keep The Following In Mind As You Create New Habits

  • Connect habits to everyday situations.  A habit is something you do every day without putting much thought into it.  By leveraging or replacing habits you already have, you can build new ones.  For example, if you’re trying to increase daily steps, pack your sneakers when you pack your lunch—something you do every day—and commit to taking a walk before lunchtime.

  • Repetition matters.  It takes thought and intention to initiate new behaviors.  However, the more you engage in the behavior, the more automatic it becomes, and the easier it will get.  Once automated, your new habit won’t require mental space and energy to maintain.

Commit To Taking Action Regularly

  • Think and act like you’ve already succeeded.  When you set future goals, train your mind “as if” you’ve already attained that goal.  How would someone at a healthy weight think?  What would he or she choose to eat?  When you put future aspirations into present tense it’s easier to form the daily habits that contribute to the goal.

  • Leverage self-talk. In marksmanship, a phrase such as “aim small, miss small” gives your brain direction on how to carry out a task.  You’ve probably noticed that you talk to yourself when things go wrong or when you need a boost of motivation.  When you’re creating new habits, what you say to yourself matters.  Be deliberate about what you say to get yourself motivated, provide instruction, or implement contingencies when things don’t go as planned.

  • Practice compassion.  It’s a myth that new habits take 21 days to form.  The truth is they take much longer.  In the process of “sticking with it,” you’ll likely experience some setbacks.  When you encounter obstacles, you might be tempted to mark it as a failure, give up on working toward that goal, or move on to a new goal altogether.  Instead, be kind to yourself. And get back on track as soon as you can.

When trying to create new habits, take advantage of significant landmarks in time too, such as New Year’s Day, your birthday, or the changing of seasons.  These breaks in time are fertile opportunities to wipe the slate clean mentally and set out after new goals. 

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