The beginning of the year is a time when we’re often reminded about setting goals. If you’re like me, we’ve read several articles and seen many TV programs that feature this topic. Identifying what our dreams/goals can be fun and motivating.
But by February, we start hearing stories about why people don’t accomplish their resolutions. And it’s true–we often set ourselves up for failure right from the start—especially when they set a goal and then declare how impossible or difficult it is. We don’t know where to begin and so we don’t.
I recently heard Frank Sinatra’s old song, “High Hopes.” My favorite part is about how ants can move a rubber tree plant—why? Because he has high hopes! (Are you hearing the song in your head?) When our own hope is gone for accomplishing our goal, we are defeated before we start.
The song reminded me of a chapter in Dr. Henry Cloud’s, 9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life. One of Dr. Cloud’s 9 things is to act like an ant.
Have you ever watched ants? If you ever had an ant farm or purchased one for your kids, it gives us an opportunity to watch ants in action (without them ruining your picnic). What you see is that each ant gets one little tiny grain of sand in its grasp and marches from one end of the green terrarium to the other.
While you may not initially understand where the ants are going with that sand, a few days later, the sand between the panes of glass begins to take shape. After more time has passed—an entire ant city has been built with its hills and valleys and a complex network of tunnels. It looks like a team of architects and construction crews have been there for months with miniature bulldozers, trucks, and cranes. But when you look at any given ant, it carries just one little grain of sand.
The activity of any one ant seems to have little impact. It may not be apparent how any single grain has much to do with the big picture of what was forming, but the impact was happening, and form was indeed, developing.
The reality was that many tiny ants had taken many tiny steps—one step at a time, one grain of sand at a time, one day at a time. The amazing feat was really no more complex than one ant with one tiny little pebble. One step at a time, one grain at a time.
Ants don’t have a concept of “I can’t.” They are programmed to just go forward and do what they do best. Humans don’t have that luxury–we have a brain and a memory. Some of us (you?) might remember previous goals we didn’t achieve and we focus on them. We certainly don’t want to incur that embarrassment again.
It seems easier to forget what we have accomplished and how far we’ve come. While striving for improvements are—some of us (you?) we don’t take a breath to celebrate our progress. By focusing on our achievements, we can be reminded that we’ve had success in the past and surely, success can be ours in the future.
If you’re looking at a fresh new year ahead and making plans, here are a few small steps you can take to make to take along with you:
- Take a few minutes to focus on what you accomplished or feel good about in 2012. Get rid of your “evil gremlin” during this exercise and find your “best cheerleader and coach.” Celebrate your progress and successes—no matter how small.
- Identify 3-5 goals for 2013. Take the time to also discover why this goal is important to you. Deciding how important it is to you, will help keep you going forward.
Example: Sure, you want to lose weight. But is it because of your health or a wedding to attend in July? Picture yourself attaining the goal in your mind’s eye.
- What is one small step can you take? Then, what is the next step?
Example: Are you really ready to commit to work out at the gym1 hour every day? Maybe the first step is to commit to 20 minutes for 1 week. Then increase that time 10% every week until you attain 60 minutes.
- Look back periodically to celebrate your progress. There is no one right answer—it could be monthly or quarterly.
Example: Maybe you haven’t done everything perfectly, but you have stopped eating sugar 5 days of the week.
Remembering your successes big and small can be the bridge to your future. If you’ve done it before, you can do it again. But you need to take that first step—a step as big as a grain of sand.