Why micro-ambitions and mini-goals matter more than you think
A lesson in 12 months of intense productivity
There is something magical about January. It’s that time of the year where everything seemingly starts with a blank slate.
Except it doesn’t.
We’re still in the same body that we were in yesterday. We still live under the same circumstances as we did the night before. Our lives haven’t magically and permanently changed at midnight.
Unless you won the lottery — but that’s a different story.
Yet, the magical powers of January still remain.
Over the past 12 months, people often see my Depth Year as overly productive. So far, I’ve written over 280 stories, more than 200k words officially published as digital ink, created 2 apps for clients, and embarked on a quest to be more mentally present in my daughter’s day to day activities.
So how did I do it all?
It started with the idea of micro-ambitions.
The issue of our time
I’m a competitive person in nature.
I’m also the type of person that likes to make overly ambitious goals.
But the issue with overly ambitious goals is that it’s easy to get discouraged by the sheer size of it — especially if you don’t get fast results.
Perhaps its a curse of my generation, but instant gratification is an issue that many of us face. We’re so used to getting everything instantly that the cumulative acts required to achieve something big become overwhelming.
So we give up our dreams and goals.
We fall back into our old habits and routines.
We get discouraged by the things we want to achieve. Everything seems so far away and the outcome is not exactly guaranteed.
That’s why I came up with the idea of micro-ambitions for myself.
The purpose of micro-ambitions is that it stops you from looking too far ahead into the future and getting discouraged by the distance.
Or distracted by the distance — especially at this time of the year when we’re right at the beginning.
It’s the act of telling yourself one step at a time rather than trying to figure out how much is left. It prevents you from telling yourself that you’ve got plenty of time.
Because we’ve all done it. We’ve all looked at the year and thought: I’ve got plenty of time.
Or when you’re at the beginning or partway through, and the path ahead makes you feel like its too much and too far away from instant achievability.
Micro-ambitions is the act of creating highly achievable goals for yourself. It is trackable. It is specific. It is achievable. It is so close that failure is not an option.
For me, it’s an act of putting down a few things I need to achieve each day. If I fail, I cut back on the number of tasks.
I failed because I overloaded myself.
In fact, a lot of us fail to reach our goals because we over-project our personal ability to do something. We underestimate the time it takes and our capacity for speed.
A micro-ambition cut back on our overconfidence on a task. It brings us back down to reality. It’s the thing that gently deflates our inaccurate perception of the journey to be experienced.
They can be seen as mini-goals to help you achieve something.
If you fail to achieve a micro-ambition, then it means the thing you want to achieve is too unrealistic in the current reality you’re existing in.
It’s about the transformation
The purpose of micro-ambitions and mini-goals is to help you through the process of transformation.
It’s about taking it one day at a time, rather than feeling overloaded by the massiveness of the task ahead.
A year can feel like a long time — but in truth, it is only a snippet of time in our lives. A lot can happen in a year or nothing at all.
When you are focused on creating and completing mini-goals and micro-ambitions, you are stringing together a bunch of completed tasks together. It is this succession of tasks completed that helps us move forward on our journey. It is also a way to keep ourselves accountable on our journey ahead.
Because we fail major goals when we don’t keep track of our progress and pivot when failures happen in succession.
The thing with transformation is that it happens in the seemingly ordinary moments. Change happens when we nudge ourselves towards constantly towards something that aligns with what we want to achieve in the long run.
And micro-ambitions and mini-goals are those nudges we need to make things happen. It’s a small but consistent force that pushes us into alignment.
Life is like crooked teeth….
My mama always said, life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. — Forrest Gump
The difference between a box of chocolates and crooked teeth is that, nowadays, chocolates often come with a guide at the back to tell you which one is chocolate mint and which one is caramel.
Over the years, I’ve discovered that our reality is more like crooked teeth. If you force it to change too quickly, you’re going to end up with a wobbly tooth that’s likely to fall out. It’s the equivalent of falling back into our old habits — or yo-yo our way into something worse.
Or if you don’t take care of them properly, they’re going to decay.
Or if you force them too much, they’re going to break.
To create visible change, braces are required to fix crooked teeth. The force will eventually put your teeth right and eventually fix any misalignments — but it takes time and consistent force to make it happen.
And that’s what micro-ambitions and mini-goals do for us — they provide the gentle and consistent force needed to move us in the right direction.
Sustainable change happens eventually.
But the end result just feels like it’s so far away from achievability. Micro-ambitions and mini-goals help us create achievable environments for execution. It’s also a way to get that hit of instant gratification without overindulging ourselves in it.
The new year is fast approaching — or maybe it’s already here.
Or perhaps you’re reading this and it’s way past all that.
Where ever you are in time, it doesn’t really matter.
What matters is that you keep moving forward — that you keep doing what you need to do, that you keep making and keep learning. Because that’s how you move forward and transform your life, your environment and your reality from what it currently is towards what you want it to be.