A single spark doesn’t light a wildfire. That spark lights a stick, which lights a shrub, which lights a tree, then another tree, then another before the entire forest is on fire. Similarly, a bricklayer is only able to build a house by laying brick after brick. If a novelist set out to write an entire book in a day, it wouldn’t happen. Novels are produced by those who know the magic in writing a paragraph a day. No one can successfully build anything of great significance if she doesn’t recognize that her dreams are simply the final result of tiny efforts strung together.
Your life is a masterpiece being created with the events that happen day after day. A Tuesday usually just feels like a Tuesday, or a Wednesday a Wednesday. We consider most days to be single, ordinary days of the week. Yet each day added together creates an entire life. What we accomplish is a direct result of what we do with ordinary days. Those who accomplish extraordinary things aren’t more exceptional than anyone else. The difference is that they make small strides each day.
Here are five ways to cultivate small steps in your life to reach a larger goal:
1. Take time each morning for yourself.
Mornings offer significant opportunities to evaluate what’s important to you and how you can consciously make space for those things throughout your day. If you consistently wake up with just enough time to get ready for what’s to come that day, you’re skipping the calm and silence of the morning (fertile ground for cultivating dreams) and instead of jumping right into the day’s obligations. In the morning, crawl out of bed. Stretch. Breathe. Write on paper what your priorities are that day and decide how you’ll make space in your day to work towards a larger goal. If you have time in the morning to work toward that goal, do it. If not, find time later in the day. Simply being mindful of what matters to you will have an impact on how you spend your time.
2. Evaluate where you dedicate the majority of your time.
It’s easy to be distracted by the mundane activities in any given day. We become swept up in the routine of life, whether we’re students, full-time workers, parents or all of it at once. When you wake up and immediately begin to answer to the expectations around you, you lose the precious time you have by giving it to the things that were never really that important to you in the first place. You become complacent in a life of routine. There are 168 hours in a week. If you spend 40 hours a week at work and 56 hours sleeping (eight hours/night), you’re still left with 72 hours in the week. Where are you spending that time?
3. Create goals and write them down where you can see them.
It is one thing to be aware of your goals and write them down, and it’s another to put them in a place where you’ll see them every day. Tape them to your bathroom mirror, stick them on your fridge, put them on your front door so you look at them every time you leave your house. If you write your goals down in a notebook and close it, you’ll forget about your goals as soon as you walk away from them. To see progress in your life, you must consistently interrupt your daily routine to produce different results. If you planted a few seeds in a planter and hid it away, would you forget to water them? Growth requires consistent effort, attention, and awareness.
4. Set realistic expectations for yourself.
If your goal is to build a house, it’s unrealistic to expect to set out and build it in a single day. It’s more reasonable to expect yourself to lay a few bricks a day, and eventually, you will have a home. Our dreams often feel daunting because we imagine them as a finished product. It’s important to know what the end goal looks like, but it’s unproductive to imagine the end goal as the only goal. A dream is constructed of smaller, bite-sized dreams. What can you do today to build a step that will help you build tomorrow’s step? Your dream starts today in this single, versatile moment.
5. Consistently visualize what you want.
No one achieved any of their goals by believing they never could. You must force yourself to believe that you are deserving of and capable of achieving your dream. The more you say it to yourself, the more you’ll believe it; the more you believe it, the more you will morph your life to mirror your vision. What you’re able to visualize has the potential to become truth. Attitude is equally as important as effort. If you want to be a writer, visualize yourself publishing your first book. If you want to travel, visualize yourself boarding a plane. Use your imagination to believe that you already have whatever it is you want, and you’re already halfway there.