Cut Your Goal in Half

When it comes to goals, if I'm honest, I'm pretty impatient. 

I doubt that's too unusual. Given that most people quit on their new year's resolutions and really most normal goals, too, I'm guessing I'm not that much of an odd duck (in general, sure, but just not in this area...). Most of us love starting a new goal but quickly grow impatient with how long it takes to actually finish it, and so we quit. 

As I read Chapter 2 of Finish, I was pleasantly surprised by Jon Acuff's simple advice: Cut your goal in half. 

He explains it in detail and shares a lot of examples, but the basic gist is that according to research he did with a Ph.D candidate, you're 63% more likely to finish your goal if you cut it in half. He shares 2 ways to do that:

  • Reduce your goal by 50% -- For example, aim to lose 10 lbs instead of 20, to run a half marathon instead of a full marathon, etc. 
  • Double your time -- For example, aim to lose 10 lbs in 2 months instead of 1 month, commit to run a marathon within 2 years instead of 1, etc. 

He talks about cutting your goal in half like this as a way to fight perfectionism. I can see that, but I also see it as a way of identifying first steps or iterations towards the goal you ultimately want. It's something we do in the business world all the time.

Here's an example: If my goal is to work out four days a week, I shouldn’t start with working out four days a week. For one, I’m not physically ready for it and so I'll get sore or injured and quit (not speaking from experience at all...). A better strategy is to work out 2 days a week and then reassess. As I succeed at the goal I cut in half, my body adjusts, I learn what's working and what isn't, I tweak my strategy, and might just increase to 4 days a week. But it's almost guaranteed at this point that my 4-days-a-week strategy will be different than the one I would have started with -- because I know things I never would have known without starting small. 

It's about the time of year where I eat too much and move too little, so I'm going to try this one as an experiment. I'm coming off a cold, but now that I'm feeling better, I'm going to start working out 2 days a week. In two weeks, I'll pause the reflect, reevaluate, and share my findings.