Go smaller (on your big gauzy dream)

In a recent short podcast Jon Acuff goes counter-intuitive: For those having difficulty jumping into a project, making a change, taking an action, Acuff says cut your goal in half.

Don’t aim to lose 10 pounds, make your goal 5 pounds. Then when you hit a 7-pound loss you’ll feel triumphant and aim for more. If you only lose 7 pounds when your goal was 10, you’ll feel like the biggest loser and not in a good way.

Can’t manage to work on your side hustle for an hour a day? Don’t accept defeat, go for 30 minutes. If that fails, make 15 minutes your daily goal.

Once you rack up wins the momentum will carry you to more.

Not only is this a sound philosophical change from the Big Hairy Goals concept for those who can’t get started, Acuff backs it up with research. Those who cut their goals in half are much more likely to make progress.

Like 63% more. There’s a study.

Because I believe in the power of vision I offer this amended haiku of a formula:

Big Dream, Smallest Possible Step

A big gauzy dream engenders an internal change bigger than the actions needed to get there. A big dream changes what we imagined our reality to be.

I currently have a big gauzy dream — of a series of bookitos on the connected creative life that will spread across America faster than fake news.

When we allow a big dream to smolder inside we alter who we think we are. Fan the embers of that new dream long enough and we begin to believe we can be that dream self someday.

I use the word gauzy to imply hazy . . . indistinct . . . not seen clearly . . . daydreamy.

A vision strong enough to excite us must also change our trajectory. By definition we won’t see the endpoint with absolute clarity.

When Stephen King wrote Carrie he could in no way have foreseen he’d become the cultural icon he is today. Though he almost certainly had a wispy imprecise vision of making a living as a writer, quitting his teaching gig, maybe even buying a bowling ball.

(Jigsaw puzzles, playing guitar and bowling are three of his pastimes.)

Dream the big gauzy dream and make your one true goal the smallest possible step you can take toward it. Feebly or forcefully or frolicking, however you attain it you will want to achieve another. And another. And another.

Sure, dream of your first marathon, but make your first goal to run to the end of the block. Or next door. Or to the sidewalk. Whatever is the smallest possible goal you’ll act on.

Dream of artistic glory; make your goal 30 minutes of creative practice a day.

Or 15. Or 5. Whatever is the smallest doable step . . . .

You buy a lapdesk and years later you’re working from your home office — as I did once, and am now.

Once you lock down your smallest possible step your big gauzy dream will compel you to enlarge — your goal and yourself.


Check out this short podcast by Jon Acuff on going smaller:



PS: I sure love a semicolon. Extra points for you if you can find it in 3 seconds.

Mr. Marcus only allowed 9th graders to use semicolons. As a 7th grader you’d drop a letter grade on any paper for using one incorrectly. I promptly used one in the next paper. Tragically I forgot the verb in the opening sentence.

Imagine I did that in the prior sentence. It would read thusly:

Tragically I the verb in the opening sentence.

I dropped two letter grades for that.

[Mr. Marcus upped me a letter grade for the theme of the paper — on what the future might look like: When I was at a loss my Mom (MomJo!) suggested a remote device allowing teachers to give a mild electric shock to students acting up in class. Mr. Marcus likee.]


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