• Xan

Power of Small Wins

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

A fundamental principle that OnTrac is built on is the idea that an important part of the process of increasing the likelihood of achieving your goals is the process of taking larger goals and breaking them into smaller pieces. We believe this process sets you up to achieve small wins more often. As we explored in an earlier post, research has shown that seeing progress toward achieving a goal is linked to an increase a person's happiness. These small wins then motivate you to continue to achieve small wins. That's why I found this article in The Harvard Business Review (HBR), which looked at the importance of this idea of setting up "small wins", so interesting. They performed a survey of of members of project teams and ended up with 238 respondents and over 12,000 journal entries.

Small Wins

In their survey, HBR found some interesting insights into just how powerful getting small wins can be. In their survey analysis, they found that project teams experienced "steps forward" on 76% of project team member's best-mood days while setbacks occurred on only 13% of those days. On the other hand, on bad mood days, set backs occur on 67% of those days and progress occurs on only 25% of these days. That suggests a possible positive correlation of progress and people's motivations and perceptions of their environment which is consistent with other research that we found as well as our own experiences. On the flip side, it also suggests a negative correlation that setbacks can have on the same.

Creating milestones

So why not set goal action plan up in such a way so that you are more likely to achieve these small wins more often? Research suggests that this can create really motivating feedback loop for yourself as you look to achieve your goals. At OnTrac, we're a big believer in creating milestones for your goal. Whatever your SMART goal is, create time-based "micro-goals" from them. If you have a year long goal, create monthly or weekly milestones from them. If you have a month long goal, create weekly or even daily milestones that you want to achieve from them. These milestones shift your focus from the bigger goal which may be weeks or months in the future to a milestone which is much nearer. Achieving these milestones will feel like a small win and give you the motivation to maintain your efforts or even increase them.

Reframing Goals to Set Up Smaller Wins

In addition to milestones, I've also noticed that "reframing" my goal has affected my motivation to achieve them. Here are a couple examples of goals that I've reframed and noticed an immediate change in my motivations to achieve them.

  1. Instead of going on the treadmill for 15 minutes, say going on the treadmill for 4 songs. I ran track throughout both high school and college, and people don't understand how I can hate running. But I HATE running. I hate running on the treadmill worse. Mentally, however. I found setting a goal of running for 4 songs on Spotify much easier to achieve than being on the treadmill for 15 minutes. Instead of looking at the timer on the treadmill, I would listen to the song. After each song, I would say ok, "I'm a quarter of the way through now". "Ok, halfway through now."...etc. For some reason, reframing the goal in that manner makes the same ~15 minute treadmill run go that much quicker for me.

  2. Instead of drinking 80 ounces, say drink 4 bottles. Drinking water is one of the goals that I'm most focused on personally at the moment. I'm currently using Hidrate Spark 3 to track my water intake. For full disclosure, we have an affiliate relationship with Hidrate. My current goal is to drink about 80 oz of water a day. Despite the fact that I'm consistently tracking my intake, I found that my focus on the 80 oz of water a day has caused me to come up short every day. I've since shifted my goal from 80 oz of day to drinking 4 Hidrate Spark 3 bottles of water a day. As you might have guessed, each bottle is about 20 oz of water. Since I've made that mental shift

Hopefully, these examples are helpful. Try to think how can reframe some of your goals to set yourself for success. I hope you will share some of these here on our blog or on or social media pages.

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