Tiny Steps to Success

Learn how to set small, attainable goals along the road to success
Published January 29, 2016

Imagine holding a bundle of 20 pencils in your hand and trying to break them (ok, it’s kind of a weird thing to do, but go with it). You probably couldn’t do it, no matter how hard you tried. The bundle is just too big.

Breaking one pencil, though, would be easy.

This imaginary exercise perfectly demonstrates how a single-minded focus on an all-in goal can be counterproductive. But when you divide, you conquer: Break your goal into smaller steps, tackle one step at a time, and the process becomes manageable.

It’s the same with weight loss: If you set your sights on the ultimate number you want to see on the scale, the task can seem overwhelming and even impossible. Divvy it up and instantly you’ll feel more in control. It’s easier to accomplish each mini-goal, and therefore, it’ll be easier to make it all the way to that ultimate goal. Moreover, if you take small steps, it’s easier to get back on track if you miss one step.

Here’s a template to help you choose small goals and make them happen.

Keep it real
Let’s say you hope to lose 45 pounds eventually; that’s a big bundle of pencils. Keeping in mind that Weight Watchers recommends a weight-loss pace of about .5 to 2 pounds a week (newbies might lose more in the first couple of weeks), what is a realistic goal for the month ahead? (Remember, the scale can fluctuate from week to week, so it’s best to look at your weight-loss progress over a few weeks.)

Break it down
Maybe you want to lose 5 pounds this month. That’s still quite a few pencils. What will you do to make that happen, one pencil at a time? Think of specific actions that will help you get to that goal. Maybe you’ll pre-track as a way to stick to your SmartPoints budget. Or you’ll swap your evening snack from a few cookies to just one cookie and an apple.

Create a path
You’re more likely to get to any goal if you establish the “how to” along with the “what.” If you want to pre-track, set a reminder on your smartphone (you can do it right in the Mobile app) or a sticky note on your computer. Keep your scale and measuring tools handy on your kitchen counter. Whatever you choose to do, remove barriers so the action can slip smoothly into your daily life.

Go beyond the scale
Sometimes your weigh-in isn’t what you hoped it would be, for a variety of reasons. To keep your momentum when that happens (and it will), it makes sense to also choose goals that aren’t all about the weight, but that help promote a healthy life and contribute to weight loss.

Here are some examples of non-scale goals that might work for you:

  • Walk a mile without stopping.
  • Make a fruit or vegetable part of every meal.
  • Get 7 or 8 hours of sleep each night.
  • Bring your lunch to work.