The “Baby Steps” Method for Achieving Any Goal

Baby Steps
The Baby Steps Method or the Cargo Ship Method – whatever you call it, it works.

I am convinced that steady, regular effort in pursuing a goal trumps occasional outbursts of activity, however big, any time.

Take the cargo ship analogy: A typical containership travels at around 24 knots (44.4 km/h). That doesn’t seem like much, but consider that the ship is traveling every hour, day and night. At 24 knots, that translates into almost 1065.6 km – more than a thousand kilometers – every day!

You can apply the same powerful principle to achieving any goal in your life. I call it the Baby Steps Method, and it’s very simple. Here is what you need to do:

  1. Define your goal in writing
  2. At the beginning of every day:
    • Review your written goal
    • Decide on a specific “baby step” – however small – that you are going to take towards the goal today. Optional: Write it down, too
    • Do not go to bed without completing your daily step.

Let’s break it down.

Define Your Goal in Writing

For best results, your goal has to be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Written down, preferably by hand
  • Spelled out as if you have already achieved it.

For example:

I have launched a blog with at least 30 articles in it.

I have learned German to the level of comfortable verbal communication.

I have increased my income X% to $Y per month.

I am a believer in Psycho-Cybernetics, and I think that formulating your goal like this helps set a firm “goal image” in your mind that it will work hard to achieve.

Note that some people also recommend setting a deadline for your goal.

Review Your Written Goal Every Day

Nothing special here – just pull up your written goal (it helps if it’s written on a 3-by-4 card) and re-read the goal to remind yourself of it. This also helps to conjure up and further cement the “goal image” in your mind.

Decide on Your Daily Baby Step

I really like this part. The important thing here is that your daily “baby step” doesn’t have to be big. For example, if we take the blog goal above, some daily steps could be:

  • Register a domain name
  • Come up with a list of the first 10 articles to write
  • Write 1 article
  • Get hosting for the blog
  • Install WordPress

For the German language goal, how about these:

  • Do research on the German courses available in my city
  • Read 1 news article in German
  • Listen to a German podcast for at least 15 minutes
  • Watch a German movie
  • Do the course homework

You see that the steps above are of varying complexity. Buying a domain name is a 10-minute task, whereas writing an article is perhaps a 1-hour one. It doesn’t matter; what’s important is that you are taking measurable steps towards achieving your goal every day.

You may optionally write down the baby step you are going to take that day to further reinforce your commitment.

Don’t Go to Bed Without Completing Your Baby Step

As you might suspect, this is the crucial part. Remember that by deciding on the day’s step, you are making a promise to yourself. I don’t like breaking promises, so taking my daily step is a question of principle for me.

The good part is that, again, you don’t have to choose a big, hairy, intimidating step for a particular day. As you progress, you will feel more comfortable with taking on bigger steps, but it’s perfectly fine to stay small for as long as you wish. The method will work regardless.

Also, you won’t stay small forever anyway. As you begin to see your progress, you will naturally get the courage to try bigger daily steps and be inclined to challenge yourself for more.

Does it work? You bet it does! The blog example above is actually a real goal I set to myself a while ago with a tutorial website I was launching. My typical daily goal was to write just 1 article, and boy was I religious about it. Sure enough, the website was launched in no time.

Try it yourself, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly those baby steps add up.

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