When we set ourselves big goals, they can sometimes start to seem unattainable, particularly when you find yourself still a long way off from achieving that goal. This leads to burnout, procrastination and frustration. I am sure we can all relate to this on both a business and personal basis.
Let’s take the constant fight some of us face to get fit; Running long distance is an example. Or in my case losing my covid weight gain. I’ve been struggling with this latter one for some time. It has been very tricky. I felt I tried everything (going to the gym, eating well, cutting down on the fizz etc) and was getting increasingly frustrated and angry to not get anywhere. In fact, I had nearly given up. It can be so demotivational if you feel you are doing everything in your power to move forward and still not get anywhere. It’s the same for us and our teams with business goals and milestones.
The progress principle
“Of all the things that can boost inner work life, the most important is making progress in meaningful work” (Harvard Business Review)
So how do we show progress in projects. Simple, we all know this first step. Breaking down the process is key. Rather than just setting yourself one big end goal that will take a long time to reach, setting small goals along the way will make the journey easier and more rewarding. With the weight loss/ healthy eating challenge we broke down the task into weekly bitesize chunks, with areas of healthy eating to focus on each week.
The power of small wins: The satisfaction of reaching a long-awaited goal is unbeatable. It makes you feel like you can achieve anything. The key to motivation is replicating that feeling on a regular basis by celebrating your small wins. Acknowledging the small wins is knowing you are making progress and on track to reaching the big goal, which ultimately will motivate you to push forward and carrying on.
Visualise this process through a checklist, a timeline, or a calendar with all your mini milestones recorded. That way, rather than feeling stuck, you’ll always know what your next move will be and can get the satisfaction of ticking it off your list when accomplished. From week 6 as part of the healthy eating process our group leader was asking us to think about all the small win’s we’d had along the way. The increased energy, glowing skin, conditioned hair, better sleep, clarity of thought. Yes, she was getting us to focus on the small wins during the process. This kept me going, when I hadn’t really seen any weight loss; my main goal.
This will lead to the cycle of progress -> motivation -> progress.
This cycle will gain momentum, confidence, and positivity for you and the team in their march towards your ultimate goal/milestone.
In business terms, I do this on a weekly basis. Every Sunday I review the business activity for the week. I record the wins and look at the achievements we should be celebrating. I also look at the lessons I’ve learnt and celebrate them. Let’s face it they are also important to speed up our progress.
How do you record and celebrate the wins for your organisation?
How are you going to install the cycle of progress into your business?
The amazing power progress has on our determination and motivation was really rammed home to me in a personal way this last week. Coming towards the end of the healthy eating 90-day challenge (as we speak, I’m on week 11 out of 13) I decide to step on the scales. 21lbs down in 10 weeks! You could probably hear my scream of joy across Wales.
Now I see the bigger results of my hard work and commitment to the process, it is enough to keep me going onto to the next milestone. The hard work, the going without and resilience has been worth it. (I didn’t even have a glass of fizz on my birthday!!!!)
We all need to see progress to our goals whatever they may be. If we putting in hard work, we need to see some results. Our job as leaders is to help our team do this,to see the results and the progress.
A final thought from Harvard Business Review:
“When we think about progress, we often imagine how good it feels to achieve a long-term goal or experience a major breakthrough. These big wins are great—but they are relatively rare.
The good news is that even small wins can boost inner work life tremendously. Many of the progress events our research participants reported represented only minor steps forward. Yet they often evoked outsize positive reactions.
Consider this diary entry from a programmer in a high-tech company, which was accompanied by very positive self-ratings of her emotions, motivations, and perceptions that day: “I figured out why something was not working correctly. I felt relieved and happy because this was a minor milestone for me.”