“Life by the yard is hard, but life by the inch is a cinch!”

Goal setting is tough.  It’s no wonder we all have so much trouble achieving long-term goals.

For myself, the hardest part of achieving big goals is being able to break them down into small goals.

For example, my new long-term goal is to gain 10 pounds of muscle and lose 3 pounds of fat (I’ll update on how I chose that goal later).  Those of us who have tried gaining muscle have come to find that it’s a fairly difficult endeavor….  Especially when it’s combined with losing fat.

So, I’ve set out my plan of trying to gain one pound of muscle per month.  I’ve done this before while gaining fat with it too, but it will be much harder when trying not to gain fat as well.

The critical issue behind all of this is how I approach this new-found goal of gaining ten pounds of muscle and losing three pounds of fat.  Regardless of how I look at it, it’s a big goal.  Realistically, it will probably take me a little over a year.

A little mental imagery can help with this.  I can somewhat liken my new goal to a mountain, although you can climb a Colorado fourteener (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourteener, for the uninformed) in a day rather than spending a year on it.  Since my goal is a fourteener in my mental imagery, it’s daunting.  It’s a lot to do, and I may be tempted to turn around and go back down when those pesky boy scouts pass me on their way up with smug smiles on their faces.

However, I can break this goal down into smaller goals…. something like finding little camping spots on my way up to make camp and roast marshmallows (or some comparable, healthy foodstuff).  Those boy scouts won’t be laughing now because I’m the one enjoying the achievement of my short-term goal while they still have to begrudgingly trudge on.

But then, when I’m ready, I’ll pack up and head on to my next short-term goal, and I’ll break camp there for a short time.  I’ll be able to celebrate because I’ve achieved my short-term goal, and the positive reinforcement to my mind that I’m able to achieve these short-term goals will help me be able to push up to my next little “camping spot”.

In a very simplified view, that’s more or less how I think of my long-term goals.  Well, at least I try to.  It helps to just take one step at a time, one inch at a time.  It’s a lot easier to focus on the next step than it is to worry about the next ten thousand.  If you never take the first one, you’ll never see the ten thousandth one anyway.

Look at your long-term goal and break it down into weekly or monthly goals.  In doing so, you’ll greatly decrease your chances of getting burned out from frustration.  Each short-term goal achieved will make the next seem more achievable because you already managed to accomplish your last one, and you’ll gain more self-confidence along the way.  Sure, you’re not going to achieve every goal, but you’ll learn from both your wins and your losses.  Just keep moving forward.

And, just so you know, the mental imagery boy scouts are based on factual events.  They passed me and my friend as we were climbing up a mountain in Southern Colorado.  But, through persistence and proper goal-setting (or maybe just the fact that we were ten years older than them), we beat them to the top and enjoyed the splendor of our victory by marking our territory.  You know, with urine.  How you’re supposed to.  🙂