The Power of Small Wins

by Alex Mcconville, Chief Resident

Sometimes I can’t be bothered to work. Even though I know I need to. However, once I get going I can really get into the flow of it, and always get that sense of achievement after I finished what I set out to do. But the problem is always starting.

Sometimes we set ourselves unrealistic goals about how much we can get done in a day, or get overwhelmed  by the sheer volume of work that needs to be done during our degrees, masters courses, or PhD’s. And that doesn’t even include tidying your house, washing your clothes, eating better, and doing more exercise.

So my method for getting through this is just to do the smallest achievable goal. Write one sentence, tidy one shelf, go for a 5 minute walk, make a plan for what healthy meal I’m going to eat tonight. That way there’s no pressure, that one thing you need to do has to be so small and insignificant that there is absolutely no way you can fail at it. Then finishing one little task means you’ve started, you did the thing, and it really wasn’t that bad so you do the next thing. Or if you can’t do anymore at least the job is slightly smaller than it was a few minutes ago.

Going after the small wins that are easily within your control are a great way to get the boost you need to make a start. It’s easy to set big abstract goals that only serve to overwhelm us, make us doubt ourselves, and ruin our self-esteem when we inevitably fail. However, by breaking your goal down into smaller, more achievable, and well defined chunks, we are able to track our successes and build on them. Having a stream of memorable successes even if they’re small over one overarching looming failure can really brighten up your day and give you a more positive point of view which helps you to keep on succeeding.

These small wins from well-defined goals help us in other ways as well. They’re trackable. This means we can set ourselves goals based on what we’ve already proved to ourselves we can do. Write down what you did, and set another goal based on that. If I wrote one sentence yesterday, who’s to say I can write two today?  Being able track our successes lets us build and maintain habits in an easy and less daunting way.

You don’t have to go big or go home’  you can just do one little thing and then maybe do one little thing the next day.

And some days you just need a day off so don’t worry about it.

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