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The Power of Micro Goals.

Updated: Jun 20

Walking the Camino de Santiago in August 2016, I had a strange feeling as I arrived into the historic city of Santiago de Compostela after walking 490 miles. 

I realised for the first time in my life that I was actually achieving a truly important goal. The lessons I learned are also applicable to our normal lives.

I had heard, as I am sure you have, that "the secret to success is setting goals".  Simply set a goal in business, in your career, in your racing, or your home life, and work towards it. Simples 😊

But for me, for some reason, it has never worked that way. Even when I achieved my goals in the past,  I never felt satisfied. And when I didn't achieve them I wasn't really that bothered.......

The difference in Spain, for me, was that I had set out not knowing whether I would achieve my goal. I was nervous starting out, which showed me I cared what the outcome would be. But I had doubts: I was 50 years old, over-weight and had not walked more than to the pub and back up until a month before. 

#1 The Main Goal - Arrive in Santiago No Matter What. 

I was determined to do it. I had quit my job the month before after asking for extended leave to walk the Camino and being told no. I decided this was such an important goal for me I would resign, hoping this experience would be the catalyst for something new.  

So I was committed and it was a big enough challenge to motivate me to keep going no matter what. For 29 walking days, the only focus was on arriving in Santiago. 

That goal kept me moving forward, but I needed more than just a distant image of a far off destination. When I was climbing a hill in 43°C heat or walking for 11 hours in a day or keeping going with the pain of tendinitis, it is a different kind of goal you need. And that's when you create micro-goals. 


#2 Micro goals - focus on the here and now 

You must realign your focus. If you're dreaming about the grandeur and accolades of arriving in Santiago while walking on an uneven path up a mountain on day 6, then that's the wrong focus to have. The lack of focus can cause you to stumble, fall and injure yourself. So the focus has to shrink to the size of each footstep, the path and rocks in front of you and getting down the mountain. 

By realigning your focus and goal you keep going in the right direction.

#3 Micro Rewards 

Without micro-goals there were days when I could have stopped, turned back or given up. But they kept me moving forward in bite-size chunks and as you achieve a micro goal you also give yourself a micro reward. They were tiny rewards to be gratefully received and appreciated; like giving yourself shade to walk in along the path in the midday heat, stopping for a break at a miraculous cantina being open in the afternoon when walking through a deserted village, walking on the grassy part of the path rather than on the rough rocks and stones, even feeling a gentle breeze felt like a massive reward on the Camino, which kept you motivated and appreciative of tiny benefits. 

All these things keep you going, as it is in life, appreciating little wins and moving forward can get you to a big objective.

My small wins allowed me to maintain momentum and walk all the way to the Atlantic Ocean to Finisterre on the Spanish North West coast, where my Camino ended. I spent 40 days on the Camino, walked over 550 miles and had met people so inspirational along the way that it has changed my life forever. But there is one last thing I would like to share. 

#3 Choose your goals wisely 

I now know that I need a goal to keep me motivated; something worthwhile and of value to me that will keep me going when the going gets tough. I realise that, in the past, I didn't spend long enough deciding on the value of my goals and what I wanted from achieving them. it was simply collecting more stuff,  hence it was shallow when attained and irrelevant when not achieved. So now I select my goals to be big enough to motivate me and realistic enough to strife for.

I have discovered from my experience walking the Camino, to set a goal that is of value to you, something you hold as high importance. Decide whether achieving it will truly make you happy or not. Then make a plan ( a road map if you like ) to get there, showing what steps need to be taken and how will you complete those steps. The goals will not achieve themselves. 

With your ultimate goal in mind, concentrate on the little things that need to be completed to enable your ultimate goal to be realised. Work to your plan, focusing on the little wins with little rewards, keep moving forward and get there.

Best of luck and Buen Camino 

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