Taking Baby Steps

Thanks to mimiBlog for the photo

Here’s the million dollar question: What can you do right now to achieve your goals?

 I just read about this idea in The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. Leo has also written about this idea over at ZenHabits.

It’s a very powerful concept. My interpretation is this: many people have big dreams or plans for themselves, and aren’t sure where to start in order to accomplish them. Their aspirations may seem daunting, impossible, or maybe just time-consuming. But the way to achieve them is to start. Somewhere. Anywhere. And according to Tim? You should do it today.

He advocates a very straight-forward approach, and in my opinion the book is worth reading even just for this method of analysis. He includes a monetary calculation as well, which is really helpful for larger goals, but in this post I’m just going to focus on his ideas about first steps in the context of short-term goals.

1. Identify your goals

This may prove to be the most difficult part for some of us: brainstorming and solidifying our goals. Yet there are sure to be a few things that call to you: asking that pretty girl out, being on the rugby team, speaking at a student conference? Whatever the case may be, find whatever dreams tug at your heart strings and write them down. Don’t let yourself start thinking of reasons you won’t be able to accomplish these goals, just get them down on paper. And make them as clear as possible: which girl, which team (intramural/varsity?), which conference? What exactly does your dream entail? Be specific.

2. Set a timeline

Tim encourages setting a very short deadline. It’s longer for larger, more financially burdensome dreams, but for our purposes it should be quite short. For some things, like getting published in the school paper, the timeline should be only about a week. Maybe less. Be as strict as you can with yourself: what’s the absolute minimum this would take if I dedicated myself to it? Be realistic.

3. Break it down

Divide the goal up into a number of smaller tasks. From here out, I’m going to use the example of having an article published, because that’s what I was inspired to do this week! So for my goal, I could break it down into a few steps:

  1. Brainstorm topics for an article
  2. Choose one, and brainstorm about 4-5 key points to include
  3. Write the first draft
  4. Go back, read it aloud, edit spelling errors, re-write what doesn’t work
  5. Contact the editor of the section I’d like to submit it to & submit it
All told, I completed this process in one day. It took about half an hour to do the brainstorming, just over an hour to complete the article, and less than five minutes to submit it. And it will be published tomorrow!
For any goal you wish to accomplish, break it down into baby steps before you move forward.

4. Do the first step, NOW

Tomorrow becomes never. No matter how small the task, take the first step now!

-Timothy Ferriss

Whatever that first step is, try to accomplish it today. For those of us with fear or anxiety about starting new things, being able to break down goals like this and only start moving on the smallest of the sub-goals is very helpful! It’s much more intimidating to look at a big daunting goal like running a marathon than it is to research marathon diets or training plans, or lacing up your trainers and going for a jog.

You’ll probably find that as you start to prioritize your goals like this, and make the first baby step, you’ll gain some momentum! Suddenly you’ll be motivated to continue the process, move on to the next baby step, and accomplish your goals. And when you break them down like this, I bet you’ll be surprised at how easy they might be to achieve!


This is just one of the many insights that are shared in The 4-Hour Workweek, a book I highly recommend. In just a few days, the ideas have started to shape my thought processes towards action and doing, rather than just thinking. Anything is possible!

What is a goal you’ve been holding out on? What’s the baby step you could take right NOW in order to accomplish it? What do you think of this idea of small steps?


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