You’ve learned what financial independence is and you are ready to start diving in. But damn, this is a big one. A goal so far in the future, for many of us it doesn’t feel quite real yet.
So how do you start working towards a goal that you might not reach until years in the future?
You need to breakdown that big goal and bring tiny goals into your journey.
What are tiny goals?
Tiny goals are breaking your big goals down into bite-size chunks. Think of them as stepping stones to your bigger goals.
For many, it is hard to stay motivated pursuing big goals the entire way. The timelines for big goals can be too long. Breaking those goals down into smaller, shorter-term goals can keep you motivated in pursuit of your big goal.
As the saying goes – the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.
Those small bites provide a powerful thing needed to achieve big goals: motivation. Without continued motivation, goals suffer quick deaths.
Want to see it in action?
Go to any gym on January 2nd and then again on January 25th and see for yourself. Each new year, people are full with motivation.
They tell themselves this is the year they are going to make the change. This is the year they get healthier.
But for most, they only look at the end goal – dropping weight, bulking up, or getting that six-pack. When results don’t come quick enough, big goals look unattainable and motivation disappears. And you end up with a gym membership you don’t use.
We want to feel and see progress. Without progress, goals turn into the latest thing we add to our “ehh..maybe someday” list.
Progress is the fuel for motivation. When you make progress, even in small amounts, you add a little more fuel to your tank.
Hacking Your Brain
Tiny goals give your brain a boost too. When you knock out a goal, your brain releases a small amount of dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical in our brains connected to pleasure, learning, and motivation.
After getting this release of dopamine, our brains crave more. It learns to seek out this reward again, pushing us to want to do more.
Knowing this is what our brains want, why not use dopamine to our advantage?
Tiny Goals in Action
Lets take a look at what tiny goals look like in real life.
You have $25k in student loans that you want to pay off in 2 years. This is your big goal. To create tiny goals associated with it, brainstorm steps you can take which will help you pay off the $25k.
Instead of having one big goal, you have a big goal with separate sub-goals under it.
Based on the example above, your big goal/tiny goals might look like this:
Big Goal: Pay off $25k in Student Loans by January 2020.
Tiny Goal: Make extra $250 in loan payments in January 2018
Tiny Goal: Make extra payment of entire tax refund
Tiny Goal: Pay off $12.5k in 2018
Each of these tiny goals is achievable quicker but still 100% related to achieving the big goal. Each time you check one off, you made a little more progress towards checking off the big one.
How I Apply Tiny Goals to FI
Financial independence is a huge goal and takes a lot of time and savings to achieve it. It is easy to get overwhelmed thinking about how far away you might be. So tiny goals are essential to help keep you on the journey and keep you from getting discouraged.
For me, I set many tiny goals related to my FI journey each year. For 2018, these are some of my tiny goals:
- Save 55% post-tax income
- Max out both Roth IRAs
- Max out Health Savings Account
- Increase emergency fund to 6 months of expenses
Each of these goals provides value to our family’s end goal of financial independence. I won’t reach FI this year but if I hit these goals, I will know I made progress towards that goal.
Each tiny goal is big enough to make progress but small enough to not intimidate me into doing nothing.
Tiny goals are a tool to help you achieve the bigger goals you are pursuing. By breaking big goals into smaller goals, you are setting yourself up to see progress quicker. This progress will help increase your motivation as you pursue your big goal.
Why fall into the same old trap everyone does when they go after something big. Expand on your goals and give yourself something you can achieve. Tiny goals help you make progress and keeps you moving down the path toward your big goals.