Why is it that some athletes are able to generate huge success even if they aren’t the most talented? What is their secret? I’ve often wondered this, both about top-level athletes, as well as about successful people in pretty much any area of life.

What are they doing differently than the rest of us? Here’s what I found out.

They dream big, but start small.

Sounds simple, right? Decide on your biggest dreams and goals, and work toward them one step at a time. It can be MUCH easier said than done, though! I know I tend to get tripped up sometimes when I try to put this into practice. So let’s take a look at how to implement this formula successfully.

Motivation Monday person standing on rock to take the first step toward big goals

Determine your big goals

One thing that successful people have in common is setting big, lofty goals. If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s hard to figure out how to get there! Lots of people have big dreams every day, but very few actually set out to achieve them. Why is that? There are many reasons why a person might not set a big goal, but one of the biggest reasons is fear.

It’s scary to set out to be the best gymnast in the country at your level. It’s scary to invent a new, difficult skill. It’s scary to learn to jump to the high bar, to vault over the table, and to go backward on the beam. It’s much easier to set a smaller goal: to learn a simpler skill, to stay back at an easier level, to get comfortable being right where you are. But setting small goals only holds you back in the long run, and it can lead to regret.

Take a minute to think about your biggest, scariest goal. The one you’ve only dreamed of in the back of your mind. Write it down and commit to it. If you need the accountability, tell a teammate, coach, or family member. It’s ok if it is scary to think about that big goal! No matter how scary it may be, the big goals are the ones that will push you to get further than you ever thought you could.

Quote from Ruth?

Plan out the steps to get there

Once you have determined your big goal, you need to know what to do to achieve it. This step might be done with the help of a coach. If you don’t know how to start, work backwards! Think of what you would be doing when you achieve your goal, and write that down at the end of your paper. Then think step-by-step in reverse, and write down all of those steps. This will help you to avoid distraction as you work toward your goal.

Planning out the path to your goals, step-by-step, makes a big goal feel much more manageable. Sure, the goal to become a national champion might be scary when you think about it. But if your goal for the day is just to hit 10 beam sets, or to perfect a drill on bars, that is very doable! Break your goal down into achievable steps that you can work on consistently.

After you have written down all the steps, put them into your timeline. If your goal is a year-long goal, what do you need to be doing this week, and this month? Write down your monthly goals and weekly goals, and keep them somewhere that you can refer back to them often.

Make a little progress every day

This step might be the most important of all. Big goals cannot be achieved by working really hard and long all at once. They require consistency. But the good news is, you don’t have to accomplish a lot every day. Little bits of progress, frequently, will take you further than you ever imagined.

Starting this blog was a recent example of this principle in my life. At first, I wasn’t making enough time to write, and I was getting frustrated that I could only manage to post every couple of weeks. So I started thinking about where I could find extra time to write. I decided to get up 15 minutes earlier every day and devote that time to writing. Now, I am NOT a morning person, so getting up even 15 minutes earlier wasn’t my first choice. But I knew that if I didn’t get it done first thing in the morning, it wasn’t likely to happen.

So I started waking up a little earlier each day, before my family got up. I would write for 10-20 minutes, until I had to get breakfast for my kids. Some days it was only 5 minutes because I slept in. But I stayed consistent, and immediately I went from writing one post every two weeks to writing two posts every week. Wow! Just 15 minutes a day really made a difference. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it.

Give this a try with your own goals! Maybe that means finding 5 minutes to work on flexibility before school, or starting a quick at-home conditioning routine, or doing a mental workout before going into the gym. You might be amazed, as I was, to find that just a few minutes, done consistently, turns into huge progress.

Don’t get discouraged

If one thing is certain along the journey to success, it is that there will be obstacles along the way. You may not know yet what those obstacles will be, but it’s inevitable that something will come up, threatening to derail your progress. When it does, don’t let it trip you up! Instead, plan ahead.

Do a little thinking, as you plan out your goals, about what problems could arise. What if you were to get injured? What if you had a coaching change? Or an episode of fear when performing a certain skill? Try to imagine the things that could stand in your way, and then map out a plan to work around them.

Successful people don’t let obstacles get in their way. They work hard to overcome them. They expect that things will not always go smoothly, and they always have a backup plan. Figure out your Plan B, or Plan C, and write that down too. Now you are prepared for the worst, while planning for the best!

Reward yourself

How will you celebrate after you achieve your goal? Make sure to plan in a reward for your big achievement! There will be days when you don’t want to get out of bed, days when you don’t want to go to practice, and days where everything just seems really difficult. Keeping your eyes focused on your big goal will help during tough times, and if you have a reward planned at the end, that will give you something else enjoyable to look forward to.

Depending on what’s required to achieve your goal, you may even want to plan in some smaller treats along the way. If one of your monthly goals was to learn a new skill, celebrate after you finally get it! If you managed to stay on the beam for three meets in a row, treat yourself! You have been working so hard, and it’s important to celebrate those smaller wins on the way to your big success. The small wins lay the foundation for achieving your big goals, so make sure you reward yourself for them.

To review, success in sports (and in life!) can be achieved by following five steps. Define your big goal, and don’t be afraid to think REALLY big. Start at your desired end result, and work backward to determine the steps to achieve your goal. Put forward consistent effort, and achieve something small every day. Plan for obstacles, and think ahead to how you will overcome them. Then, reward yourself when you achieve your goal!

What are some of YOUR big goals and dreams? Do you have a plan to get there?