This Is How To Make Your Big Career Dreams A Reality

How many times have you thought, “I wish I could start that new business, finish that project, or just be further along from where I am now... but I just don’t have enough time”?

Even if you have the time, maybe you just have no idea where to start.

First of all, you’re not alone. We’ve all got goals out there, many of which are unfulfilled, and even if we had the time, the sheer magnitude of competing them makes them seem impossible.

Don’t be fooled by the headline. I’m by no means saying that you shouldn’t dream big - believe me, I dream big! But what I want to do today is to show you is the effectiveness of thinking small when you do dream big.

Dreaming big is important because it gives us something to work towards: for personal growth, for progress, and to give us hope for the future. And, if you’re the kind who’s motivated by negative consequences rather than positive, then perhaps you’ve also heard of the saying “If you stop growing, you start dying.” But if you’ve ever heard that voice in your head doubting yourself, your abilities and your achievements, it could be because you have great ideas that just aren’t getting anywhere.

The problem often lies in making things happen: the sheer enormity of a long-term goal can so easily become the elephant in the room (or should I say, in your mind), blocking your ability to move forward and progress.

The result? Procrastination, anxiety, and ultimately, frustration and disappointment.

So, how do the high achievers among us do it? The famous Chinese proverb sums it up perfectly: “The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”

If you spend too much time contemplating the huge distance between where you stand now and where you want to be, there’s a good chance that you’ll never start making that dream a reality. This is where you start to find yourself on a neverending Netflix binge, diverting to something else that lets you settle into comfort rather than moving towards the things that really matter. You’ll probably even convince yourself into letting yourself off the hook, rationalising that “taking a day’s break is a good thing” ... am I right?

When goals seem too big to tackle, it's easy to give up and turn to Netflix binges. (Image: Getty Images)

So how do you change this Groundhog Day reality and actually make things happen?

The secret is in breaking your big goal down into lots of smaller steps that will gradually get you to where you want to be. This is called ‘chunking’: creating a series of realistic mini-goals that lead to your ultimate end goal.
How do you start chunking?

The key to chunking is to work backwards from your end goal. For example, if your dream is to have your own business and build a personal empire, your first mini-goal could be getting your ABN set up (something you can do in just a few minutes). After that, you’ll likely get a surge of dopamine in your brain - a feel-good hormone that is released after you achieve something. And guess what? It’ll feel so good that you’ll want to achieve something again, taking another small step towards your goal. You see, there is nothing more motivational than progress, and the trick in progressing forward is to make every little step feel like an achievement.

So back to the example of building your business empire, after your ABN is done, you might want to save your domain name, and thereafter do some research on the market and the opportunities. It’s all about breaking up your goal into achievable bite-sized pieces.

Taking many small steps results in big progress towards your goal. (Image: Getty Images)

I was reminded of the strength of thinking small, and chunking your goals recently when I was speaking with a friend who was had recently gone through a really hard time professionally. Her work environment had gotten so toxic that it had taken a devastating toll on her mental health, leading her to resign. I saw her again after a month and I was struck by how healthy, happy and balanced she seemed after only just having seen her at the edge of a breakdown so recently.

Her response? “I just focussed on getting in the shower, and after that I just focussed on making breakfast, and after that, I just told myself to spend 30 minutes to look for a new job”. And so that’s what she did, on repeat, every day. Slowly she incorporated going for walks, seeing friends again, and before she knew it, she was feeling whole again.

I preface this by saying you can’t think your way out of depression, and this is not what I am referring to in my friend’s example.

What I am saying is that when faced with a huge task, whether it be an exciting goal or dealing with adversity, thinking small and chunking your tasks can have incredibly transformative results.
Here’s a framework to follow for goal-chunking:

1. Set your long-term goals: What will success look like for you, and how many years will it take to achieve it?

Example:

  • Have a business that brings in enough revenue for me to quit my day job within the next three years.

2. Set your intermediate goals: Think of these as bigger stepping stones or “chunks” to achieving your end goal. You can also break these goals down into their own smaller pieces to make them more manageable.

Examples:

  • Secure funding for the business within the next year
  • Research government business grants within the next six months
  • Research crowdfunding opportunities within the next six months
  • Work part-time at my day job and part-time at my business within the next 18 months

3. Set your short-term goals: These should be realistically achievable within a short period of time relative to how long you have to achieve your end goal.

Examples:

  • Get my ABN today
  • Do a SWOT analysis within the next month
  • Write up a business plan within the next two months
Set short, intermediate and long-term goals and take small manageable steps.  (Image: Getty Images)

Give yourself a pat on the back for each small goal you achieve along the way and celebrate your success: it’s progress in the right direction. Progress fuels further success (along with that nice hit of dopamine), which will make you want to do more of what you’re doing.

If you’re a leader, and your greatest motivation is to get your team to achieve their goals, then chunking will work for you too. Your greatest asset will be in celebrating their small wins along the way and focussing on the progress, rather than the prize.

Before you know it, you'll look up and have made some serious headway in the direction of your dreams. There’ll be plenty of time for comfy Netflix binges later, I promise.

Shivani Gopal is the founder and CEO of The Remarkable Woman, a movement to break the glass ceiling and close the gender pay gap for women forever. The Remarkable Woman provides women with access to mentors, professional courses and gender pay gap discounts while building a community of empowered women to change the world into a more remarkable place.