Keep Moving the Chains

Not every play needs to result in a touchdown, or even a first down.

In American football, it’s fairly common to start a drive at your own 20-yard line. Fortunately, you don’t need to go all 80 yards at once. All you need to do is make it to the first down marker, and you keep the drive alive. The officials on the sidelines will move the chains up, and you have a fresh set of downs.

It’s a good thing, too. Only once or twice on any given Sunday will a team go the entire eighty-plus yards in a single play. That’s why they make the highlights on Sportscenter—it’s an exceptional play, where preparation and opportunity came together. But it is the exception. The bread and butter of scoring is much more conservative: a few yards here, a few yards there, get another first down. Keep moving the chains.

You face the same thing with reaching your goals. It may seem like there’s a lot of grass between you and the end zone, but you don’t have to cover it all in one go. There’s nothing wrong with taking weeks or months or even years to reach your goals. You’ll get there if you just keep moving the chains.

Photo courtesy of ©shutterstock/David Lee

  • Break long-term goals into manageable chunks. Instead of working towards one giant result at the goal line, break the goal up into sub-goals. These milestones not only let you measure your progress better, but they give you the opportunity and reason to celebrate successes along the way.
  • Be clear on the next action. Write out all the steps you can think of, everything you’ll need to do to reach your goal. If you don’t know what you can do next, you’re going to lose momentum and struggle to gain yardage.
  • Get right back out there. Drop the ball? Get blindsided by the week? Failure happens. Don’t make it permanent. Get right back out there and run the ball again.
  • Select one thing you’re going to do each week that will move the chains. Review your active goals as part of your weekly review. Choose just one task for one goal that you will get to this week. This is your A1 task for the week. Your steak sauce. If you get nothing else done, remember this one task will get you closer to your goals.

Don’t feel like you have to score a touchdown on every play. You’re not going to. Just keep moving the chains.

There will be days you fumble the ball. Sometimes you’ll manage to fall on it and keep posession. Some days, you’re even going to throw a pick-six. And you’re going to go right back out and get back at it.

Because somedays, the yards just fly by. You evade a tackle and sidestep an obstacle. The resistance just isn’t there. Nothing’s in your way. You’re going to make incredible progress towards your goals, and it’s going to feel great! You might even end up on the highlights reel.

Question: How do you make sure you keep making forward progress? Share your thoughts in the comments, or on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

About

Colter writes software and blogs about personal growth and productivity. He lives in Silicon Valley (California) with his wife and children, recently took up golf, and watches mostly British TV shows.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. For more information, see my comments policy.