Don’t Go Shooting at Flies: How To Hit Big Goals By Taking It One Step At A Time

Isaac Orr

Don’t Go Shooting at Flies: How To Hit Big Goals By Taking It One Step At A Time

Everyone knows completing a goal can sometimes be difficult. To borrow a phrase, it can be like trying to shoot a hair off the back of a fly. If our focus is only on the fly, it is quite easy to miss a few things if we aren’t careful.


Actually hitting a fly, let alone the hair on its back, is difficult. Although, with some planning, I do think it can be done. There is also proof flies have been hit, even if it is just in videos. So we know we have a chance if we plan accordingly.


Just like that fly, a goal can move and change depending on where we are and what our environment looks like. To reach our goal, we might take into account things like,

     Which fly to try to hit

     How big our fly of choice is

     How fast it is flying

     Where the fly lands the most

     The lighting needed to see the fly

     Chasing it into a smaller room so it is less difficult to track down

     What tools we could use to hit it

     And more


The Environment of your Goal

There are many differing factors when it comes to setting goals and most people do not realize these can change depending on their environment. The example I will refer back to multiple times throughout this post is one I have lived personally.


Eating candy and junk food tastes so good, but makes me feel “super crappy”. My goal was to change the way I ate so that I ultimately felt better physically. A friend of mine suggested that I start by considering the importance, relevance, time commitment, and impact that this goal will make in my life mentally and physically, from start to finish.


Big Picture

Ever heard the words, “I will try to be better at <Insert goal> this year”? That is a big-picture-goal statement. If we only go as far as a big picture goal and neglect finding and implementing subgoals, we set ourselves up to feel guilty the first time we fall short. Remember, change is difficult and it takes time plus careful planning.


At first, committing to removing junk food from my diet was an overwhelming thought. My initial focus was only on what I was losing (the junk food I loved so much) than on what I would be gaining by changing my diet and living a healthier life. By starting off with this negative mindset, it set me on a path of what I considered a vicious cycle; one that made it harder for me to meet my goal.

I found that with a big-picture focus only, the sacrifices instead of the rewards, I made it harder for me to succeed and easier to feel bad when I failed. Planning out my action steps, including rewards, was needed in order for me to meet my goal of feeling better physically.

Making It Achievable

Don’t get me wrong, starting with a big picture goal is perfect, but if we do not break down that goal into subgoals that are more achievable, we will be hard pressed for success. When I decided to make healthier eating decisions I came to the realization that I had to set incremental benchmarks towards my healthier lifestyle. This was the difference maker for me. Take a look at how I took my large goal of eating healthier and feeling better physically and broke it down into smaller goals.

I knew this ultimate goal of eating healthier was going to be difficult, but worth it. I also knew I needed help committing to get there.


Ways to Win

     Commit to a system or routine, but give grace if the need to start over occurs.

     Our plans need to include grace for failure. Slip-ups happen, but those shouldn’t dictate who we are. If we give ourselves grace, we multiply the chances of getting back on track faster. This is not meant as a scapegoat for bad choices, but rather as a tool to promote positive behaviors that encourage mental health.

     Include others in our journey.

     Having an accountability partner is very motivating to stay on track. Asking others to encourage us toward our goals both verbally and physically, is an often overlooked tool.

     Continually updating our partner helps us stay mindful about our goals.

     Find tools that help keep us intentional.

     Our system should include ways to intentionally focus on a goal when put in a high pressure scenario.

     For example: Giving my accountability partner access to my purchase history and sending them pictures of my receipts kept me from buying things I shouldn’t. This system helped me stay focused on my goals when purchasing food items at the store.

     Finding tools to remind us of our goals helps keep us intentionally focused on reaching them.

     Set a timeline/deadline.

     Setting time oriented goals creates another level of commitment to our ultimate goal.

     Creating a timeline gives us structure and easy to follow steps of when we should promote a change.

     It also helps us gauge how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go.


     Taking time to audit our system and how our subgoals are helping us reach our ultimate goal is smart. Adapting our subgoals to help encourage the systems that work will help us stay on track.

     Be kind when re-evaluation occurs.

     Re-evaluation should be focused on subgoals and how well they are working not on how the ultimate goal has not been met yet.

     Give rewards.

     Because we are reward oriented by nature, systems that include rewards tend to work better. We are much more motivated when a reward is offered.

     Good behavior and positive change should be rewarded.

     We highly recommend using accountability partners in your reward system.

     I would suggest finding and setting a reward for every subgoal reached, no matter how small it is.

So again, don’t go shooting at the hairs on a fly. Not without a solid plan of what steps it takes to get there. If we set one small goal to watch the fly closely for fifteen minutes, we might find its favorite landing spot. We could then set up fly paper in that spot to keep it from flying away next time. Creating subgoals by watching and evaluating, we begin to make our big-picture-goal more obtainable through smaller subgoals. Each small goal achieved gets us closer to reaching our ultimate goal.


I truly believe we can reach a goal if we are intentional about planning smaller goals to get there, especially if we remove the guilt if failure occurs. It may take a few attempts if we use the wrong tool for a bit or the tool slips, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying.


Remember, we are capable of much more than we realize. We just need to find the right tools to help us get there.

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