Setting goals at which you cannot fail

IMG_1365Seek the small improvements one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens—and when it happens, it lasts. —John Wooden

Many of us believe taking action in support of new habits requires large and fundamental changes in our lives, alterations that may seem very difficult to initiate and sustain.

While large changes are sometimes necessary and can motivate deep change in ourselves, small, carefully-selected actions, as part of a larger plan or by themselves, can create motivation and over time produce substantial improvements.

In One Small Step Can Change Your Life, Robert Maurer suggests that even a single action can lead to dramatic changes. “Begin,” he writes, “by deciding where in your life you think you can most easily benefit from small, incremental steps toward excellence.” Maurer recommends that individuals identify the smallest step that will take them toward their goals, “a step so easy that you can guarantee you’ll take it every single day.”

Teachers and principals can take many small actions that over time can lead to substantial improvements in teaching, learning, and relationships. Here are a few examples:

• Listen for three minutes in a committed and nonjudgmental way to a colleague, friend, or family member. Don’t ask questions, comment, or in any other way interrupt the speaker. Just give your full attention to what the speaker is saying.

• Write down an important value and quickly brainstorm 3-5 actions that would be congruent with that value.

• Before a meeting, phone conversation, or other important task take a moment to clarify its purpose.

• Assume the good intentions of a person with whom you have a conflict and interact with him or her in that spirit.

• Determine the next action for each project as the previous action draws to an end.

• Place on your calendar something that will improve the quality of your life or work that can be done in 15 minutes or less. Keep that promise to yourself.

• Tell your truth in a situation in which it would be easier to withhold your view.

Steps such as these when repeated over time can lead to new habits that dramatically improve relationships and individual and group productivity.

What “small actions” have you taken that over time have made a difference for you and/or others?

2 Responses to “Setting goals at which you cannot fail”


  1. 1 barbarawmadden March 15, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    My fave. I will be Tweeting!! Assume the good intentions of a person with whom you have a conflict and interact with him or her in that spirit.

    As always a welcome read!!


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