Big goals are daunting. New Year’s resolutions hardly ever happen. Statistically, most people give up. You can’t get your head around a big goal. Not all at once. It isn’t a set of actions. That’s why you have to break it down into small steps.

Again and again, the same advice comes up by those who know. Make it a habit.

Make it a habit

Leo Babauta from Zen Habits says to make it ridiculously tiny. Make it so tiny that it’s embarrassing not to do it. It’s embarrassing not to turn up. It’s silly to skip it when you can tick it off instead.

Start really really really small

Leo gives the example of going for a run. Start so small that putting on your sneakers and stepping out the door is the starting point. That’s all you do, you put on your sneakers and step out the door.

You will probably do more

Chances are, you’ll do more than just put on your sneakers and step out the door. But it’s ok if you do only that for the first week. Right now, you’re building the habit. At some point it will feel too silly to do only that. The habit will lead you to want to do more.

Be specific

When you’re setting a tiny task as part of a larger goal, be very specific. You will put on your sneakers and step out the door when you get home at 6.15pm (or 7 or 8). Or you will put them on after you wake up in the morning, or after a morning coffee. Set a trigger and a tiny task.

Set a reward

If you need more motivation you can set a reward. Maybe you are walking to work. You could have a sit-down coffee half way or before you step into the office. Your reward might be playing an online game or watching cat videos or a new TV show. Make it in line with the size of your effort.

Keep it up

Estimates vary but most stats say it takes about a month to solidify a habit. For it to really stick, you have to persevere for about that long. That’s a while but it’s not forevvvvver. It’s do-able. Just make sure the tasks are small enough to start with. Don’t be tempted to make them big. Avoid overwhelm and inch forward like the tortoise.

Mix it up

Habits work but too much routine becomes a rut. Once the habit is working for you, you may want to vary it. I like the phrase “menu”. If regular fitness is your goal, vary your activities. Walk home a different way from work. Put in some new rewards. Try rock-climbing or dancing. Once you have the fitness habit you can mix it up and have fun with it.

Keep a tah-dah list

Julia Cameron talks about keeping a “Tah-dah list”, as opposed to a “To Do” list. When you succeed, write it down. Keep a note each day that you exercise, or write, or read. Write it down each day that you eat your greens, do something fun, think of a new idea, spend time with a friend.

Whatever your goals, turn them into tiny little actions that you can schedule often. Until your “creature of habit” is doing incredibly cool stuff on a daily basis.