From Big Goals, to Small Goals, to Daily Routine

by Site Author

In a recent interview, Dominique Foxworth recounted an important lesson he learned when he was six years old.

I remember very clearly… sitting down with my dad, and he asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up. I told him: ‘professional football player.’ And he proceeded to say ‘OK. Well you should set little goals between now and when you get there, and do something to work towards it everyday, no matter how big or how small.’

Foxworth took his father’s advice. That night he did so many sit-ups that he threw up. Sixteen years later, Foxworth joined the NFL. In 2009, the Baltimore Ravens signed a $28 million contract with Foxworth.

His father’s advice is some of the most important advice there is. How a person approaches their goals determines whether they achieve anything in this world. You start with a big goal. Foxworth wanted to be a professional football player—an enormously ambitious big goal. For others, the goals are more modest. Some want to become tenured faculty.

That one big goal acts as a lodestar. It tells you the direction you need to go. But one big goal, alone, isn’t enough. The big goal determines small goals. In Foxworth’s case, there were skills he needed to acquire, pee-wee football games he needed to win, high school football games, and so on.

And then, most importantly, those small goals—the intermediate goals—determine your everyday routine. You are on the right track when what you do each day is aligned with your long-term goals.

Business-school types talk about the importance of vision statements, mission statements, and core values. Much of that is just a lot of hot air. But there is enormous value in the very basic notion that humans are most effective when they are working towards a goal. And one big goal is not enough. It has to be translated into small goals.

Each day, do your sit-ups.