We’ve heard this advice

I was reading Jamal’s article about breaking down ambitious goals into smaller, actionable ones.

We must have heard advises like this. But what I’d like to add is:

Breaking down goals is painful, too!

My example

When I started Tonians newsletter, I set a goal for myself: Send one newsletter every week.

I broke the goal down to mini-steps based on my experience:

  • Go through my Pocket articles and select one
  • Write the first draft about that article
  • Go through my Podcasts and select one
  • Write the first draft about the podcast
  • Review two drafts, and improve to draft v2
  • Write draft v3
  • Hit send

Doing this exercise was effective. Now I just have to get each step done well, and rest relaxed that I have a good newsletter ready to send by Monday.

The goal break-down process is painful.

It’s like doing push-ups. When I just started going to the gym, I could barely make it to 30 push-ups in a day.

It’s tiring, and I wanted to give up after a few rounds of trying and not seeing results.

Retrieving something from memory while retrospecting is like doing mental push-ups. It exercises the brain muscles that we don’t use often.

Also, it’s a lonely journey. There won’t be flowers, cheers or applause waiting at the end. What you eventually get is just a list of things you may already know.

When I lose motivation, the thing I tell myself is: Don’t quit. And don’t compromise.

We don’t have to make it perfect the first time. We just sketch out something that is close to the truth, then we move on with our life.

Next time when we come back, we start from where we left.

We stand in the shoulder of the strongest former selves.

It’s painful, but it’s also progress.


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Junji Zhi

Senior Software Engineer.