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Think small to reach big

Kirjoittanut: Karoliina Kovalainen - tiimistä Hurma.

Esseen tyyppi: Yksilöessee / 2 esseepistettä.

Think Small
Owain Service
Rory Gallagher
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 4 minuuttia.

Think small to reach big

Think Small – The surprisingly simple ways to reach big goals

Owain Service and Rory Gallagher, 2017.


We are often told to think and dream big, the sky is the limit and that everything is possible. All of these are for sure really good advices to set yourself goals that have the potential to make you and everyone around you happier and healthier. Still, how to reach these goals is often less clear. Big plans or dreams can easily become overwhelming and leave us feel like we have failed if we don’t reach them really fast.

But with a little smaller steps there actually is a road of avoiding the common obstructions that stand between us and our goals. Owain Service and Rory Gallagher knew the impact that small steps and clear plans – based on a scientific understanding of hurman behaviour – can have all the way from an individual to an international level. Their e-book Think Small (2017) takes these succesful approaches and oversets them into an easy and simple framework that has the big potential to make a big difference to all our lives.

First step of thinking small to reach bigger goals, is to choose the right goals. That means that you should start by asking yourself what goals or plans you really want to reach and focus on those that are most likely to improve your wellbeing. After that you should focus on a single goal and set the clear target and deadline. So focus on one objective at a time. When you have chosen the right goals and set the target and deadline, identify the small steps along the way to achieving it so you will find it much easier to reach your ultimate destination.

The writers believe that one of the key ingredients in helping you to achieve your goals is making a plan. Also, the small details of how you set these plans matter. The three golden rules of making a plan are to keep it simple, create an actionable plan and turn the plan into habits. The rule ”keep it simple” means that you should create clear, simple rules that lower the mental effort required to stick with your goal and let yourself know when you are flying over from your destination. Creating an actionable plan in practice means that when you are able to state how, when and where you are going to take the actions needed to reach each of the steps makes it more likely that you will follow through your plan. By repeating the same actions in response to the same cues, you will be able to turn your plan into habits. That will make it a lot easier to reach your destination.

Making a commitment is realtively simple to do. Still, there is a number of small things that could help you to strenghten your commitment and make it more likely to stick with your goal. The three golden rules for that one are to make commitment, write it down and make it public some way and appointing a commitment referee. A referee will help you stay true to your core goal.

In their book Owain Service and Rory Gallagher talk a lot about the tools for thinking small, but they also want to make sure that the tools they are giving for the reader doesn’t just lay there as a words and sentences. They want to also help people to stick with their long-term goals. Their three golden rules to sticking at a goal are to practice with focus and effort, which means that you should always remember that the quality of practice is as important as the amount of time spent doing it, to test and learn so you can see what is working and what you should change, and last but definitely not least, to reflect and celebrate success.

We often are encouraged to think big because it implies that we want to reach big things. Actually, we might think that if we had the choice, why wouldn’t we always go big rather than small? As it is said: ”Go big or go home.” Anyways, in their book Service and Gallgher want to show that when you have an aspiring longtime goal, you are unlikely to reach your goal if you don’t get the small details right immediately. And that, in a nuthshell means that to reach big goals, you have to think small.

To understand why thinking small makes sense, we need to understand the science of decision making. That is why the writers of Think Small have examined a lot of studies that analyse how human beings go about reaching their goals. They found the importance of understanding the different ways in which we process the information and make decisions. They found out the study that shows we have a slow, reflective system and we have a fast, automatic system. The slow system entitles us to learn how to for example drive a car and the fast system allows us to drive effortlessly once we have mastered the skill it self.

Service and Gallagher show that the main key to think small is to understand when and how to activate the slow system and where and how to encourage the fast system to take over. It isn’t easy, because although the automatic system entitles us to live our lives in this complex world – for example, driving a car without having to think all the time about using the pedals – it is also prone to make systematic errors. Human beings have limited cognitive bandwidth and we will fail if we go beyond what our attention span can handle. That’s exactly why all the small details matter. Thinking small helps us achieve the great goals by using the relative strengths of the reflective and automatic systems, while avoiding the traps of them both.

At the end of the book, the writers are giving the reader the best bits of advice they’ve ever been given – as they call it. That is: ”Be selfish by helping and working with others.” Alongside driving people to work with others, they also encourage us to push ourselves by taking on some things that we know will represent more of a challenge. This takes the reader to the final advice of keep practising by focusing on the innovations we can make to the things we find the most challenging.

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