Winning by inches

If you celebrate the small victories, you will eventually win the war.
Ian K. Smith
1969 –

I’ve noticed a certain preference in our culture for fast, dramatic accomplishments: the winning lottery ticket, the Grand Slam home run, the Hail Mary touchdown, the runaway bestseller. We’re drawn to the opportunity for an immediate win, for reaching our goals in one fell swoop. These achievements might appear to be worth chasing — after all, who wouldn’t want a big victory in a short time frame? But what do we lose when we always swing for the fences?

For a start, there’s a reason why big wins have an almost mythic status: they aren’t common and they aren’t easy to achieve. It’s much more difficult to reach a dramatic goal. More often than not, there’s a great deal of luck involved, and luck is a factor you can’t control; no matter how hard you work, the unpredictable elements that influence your situation may not come together in your favor.

What’s more, going straight for the big goal may involve an all or nothing shot: if you don’t succeed, you might come away empty-handed or worse off than you were before. Consider the person who invests the whole of their retirement fund in one stock based on a hot tip; if that stock tanks, they’ve lost their entire investment. Likewise, the person who leaves a secure job for a dream position with a startup company could find themselves unemployed in a year when the business runs out of funding.

You’re also more likely to get discouraged and give up if you only shoot for big wins. Major victories are few and far between; if you keep swinging for the fences and failing, it won’t be long before you decide you’re no good and give up the game entirely.

There’s a lot to be said for targeting and accumulating small victories. Little wins can add up to big gains. Hitting four singles in a row still scores a run. Advancing a few yards each play eventually leads to a touchdown. And consistently saving money will yield a nice nest egg in time.

Setting small goals and aiming for daily progress can help you avoid burnout and sustain motivation. Each victory builds on the last and fuels the next, creating a momentum that will keep you moving towards your ultimate goal. Hitting those small targets on a regular basis boosts your confidence and provides the positive reinforcement necessary to keep you working until you succeed.

The next time you commit to a goal, don’t try to achieve it all in one go. Instead, seek out and achieve the little victories that will eventually get you where you want to be.

Victory is won not in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later, win a little more.
Louis L’Amour

Copyright © 2015 John Chancellor and Cheryl Chancellor


Winning by inches — 2 Comments

  1. I think many people don’t want to do the hard work needed to succeed. They’d much rather fantasize about the big, easy victory like winning the lottery. Much more realistic is to put forth the effort to realize incremental improvements that allow you to grow and ultimately achieve your goal.