How to Reach Your Goals


A few years ago, I did a week-long bike ride through the Rocky Mountains with about 1,000 other cyclists. Now, I am no cycling beast -- especially not next to the dynamos that led the pack on this bike ride -- but I was determined to get myself through this ride. There was one hill I thought would kill me. It looked to be about 10 miles to the top. As I pumped my legs, already depleted from the day's effort, I stared in despair at the top of the hill and thought, "I'm never going to get there." And then I changed my focus: instead of looking up at how far I had to go, I looked down at the small patch of road right in front of my bike. I thought to myself, "All I have to do is get past the next three feet." I pedaled once, and I'd done it. And then I thought it again: "Just the next three feet." I did it again. And again: "Just the next three feet." I don't know how many times I said it to myself, but I made it to the top of that hill without getting off my bike.

What does this have to do with test prep? Getting from here to there -- reaching any goal -- takes consistent effort, and another name for that consistent effort is PRACTICE. But how do you practice in a way that yields you real progress? You've got a million homework assignments to do -- how can you make sure you get them done?

Wynton Marsalis, an awesome trumpet player in a family of awesome musicians, has a terrific article here about how to practice. I encourage you to check out his article, and I want to focus here on the 2nd and 3rd items in his list: WRITE OUT A SCHEDULE and SET GOALS.

How are you supposed to tackle that mountain of assignments? Most people will say "one at a time," and they are right! But setting schedules and goals can help ensure that those "one at a time" steps take you in a consistent direction. If you set a goal ("I'm going to get through 100 past mistakes by Friday") and write out a schedule to achieve it ("I'm going to sit down at my desk at 7:30pm every night, put my phone on Do Not Disturb, set a timer for 30 minutes, and work till the timer goes off"), by Friday you'll find you've taken a whole lot of steps.

Sometimes looking all the way up the hill is overwhelming. So for now, just try to get past the next three feet. Before you know it, you'll be right where you want to be -- at the top.