Let’s say you’re feeling great this morning.  You can take on the world.  You make your to-do list and it’s 12 items long, but that’s OK!  You plan the metrics that you’ll track this year – all 16 of them.  You decide your Code needs a refresh, and that the project should start immediately.

Cut to six months later.  Your metrics tracking project has died, with you only tracking two basic metrics.  You’ve given up on the Code refresh after trying to set up a working group.  You feel defeated and decide to view news sites at work instead of trying to accomplish the next task on your to-do list…which has now grown to 14 items.

What’s going on here?  Author Vishen Lakhiani says, “We tend to overestimate what we can do in one year and underestimate what we can do in three years.”  In his book, The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, he argues that we tend to bite off more than we can chew in the short term, and not expect nearly enough of ourselves in the long term.  Both tendencies tend to work against our long-term success.  How can we counter this?

First:  Create a Vision

Think about where you’d like to be in three years.  Break it down into personal and work.  For your personal life, think about things like your health, family life, and personal finances. 

For your program, think big.  How many people would you like working in your program?  What sort of budget do you have?  Maybe you envision having virtual reality anti-bribery training for your sales team.  Maybe you’d like state-of-the art metrics software that pulls data from your various programs to give you complete and up-to-the minute reporting. Don’t let your vision scare you.  Make it large. 

Second: Feel Your Vision, and See it in Technicolor

Pick some touchstones that emotionally resonate with you.  For instance, perhaps one of your personal goals is to “be healthier.”  Make that concrete by imaging yourself crossing the finish line of a 10-k race.  Really feel yourself in the space, running, sweating, celebrating.  See your family or best friend cheering for you at the finish line. Make it real for yourself.

For your program, if you want to have virtual reality anti-bribery training, see yourself in the room with the sales team all walking around with face-masks talking to invisible people in the midst of a truly innovative experience.  Hear the thanks you receive as they experience a new reality – one in which they’ve practiced how they will respond if pressured to act unethically.

Third: Set Small Nudge-Creating Goals

Numerous studies show that people lose faith in their own capacity to meet their goals (and their own sense that they can trust themselves) when they fail to accomplish what they’ve set out to do.  Instead of making large goals, start with small milestones that will nudge you toward your vision.  One of the tenets of Nudge Theory posits that small accomplishments lead to feelings of success, and those feelings of success make a person more likely to reach for the next small goal.  Small goals are the key to large successes.

Commit to taking one 20-minute walk this month.  That small step, and the feeling of accomplishment that accompanies it, can make you significantly more likely to hit your 10-k running goal in three years.

Check out all of the training vendors at the next conference you attend, and ask each of them if they’re developing any virtual reality simulator training.  Keep checking in with them until you get a yes. 

By simply remembering that your three-year vision can come true with small goals, you’ll make your vision much more likely to become your reality.  Besides, by the time you reach your three-year vision, it’ll be time for a new one to be created.  Imagine that.