There is an old saying/joke that goes something like this:

How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time

When it comes to goals, be them in work or in life, a similar mindset is true.  It is always important to have a clearly defined end goal or state.  Even more important are mapping out the small steps to get there.

One popular animation technique was to draw the starting position of a character and then another image of the end position.  Next the animator drew the image of where the character was in-between the start and end.  This process continued with more in-between images until the whole animation was completed.  Very rarely was an animation drawn from beginning to end.  With modern computer animation, the computers can often fill the gaps between start image and end image.  Even then the animator must remain ever-vigilant and tweak things along the process.

Goals are like cartoon animations.  A person sees where they are right now.  Then they think about where they want to be.  If there are no in-between steps, it is hard to see anything but a dis-jointed flash between start and end.  The goal looks like something on the opposite side of the Grand Canyon from the start position.  It also would not seem wise to attempt a jump with no certainty of reaching that end goal.

The next thing that needs to happen is the planning of the middle steps.  Unlike animation, this can be done one step at a time in order.  However, some may find planning what the middle of the process and so on to be advantageous as well.  In this particular case, if a person were to consider how to get across the Grand Canyon, they might want to first consider their options.  A bridge COULD be a solution but, one could also hike to the bottom and cross the river.  What about hiring a helicopter to get to the other side?  Even if deciding to build a bridge, it might be good to build moorings on either side and then to build the center support section.

Simply put, if a person tries to swallow an elephant all at once, they will likely choke.  If a person cuts small bite-sized chunks from the elephant, freezes a bunch of them for later, and eats only what they can handle right now, it might take a while but, that elephant will most likely get eaten.  Not only that but, with each packet of frozen meat removed from the freezer, that person would be able to see the freezer getting empty.  This might spur them on to eat more or to share the elephant with someone else, excited that they are getting closer to the goal.

No, I don’t condone or encourage eating elephants.  I do encourage that a person look carefully at their goals and then figure out the in-between steps.  Not only are the small steps easy to manage and achieve, they are the clear path by which the end goal is accomplished.