Job and Career

‘Move the Chains’: Here’s How Incremental Progress Can Help You Reach Your Goals

Published: Feb. 16, 2024

In the game of football, the goal for each team is the same. Move the ball down the field and score. Each time the offense achieves a first down, the field crew is told to “move the chains.” The progress of moving the ball down field usually happens in small increments and is proof that consistent steps made over time can add up to meeting the goal.

If you’ve struggled with trying to reach a goal, here are five tips to help you “move the chains” and make progress with what you want to achieve.

Set a goal.

Pick something that’s meaningful enough to make a difference in your life, yet simple enough that you can get it done. For instance, a goal of getting in shape is too broad and difficult to measure. A goal should be more specific to allow small steps to build a consistent habit. Instead of setting a goal “to get in shape,” set a goal of completing 100 sit-ups every day. Doing the sit-ups is a meaningful action, is easy to implement and a small step that gets you closer to your goal of getting in shape.

Know the purpose of your goal.

Why is this important to you? You need to truly buy into the purpose for setting your goal so that working on it becomes a priority and you commit to following through.

Focus on actions, not performance.

The important thing to remember, no matter your goal, is to focus on creating a consistent habit without necessarily worrying about exactly how you accomplish it. For example, you don’t have to do the 100 sit-ups fast. You just need to do them. That’s action over performance.

Identify possible obstacles in advance.

By identifying possible barriers, you can adjust your plan. The point is to find a way to keep making progress toward reaching your goal. If your schedule won’t allow you to do the 100 sit- ups all at once, consider breaking them up throughout the day.

Employ the “Seinfeld Strategy.”

Actor/comedian Jerry Seinfeld has an effective way to stay focused on his goal of writing every day. Seinfeld says it doesn’t matter if he likes what he writes--he just writes every day to stay motivated and keep momentum going. This is another example of focusing on action instead of performance. To measure his progress, Seinfeld marks a large “X” on his calendar after he’s done writing. Many weeks on his calendar are marked with an “X” and he’s motivated to not break the streak. You can do the same with whatever your goal is!

A Word About Procrastination

It’s difficult to work on a goal without battling procrastination. In essence, procrastination is a defense mechanism that allows you to cope with the discomfort of doing something new that changes a familiar routine. That discomfort can be real or imagined and is associated with the tasks that lie before you.  One way to cut this obstacle down to size is by keeping these three things in mind:

Keep your “eyes on the prize.”  

What are the benefits associated with what you are trying to accomplish? This goes back to buying into the purpose of your goal.

Break down the task.

Find a way to break up the task into more achievable actions. Ask yourself what little steps you can you take every day to move the chains and get closer to your goal.

Just start. 

Work on the task for 10 minutes. Once you’ve started, it will take more effort to quit than to keep going.

Take some time to assess how you’re moving the chains to meet a goal you’ve set. Are there barriers holding you back? It’s not too late to adjust if you’re not making progress. By implementing the tips above, you'll eventually develop a consistent routine to meet your goal head on. 

Want more informational tips and resources? Check out our free on-demand webinars and a variety of articles in our Resource Hub.

Also remember that Best Care EAP counselors are available to meet in-person, over the phone or via telehealth. To schedule a confidential appointment, please fill out the Counseling Registration Form. If you have issues with the form, call our office at (402) 354-8000 or (800) 801-4182 and we'll be glad to help.

About the Author

Lisa Dempsey serves on the Best Care Employee Assistance Program Sales and Marketing team as the coordinator of communications/promotions.

She works closely with clients to create promotional materials and helps generate content for the Best Care EAP website.

Dempsey enjoys learning about health topics by interviewing health care professionals. She also likes working collaboratively on ad campaigns and being involved at events within the community.

See more articles from Lisa Dempsey
Lisa Dempsey