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Christian Shoes

This article relates to my situation. I am in school now working on my MBA. The semester is coming to a close. Next week I have a term project due, a case study to present and two group projects due. These are four huge assignments all due at once

Sarah Green

Bob, I interviewed Shawn for the HBR IdeaCast after reading his book and finding it incredibly helpful. I'm so glad to see it appearing here on your blog, as well! It's a great into to positive psychology and, especially helpful, actually has lots of actionable advice on how to use this knowledge to your advantage.

Sarah Green

Jon Anastasio

I appreciate the wisdom of breaking down huge goals, but I really love the power created by breaking down the goal, managing activation energy, and attacking it all with optimism. An unbeatable combination, I think!

I've been talking about the importance of short and medium term goals a lot lately (in the context of learning and behavior change) so this is terrific support - thank you!

The phrase "They literally shut off your brain" did make my eye twitch, though. I'm pretty sure having your brain literally shut off = dead...

Daniel Christadoss

Excellent article ans so true in our day to day professional & personal life.
I believe any assignment or problem can be broken down till we feel it is in manageable chunks.
At that point we have understood and conquered it.
Success is then assured.

Josh Verienes

It so true, I see it almost everyday in life. My example is from the university, when you study for exams or writing a paper, but you are just getting paralyzed. You think about how hard and impossible it is, instead of just dividing your work into small little achievable parts.

Dibyendu De

Appreciate the fact that big goals need to be broken down to smaller ones for people to comprehend and respond properly.

However we generally miss out on one more possibility that is 'what about having very small goals only' and build on them.

That way it not only makes it easier for people but also helps in creating all round impact in a more self organizing manner.

David W.

I have been a believe in the BHAGs to get organizations to come up with breakthroughs. However, I see the danger of demotivation. Thanks for the article.

Alex B

I experienced this paralysis full force no more than a week ago. Left with one day left on a huge work project, I found myself unable to even begin sorting my research and data. I felt it could not be done and, in a panic, there was shut down. So I gave up for an hour, then tinkered away at some simple regressions. This led me to other simple calculations and ideas. 12 hours later (with limited rest) I presented a full, invoking report. Breaking it down. Love it.

Luis from Cursos de Negocios

I read the Spanish version of the Shawn Acor's book and I also agree about his investigations, specially in "The Tetris Effect". Thabks for your interesting article.


thanks bob

I cant agree more that breaking big goals into smaller ones is important.Thanks for the Article.


This is a very enlightening post. I have big ideas and goals for myself, yet when it comes down to it I freeze and never understood why. I see now that I need to break it into simpler smaller manageable steps in order to be successful. Thanks for the insight.

Jorge Barba

This is also corresponds with the Heath Brother's findings on 'Script the Steps' in their book Switch. People need steps spilled out for them.

Point the destination but also script the critical moves.


Shawn's book sounds interesting indeed. Time to visit my local library or book store I guess :)

Adam Searcy

Sometimes people will listen to words of wisdom for years before it clicks for whatever reason. Perhaps some arguable scientific results will just be the trigger some folks need to just take a step back and tackle one task at a time...
Good luck, you'll get there, don't forget to look up once in awhile.



Great post. I've just started a new job at a new company and I've begun to feel overwhelmed and seemingly can't grasp even the more simpler directions provided to me, and I've been literally wondering if maybe brain has just gotten to full (or I've just gotten to old). This posts reminds me this feeling/challenge is normal. I will say however, as another commenter alluded to, some people seem better adapting and so perhaps they are able to better prioritize/process the mountain of information?


Any research on the relative sensitivity of individuals to the influence of the amygdala? Seems that some are more prone than others.


It's really quite odd how the amygdala works. I hate to shameless self-promote but I can a brief talk on that exact finding at a recent Ignite event.

Kevin Rutkowski

Thanks for this. I love when science backs up theories.

Whenever I think about the concept of breaking things into small pieces, I think about two quotes that I'd like to share.

The first one is from a book called "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life" by Anne Lamont.

"Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he'd had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'"

The second quote is from a lighter source: the stop-motion animation Christmas special, "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town."

"Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door"


This article relates to my situation. I am in school now working on my MBA. The semester is coming to a close. Next week I have a term project due, a case study to present and two group projects due. These are four huge assignments all due at once. When I think about it the assigments are daunting and I get stressed out not knowing where to begin. I can identify with the paralysis. But somehow I force myself to tackle a little at a time and I am making progress.

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