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How To Break Down Big Goals | The Ultimate Guide

If you have an ambitious goal you’d love to achieve, but you don’t know where to start, this article will explain exactly how to break down big goals and actually achieve them. This 3 step process for breaking down complex goals into actionable steps will allow you to succeed in achieving the big goals you have for your life and business, while enjoying the process.


The best way to grow personally and professionally is to set ambitious goals that stretch you to the edge of your comfort zone. The best way to erode your self trust is to leave it at that, without breaking down goals into actionable steps, and assume it’ll all just fall into place…

If you’re reading this article, I know you value personal growth and are ready to make big things happen in order to create a 10/10 life. This article was written specifically to help you break down big goals into actionable steps so that you can actually achieve them and see the level of success you’re craving in your life and business.

As a life and business success coach that’s been helping ambitious women and entrepreneurs create exponential business and personal growth for years, I’ve seen the power of breaking down big goals into manageable steps to help you create momentum and see results.

You are capable of achieving incredible things, if you dare to really go for it.

I’m here to help you stop settling for mediocrity and create wild success in your life and business.

You can start by reading this article and learning how to break down big goals, and if you feel the pull to receive a deeper level of support in your life/business, find a time to chat with me here.

how to break down big complex goals into actionable action steps so that you can actually achieve them by life and business success coach Ana McRae with image of mug and black goal setting planner on desk explaining 5 step process for breaking down goals

Why learn how to break down your goals?

You’ve probably heard that most people will never achieve their most important goals. In fact, over 80% of people give up on their goals within weeks. There are a number of reasons that people fail to achieve their biggest goals, but the 3 most common reasons that people give up are:

Your goals are not aligned with what you really want

If you’re working toward something you don’t actually want, you will fail to achieve it. This happens when your goals are set from a place of comparing yourself to others (especially in the day and age of social media), or when you try to mold yourself to parental/societal expectations, instead of getting honest with yourself and setting goals that stem from your deepest values. For example, if you are trying to get 10,000 followers on Instagram because someone you look up to does, but you actually don’t like spending the majority of your day online, you won’t get very far.

Related post: How To Define Your Core Values

Your limiting beliefs get in the way

At some level, whether consciously or subconsciously, if you believe your goal isn’t achievable for you, or that it will take a really long time and a lot of sacrifice to achieve, or you’ll disappoint people when you get there, your brain will keep you stuck. You can’t really blame it, as that’s its job (to maintain the status quo and keep you “safe” from your own growth) but you CAN get intentional about overcoming your limiting beliefs and self sabotaging patterns of behavior. If you aren’t aware of the limiting beliefs that are preventing you from stepping into your full potential, you won’t reach your goals, and worse even still, you won’t understand why (because limiting beliefs exist at a subconscious level but affect your actions in a very real way).

Related post: How Your Mindset Is Keeping You Stuck

You don’t know where to start

If you aren’t breaking down goals into actionable steps, you won’t be able to start working toward them. Starting is always the hardest part and your job is to make it as easy as possible to overcome that initial resistance until you create enough momentum to keep you going. Most people have some idea of where they want to be in 10 years, and no idea how to get there. This is exactly why I wrote this entire article on how to break down your goals, so that you have a simple and super effective 3 step process for breaking down big goals into action steps so that you can make progress on your biggest dreams.

How To Break Down Big Goals Into Actionable Steps

This article will serve as your step by step guide to breaking down your goals into action steps so that you’re set up to succeed. Do you have a goal in mind? Let’s get started with breaking it down!

Step 1: Think Big

Most people have a tendency to set a goal and then start thinking of the steps to achieve it right away. Think big before you think small. Zoom out to your big why (your vision for your life, your mission here on Earth, your deepest values) and assess how well your goal fits into your why. Ask yourself how your goal ties into your vision. Is it aligned with your values? Does it move you closer to the life you want to live 10 years from now? Don’t start working on goals for the sake of working on goals. Take the time to think strategically and ensure your goals align with the future you want to create for yourself.

Related post: How To Find Your Purpose & Work You Love In 8 Steps

how to break down big complex goals into actionable action steps so that you can actually achieve them by life and business success coach Ana McRae with image of mug and black goal setting planner on desk explaining 5 step process for breaking down goals

Step 2: Set Your Goal Effectively

It is absolutely critical that you’re working with a goal that was set effectively. Nothing wishy washy or vague can be mapped into action steps. Your goal must be rooted in a very strong WHY. Your goal must be crystal clear, so that you know exactly what you’re working toward. You’ve got to be able to measure its progress & know when you’ve achieved it. It must be within your control so that you have direct influence over its success.

Related post: The Ultimate Guide to Setting Goals and Achieving Personal Growth

Here’s where my perspective differs from most “goal setting gurus”: your goal can be as UNrealistic as you want (knowing that “realistic” is defined by each individual, and your paleolithic brain has no capacity to understand just how much you’re capable of) and it doesn’t need a deadline (because if it’s truly important to you and aligned with your deepest values, it doesn’t matter whether you hit it tomorrow or ten years from now, and deadlines often give people a reason to quit just before the going gets good).

Related post: Why SMART GOALS Fail and How To Achieve Them

Here’s an example of a goal well set (one that we’ll use throughout the rest of this article): I will build an online business earning $100,000/year so that I can quit my job, work from anywhere in the world, and make an impact doing work I love!

Step 3: Break Down Your Goals Into Milestones

Each goal usually has 3-5 milestones that must be hit in order to achieve it. Milestones are the big chunks of work that need to happen in order to hit your overall goal.  In general, they build off of each other and lead up to your goal. For our example, in our goal of building an online business, the 3-5 milestones might be

  • Establish yourself as an authority
  • Create a product / service to sell
  • Market to your ideal clients
  • Sell and receive money from paying clients
  • Grow your business

Each milestone is a substantial amount of work, but it is an essential part of achieving your big goal.

What do the 3-5 milestones look like for your big goal? Take 3 minutes to think through it right now before moving on to step 3.

Related post: Are You Working On The Right Goals?

how to break down big complex goals into actionable action steps so that you can actually achieve them by life and business success coach Ana McRae with image of mug and black goal setting planner on desk explaining 5 step process for breaking down goals

Step 4: Break Down Your Milestones Into Outcomes

Each milestone is still takes a substantial amount of time and effort, and therefore needs to be further broken down into outcomes. Outcomes are the high level tasks that must be completed in order to hit the milestone. Again, there are usually 3-5.

It’s very important to continue breaking down the milestone and pinpoint what those outcomes look like so that you can move toward identifying the tangible tasks. If you try to put something like “establish yourself as an authority” on your to do list, you won’t get very far. Instead, brainstorm all of the outcomes that are required in order to achieve EACH milestone.

To demonstrate with the example above, the outcomes for establish yourself an authority in the industry might include:

  • Start a blog to showcase your thought leadership
  • Create a social media presence to create awareness of your perspective
  • Get a certification in the industry to demonstrate credentials

Some milestones will have more than 3-5 outcomes, and that’s okay. Write them all down, but then prioritize which 3 are most likely to get you the result you need with the least amount of effort? You are looking for the fastest path to your success. If you’re not sure, use the 9 square prioritization matrix to prioritize effectively.

Take 5 minutes to identify the 3-5 outcomes for each of your milestones now.

Related post: How To Prioritize Any List: The 9 Square Tool

how to break down big complex goals into actionable action steps so that you can actually achieve them by life and business success coach Ana McRae with image of goal setting planner and pen on desk explaining 5 step process for breaking down goals

Step 5: Break Down Your Outcomes Into Action Steps

As you can probably tell by now, you’re going to keep breaking down your big goal until you get to a level that is actionable. Depending on whether you’re working with a very high level goal, or more of a quick win, the number of times you have to drill down will vary. You’ll know when you’re at the actionable level because the task will be something that you can time block in your calendar and complete within 3 hours.

In the case of our example goal (starting a business), we have to drill down again. You can tell because the outcomes we got to in step 3 (like start a blog) are still not actions we can time block in the calendar. So let’s dig a level deeper.

Breaking down the outcome of Start a blog to showcase your thought leadership might look like this:

  • Secure domain
  • Set up WordPress site
  • Create content
  • Publish site

As you can see, now we’re working at a level that is actionable.

You can take each of those actions and achieve them within a reasonable amount of time (<3 hours). You can schedule them into your calendar, sit down to work on it, and know exactly what actions you need to take and the result that you’re looking to achieve. Sure, you could technically break each of those actions down even further, but it’s not necessary because you’re now working at an actionable level.

Related post: How to Do a Life Audit & Why It’s So Powerful

life and business success coach Ana McRae planner and pen

Step 6: Take Action

The most important aspect of breaking down complex goals into actionable steps is actually going out and following through with them! If you’re a perfectionist or a procrastinator, you may love to create lists and plans and strategies, but frequently fail to execute them. I’ve been there and I get it. It’s fun to plan and dream and it’s hard to do the work.

This is exactly why having an experienced life & business success coach in your corner, holding you accountable and helping you achieve your goals makes the difference between people who step into their full potential and achieve remarkable things, and those that settle for mediocrity. Curious about coaching? Check out my 1:1 VIP Business Coaching or 1:1 VIP Purpose Coaching programs.

Related post: 7 Sad Reasons Why People Stay In Jobs They Hate vs Starting A Business

The best way to start taking action on your goals is to time block your actions into your calendar. Which day will you be completing x action? At what time will you start & how long will you give yourself? Map it out in your paper planner or your Google Calendar.

When your week reflects your priorities your follow through rate increases substantially and you’re able to create real results in your life/business.

Related post: How To Simplify Your To Do List To The Essentials

life and business success coach shares images of goal setting planner to help you break down your goals into actionable steps

This is how you make break down goals into action steps and make meaningful progress toward your dreams.

How To Break Down Your Goals Into Action Steps

  1. Think Big

    Ensure your goals align with your values and the future you want to create for yourself.

  2. Set Your Goal Effectively

    Nothing wishy washy or vague can be mapped into action steps.

  3. Break Down Your Big Goal Into Milestones

    Each goal usually has 3-5 milestones that must be hit in order to achieve it. Milestones are the big chunks of work that need to happen in order to hit your overall goal. 

  4. Break Down Your Milestone Into Outcomes

    Each milestone is still takes a substantial amount of time and effort, and therefore needs to be further broken down into outcomes. Outcomes are the high level tasks that must be completed in order to hit the milestone.

  5. Break Down Your Outcomes Into Action Steps

    You’ll know when you’re at the actionable level because the task will be something that you can time block in your calendar and complete within 3 hours.

  6. Take Action

    The most important aspect of breaking down complex goals into actionable steps is actually going out and following through with them! The best way to start taking action on your goals is to The most important aspect of breaking down complex goals into actionable steps is actually going out and following through with them!

I will caution you, after you break down your goals, you may start to feel a little overwhelmed and worried that you don’t know enough about what you’re doing to be able to achieve this goal. If you’re getting stuck on the specific actions or outcomes that you’re looking for, and you can’t fill in those blanks, don’t worry. This is normal. Start with what you know.

When in doubt, just do SOMETHING. 

Action trumps indecision every single time

ANA MCRAE

Then, fill in the gaps.

What do you need to look up? Google is your best friend.

Who do you know that could be of service? Find a mentor, ask a friend, talk to someone who has done it before, or find a course that can teach you this aspect of the goal.

You can grow into whoever you want to become.

Whatever you do, don’t waste your time worrying about whether you know what you’re doing or not. In the end, it really doesn’t matter.

Related post: The 4 Biggest Things Holding You Back In Life

None of the leaders you look up to were 100% prepared for the challenges they took on. They just went for it, and figured it out as they went along. 

Action is the only way to your goal

ANA MCRAE

You can do this. You just need to believe in yourself and do the mindset work necessary to unravel your limiting beliefs and charge head first in pursuit of your dream.

Related post: How To Stop Fear From Holding You Back In Life & Business

And as always, I am here to help you with achieving more success, happiness, and fulfillment in life and business. Click here to book in a time to chat and see how I am able to support you in achieving your wildest goals life and business goals faster than you thought was possible.

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Figuring out how to break down your goals into action steps is absolutely essential to achieving them. It’s also critical to maintaining the motivation necessary to stick with them! We think motivation is something we find which spurs action, but the opposite is in fact true.

Motivation is CREATED through the ACTION we take.

And the only way we can take that action is if we’re clear on what the next step is, which is why breaking down your goals is so important.

You do not have to have it all figured out, you just need to know your next step.

If you’re not clear on how to get from where you are to where you want to go, start with breaking down your goals into tiny actionable steps.

And if you want guidance with this, I’d be happy to partner with you one on one to help map out the path to your success.

Book your free 1:1 connection call with me right now and let’s see if this is the right next step for you.

You absolutely have what it takes to achieve that crazy goal tugging at your heart. Now that you know how to break down your goals and map out an action plan, you’re ready to make big things happen. I hope this article was supportive in helping you find a step by step process for breaking down big goals so that you can actually achieve them.


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I’d love to know in the comments below, what’s the big goal you’re focused on breaking down right now?

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