Goals: Start with Quantity then Go for Quality

“If I cannot overwhelm with my quality, I will overwhelm with my quantity.”
–Emile Zola, French novelist

Let’s face it. Goals can be hard to accomplish. New habits can be hard to form. Just ask anybody about their New Year resolutions. It’s probably a long gone memory by now. In fact, don’t ask anybody else. Just ask yourself. You’re probably well acquainted with the perennial challenges of completing the goals you’ve set.

One of the hardest things to do is to just get into the rhythm of accomplishing goals and forming habits. Just getting started and being consistent at the onset can be quite the challenge already. It’s no wonder that so many New Year resolutions fail to simply get off the ground. So I’m going to suggest something unusual that may or may not work for you: start with quantity then go for quality. The popular saying is usually “quality over quantity.” I get that. And that’s probably important for many things in life. But can “quantity then quality” work too? Quantity builds consistency. Consistency will make something more likely to become a habit in the end. And as a habit, you’ll have more opportunity to work on its quality. Let me give two examples from personal experience.

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I write in my spiritual journal. And I do it every single day. Can it be a chore? Yes. When I started, I focused on quantity (number of entries) rather than quality (what I actually wrote). I set out to write something each day. But here’s the catch: I didn’t have to write much. On days where I didn’t feel like it, I’d just write the date and the Bible passages that I read. And so I have plenty of entries in my journal that contain just one single line. It may not be much but it helped me build the discipline to consistently open my journal and write something down. Now that the habit is formed, I’m beginning to work on the quality of what I write. I now have entries that span the whole page of a notebook.

Here’s another example: Bible reading. Sometime last year, I set the goal to read the Bible every single day. Three chapters a day to be exact. Once again, I focused on quantity. The goal was to get those three chapters completed each day. And I’ll be honest, there were days when I didn’t know what I was reading because I was too tired or I simply wasn’t concentrating enough. But I kept going in an attempt to build consistency. And eventually, Bible reading turned into an everyday habit. Now I’m working on quality by reading slower and really trying to absorb more of what each passage is saying.

Will this work for every goal? Probably not. But I’m sure it will work for some. If you’re having a hard time finishing up those goals, try starting with quantity and then go for quality.