How Tackling Small Challenges Can Help You Find Big Success

Executing on Plans / November 20, 2017 / JD

Change for the better can be overwhelming. With just 8% of People Achieving Their New Year’s Resolutions, you might wonder to yourself “what’s the point?” So, what to do? Well, According to Sean Anchor of The Happiness Advantage Zorro Circles might just be the ticket.


Zorro Circles are a tactic suggested by Achor to help you be more successful by focusing on just one small area at a time, mastering that, and then moving forward. Zoro Circles help you set small goals that you can achieve and then increasing the scope of the target as you master it. When we set goals, we want to shoot for the stars and think big. Be it tackling your inbox after a long vacation, achieving your sales targets, or losing weight?

“One of the biggest drivers of success is the belief that our behavior matters; that we have control over our future. Yet, when our stresses and workloads seem to mount faster than our ability to keep up, feelings of control are often the first things to go, especially when we try to tackle too much at once. If, however, we first concentrate our efforts on small manageable goals, we regain the feelings of control so crucial to performance. By first limiting the scope of our efforts, then watching those efforts have the intended effect, we accumulate resources, knowledge, and confidence to expand the circle, gradually conquering a larger and larger area”. – Sean Anchor, The Happiness Advantage

Whether you’re looking to achieve personal growth for yourself, or you manage a team and want to set better goals for your team’s growth, here is how you can apply the Zoro Circle strategy.

1. Start With Smaller Attainable Goals

The namesake of the Zorro Circle came from the movie “The Mask of Zorro” starring Antonio Banderas and Anthony Hopkins, from a scene where young Alejandro, who later dons the mask and name Zorro, is taught how to master the sword and other skills by first training in a small circle. Only after mastering control of that little circle was he then allowed to try more difficult feats.  You can use the same technique to help you achieve big goals, one step at a time.

For example, if your goal is to get control over your inbox, your first Zorro Circle may be to “make sure I answer all the emails I get today.” If it’s going to the gym, consider making your goal that you go to the gym once a week to start building up the habit. It is essential that you start with goals that while achievable, are a change in your behaviour and is repeatable. As you achieve this goal regularly, you will be bolstered by your successes, building confidence and control all the while pushing any negative thoughts back.

2. Increase Scope Only After You’ve Mastered It

Once you’ve achieved your goal, most of us might increase the pressure and give ourselves more difficult targets. But this is not the way of the Zorro circle. Now that you have got some confidence in your stride don’t get impatient and choose something out of reach. Continue to focus on THE SAME target and work until you’ve found MASTERY. Mastery, of course, is when this change of behaviour becomes second nature to you. Remember, the purpose of Zorro Circles is to set big goals and stick to them for life. Only until you can achieve your current Zorro circle regularly are you ready to increase the scope and move onto a bigger one.

Using the Gym as an example, the first Zorro Circle would be to go to the Gym once a week. Once you’ve been able to establish this as a habit for a period of time, say two months, are you ready to increase the scope. Initially, it was not important what you did there really, but that you went. To ratchet things up, you could focus on follow through with a more specific gym regiment, which specifies the types of exercises you do and on what days. Because going to the gym in ingrained into you, the challenge of simply going to the gym has been removed and you can focus solely on improving your work out.


3. Rinse and Repeat

Zorro Circles are a cycle of ever-increasing challenges to make long-lasting change. As you master one circle, you move on to a greater one, master that, and increase the level of challenge again. All this time getting wins experiencing those gains. It is a matter of building momentum and accumulating the confidence, control, and experience you need to conquer the big picture goal you set out to achieve.

The difficult part, of course, is staying persistent, disciplined and patient but ultimately, that is typically the tough part of all the life’s challenges. Zorro Circles give you a systematic way to take on these challenges and incrementally achieve them so you can make lifelong lasting changes for the better.


If you’re interested in Zorro Circles, and other practical ways to increase your success and happiness, check out the (The Happiness Advantage by Sean Anchor.

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