This week’s issue of Becoming a Strategic Partner features an essay on goal-setting by Earl Nightingale. He uses two examples – a bricklayer and a consultant – to emphasize that success comes from a series of small actions, each prioritized and done well.

“You don’t need to overwork or to rush blindly into your work trying to do the greatest possible number of things in the shortest possible time,” Nightingale writes.

To achieve this “habit of success,” you need only to focus on the most important tasks and succeed in each small task of each day. Enough of these and you have a successful week, month, year, and lifetime. …

But most people live a life of quiet mediocrity and never achieve the success they truly desire because they get impatient. They want easy success or none at all. They see the path to success as a frustration, an impediment. Each day spent short of the ultimate goal is viewed as a time of failure and an annoyance. As such, they get distracted by hundreds of little things.

A bricklayer can only lay one brick at a time, and the finished structure is compromised if he lays them haphazardly, but the structure will be strong and beautiful if he lays each brick with purpose and precision.

Nightingale then tells the story of a consultant whose simple advice led to significant growth for a steel company. The consultant asked the executive to list and rank the six most important things he needed to do the next day, then work on No.1 until it was complete, at which time he should move on to No.2, and so on. The advice worked so well, Nightingale writes, that the executive wrote the consultant a check for $25,000.

Nightingale advises his readers to do the same: Make a list tonight of the six most important things you need to do, rank them 1 through 6, then begin working on No.1 tomorrow morning and see the task to completion; then move on to No.2, and work until it’s completed; then on to No.3, and so on.

“One day at a time, handled successfully, will carry you over every hurdle,” Nightingale writes. “It will solve every problem. You can relax in the happy knowledge that successful tasks make successful days, which in turn build a successful life.”