I strongly believe that we should all set some huge, scary goals that stretch you well beyond your current spot in life. These should be things that if you tried them tomorrow, or 6 months from now, you would fail. When looking ahead, you should be shaking your head a little saying “I have no idea how I could ever accomplish that!” And then take that thought and switch your perspective, knowing that it can be done, but you have to take tiny, little steps on a near-daily basis and commit to it. These goals should be like a beacon in the night, like the star over Bethlehem, guiding you on your journey. Some examples of the kind of goals I’m talking about:
- Losing 50 or more pounds
- Running a marathon, or completing a triathlon
- Getting completely out of debt
- Retiring at 50 years old
- Starting a side-hustle business, and turning it into a full time gig
- Switching careers mid-stream to something that you have passion for
These things, when looking at them today, are very intimidating. Most of them you have a lot of control over the ability to accomplish them.
I like motivational speaker/life coach Tony Robbin’s acronym CANI – Constant And Never-ending Improvement. Basically, you do very small things each day and keep track of those small things in a notebook or diary. Just writing these things down is a way to both motivate and track progress, even if that progress is not even really tangible at this point.
For most of us, we tread water each day – get the kids up, pack lunches, go to work, make dinner, play and relax, go to sleep. Even if you exercise, it’s usually to stave off age more than to accomplish a set goal. All that is fine, it can be a fulfilling life by simply treading water and smelling the roses. If you are happy, then you’ve accomplished what we are all striving to achieve in this world, then you can ignore anything else I have to say. If you feel things could be better, then CANI to a large goal is often a large contributor to life fulfillment. Most of those example goals above are solid since they all, in their own way, provide an opportunity to pursue passions, instead of being obligated to work or live for someone else. Or in the case of weight loss, improve health to allow you to pursue other life opportunities, and often to feel more love for yourself.
So I encourage you all to reflect on this coming weekend on some super-stretch goals. Then, take that first step on the journey, and keep track of that step. Buy a small notebook, and take a minute each day to put the date down and what small step you did for the day on life improvement or towards your goal. For example:
- Maybe you want to open a photography business, since you love the beauty of nature and love the energy of weddings, but you don’t even know how to work your camera. So you would write in your diary “Looked at community college classes on photography.” Then, another day you could check out a book on photography from the library as your single step of the day. Another entry could be “read 10 pages in photography book.” Another could be “practiced aperture settings on various garden flowers” or “talked to neighbor about shooting photos for teenage son’s senior pictures for free as beta test of skills.”
- If you want to get rid of $20,000 in debt, the first step may be taking a detailed look at your finances with your spouse, and perhaps not making any changes at this point but just really concentrating on what the situation is. Then a diary entry may be “drank water from the drinking fountain today instead of buying a soda” or “brown bagged it instead of buying lunch.” Another may be “continued to save receipts for the month, dear wife is too, so we can see where we’re spending money.” Then bigger steps can be made like “committed to cutting budget by 20% over next two months” and “cut cable television” and so forth.
- If you hate your job and want to explore a new field that you have passion for, it is going to likely take more training. First, you may decide to do some research to make sure it is worth it, both from a financial aspect as well as from a life fulfillment aspect. Often the dream is different from reality. Maybe you reach out and make contact with someone who has worked in the field. Most people will give you the good and the bad. Then maybe it’s “discussed with husband about this idea.” Then, maybe a diary entry is “started on-line savings account to squirrel away $100 from each paycheck for training/tuition/classes.” and “checked out book from library, read 20 pages tonight, still excited about this path.” And so on…
I’m just like you, I have goals that scare the shit out of me as I look at them from afar, but I chip away at them little by little, not exactly sure how or when I’ll get there. I’ve done this before, and know to have faith in myself, to take it day by day, and to have patience. You can’t swallow that elephant whole, and if you try will will surely fail. You’ll lose faith and patience and quit. Celebrate small goals each day or week and you will surely succeed.
I wrote about this very subject over at Return of Kings awhile back. In my mid-20’s, I wanted to not only complete an Ironman triathlon, but to qualify for the World Championships. The problems were many – I smoked, I was totally out of shape, didn’t know the first thing about road biking, and I didn’t know how to swim (besides not drowning). Over a period of three years I chipped away at these goals day-by-day, session by session, and qualified for Kona on my second try (almost did it in my first). I still have those training logs, and filling those out each day was like connecting the dots to an endpoint I couldn’t quite see, but knew was there.
Have a stretch goal to focus on is like having someone ride shotgun in your head. It helps guide in small ways decisions you want to make, and can sometimes give you tingles as you focus your life energy in a positive way instead of merely treading water. I know you all have your own secret goals and dreams. What are you going to do TODAY to take that small step towards it?