New Year’s Resolutions: Stretching for the stars

True confidence can only be found if we put our creative vision for our life to the test, and stretch our selves to the utmost.  – 3 of Wands

What you are is what you have been, what you will be is what you do now. – Buddha

If you’re like me, the New Year always brings with it an element of nostalgia – or better yet, regret – because I realize that I didn’t quite accomplish what I said I was going to do. When you look back at 2013, what are the things that you most regret NOT doing? In the early months of 2014, are you on track to NOT DOING them again? Rather than beat myself up, however, I look at January as an ideal opportunity to transform regrets into opportunities, or goals, for this coming year. And then, because I like to focus on the extraordinary, think about how these goals can S*T*R*E*T*C*H. I love stretch goals because they challenge us to break out of the routine. Are you ready to stretch your goals and give yourself a good mental/emotional workout?

To begin, write down five things, both professionally and personally, that you regret not doing last year. With this in mind, then make a list of the five things that you’d like to accomplish in 2014, again both professionally and personally.

reach-for-the-starsNOW, STRETCH THOSE GOALS
The concept of “stretch goals” has been in management vocabulary, under various names, for some time. By definition, stretch goals are goals that you don’t know how to reach. By specifying the “unattainable”, you start to “think outside the box”, and thus ostensibly are able to improve achievement by an extent you never thought possible. For most of us, reaching a goal is tremendously rewarding and provides important psychological nourishment and reinforcement – reaching a stretch goal provides more bang for your buck.

Now go back and think about what you want to accomplish this year. How can you turn these goals into stretch goals? Without the challenge to set stretch goals, we often take smaller steps than we’re capable of. By challenging ourselves to create outrageous goals, we consider stepping farther than we might ordinarily. Even if you consider the outrageous goal to be too much of a stretch, you will more than likely settle on goals that are bigger than you would have initially chosen, had you not been challenged. Below are some tips for setting stretch goals:

Make sure the goal is compelling
What makes this goal important to you? Easy enough, right? If you’re having trouble with this step, think about what would make your heart sing.

Search for your growing edge
One of the key inhibitors of success is staying within your comfort zone, the place that feels safe and warm and stagnant because the terrain is already explored. You are not learning or achieving anything new in this space. So your comfort zone becomes, in reality, a Box of Fear, as one of my Spiritual Selling* mentors calls it. To achieve stretch goals, you’ll need to push past your boundaries. So here are some questions for you:

  1. Remember key times you stepped out of your comfort zone and how you felt afterward.
  2. What happens when you expand or contract your comfort zone?
  3. Imagine stepping out of your comfort zone now.
  4. To accept life’s invitation to act with courage, what actions will you take?
  5. What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail?
  6. What would take you out of your comfort zone?
  7. What’s one ambitious element you could add to your goal and still achieve it?
  8. How could you make that goal 10 times bigger and still achieve it?

Balance the outrageous, ambitious and practical
The risk of “stretch goals” is that the goal is initially set in a wild burst of enthusiasm, and then when we don’t reach them, we feel like a failure. I suspect that many people have lived for years with this kind of “achievement failure”…constantly setting goals that are not realistic. This failure can become a habit… and mediocrity becomes acceptable.

To set yourself up for success, then, Loren Dunton, a noted sales visionary and strategist, recommends the Ten Percent Secret. The Ten Percent Secret embraces the psychological power of small successes. Mr. Dunton believes that modest goals, set and achieved daily and weekly, are much more energizing than the goals that are set impossibly high at the outset. So you can set Point B bar high and then ascertain your Point A (where you are now) and create a stepped approach, adding 10% on to your goals each day or week.

Create daily habits for success
The habit of setting priorities, overcoming procrastination, and getting on with your most important task is a mental and physical skill. As such, this habit is learnable through practice and repetition, over and over again, until it locks into your subconscious mind and becomes a permanent part of your behavior. —Brian Tracy

Small, constructive actions done on a daily or routine basis can quickly give you a sense of accomplishment and momentum. These daily habits form a foundation for major changes to take place. What actions, if taken on a regular basis, would make a difference for you? How do these daily actions tie into your strategic plan?

Establish debrief and accountability strategies
A valuable reason for working with a coach is to ensure accountability for what we want to create in our lives. Conventional views of accountability usually involve penalties for unmet goals, yet a more empowering accountability structure, that a coach can provide, helps you identify actions and what you want to be held accountable for, so that you take full ownership. Some great questions to ask yourself, as you go through your achievement journey are:

  1. What did you learn?
  2. How do you want to adjust your plan?
  3. What do you need to do to move forward?
  4. If you scrap the old plan, what would the new plan look like?
  5. What support do you need to follow through?

Understand procrastination
In contrast, when procrastination becomes repetitive, own what’s happening and look beneath the surface for fears or unmet needs. You can ask probing questions such as, “How important is this goal to you?” or “What’s more important to you than achieving this goal?” or “What’s getting in the way?”

Next Up:  The importance of sharing your goals and cultivating a support network – because  “No Man is an Island, Unto Himself” – or herself, as the case may be.

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