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Stretch Goals Matter

Stretch Goals Matter

My son, Harold, is 7 months old (You can glimpse him at the end of a movie here). He’s mastered sitting up, and now he’s trying to figure out moving around on the ground. I’ve realized something pertinent to careers this morning based on this experience, and thought I’d share it.

(You didn’t think this was suddenly Parent Hacks, did you?)

Stretch Goals Matter

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Harold was trying to reach a toy just a hair out of his reach. I almost leaned over and handed it to him, but then I realized the moment: he had a shot at achieving something. It’d take some work, and he’d really have to be uncomfortable and unfulfilled until he got the job done, but the end product would be achievement. Accomplishment.

What good would handing the block to him be? He’d be satisfied, but not fulfilled. It’s the difference between a lunch of potato chips versus a lunch with a salad and sandwich and water. Both fill the belly, but one adds value.

But Don’t Stretch Too Far

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Now, had I come over and pulled the block 12 feet away, Harold would recognize right away that he wouldn’t be able to get the block. At least not at his current level. Instead, he’d be frustrated, sad, and probably start looking around for something new to do.

Sound like employees? Sound like you?

Set Stretch Goals

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If you read Lifehack, you already know that YOU set the goals, not the employer. Right? If you’re letting your boss set your goals, you’ve got something that needs correcting. Your annual goal list must be beneficial to both parties, and supervisors use goals to correct actions, train you for new roles, etc, but ultimately, this is YOUR process. Agreed? Good.

Do I have to tell you about SMART goals? You know that too, right? Simple, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timebound.

Let’s do the process in order:

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  1. Bring out your personal mission statement, or write down on a 3×5 card what matters most to you, in all the roles of your life.
  2. Set a HUGE goal for each of those roles that matter to you. (For instance, if you’ve said your fitness matters, and you’ve just started working out two or so times a week, the HUGE goal could be “Sign up for a Marathon 10 months from today.”)
  3. Set stretch goals to get there. In the example listed, the first might be to schedule a run/walk program, and start it.
  4. Set dates for each small segment, each stretch goal. Dates matter.
  5. COMMUNICATE the dates with someone that will help you be accountable.
  6. Boil the goals list down into something that fits into your context/execution system (like Getting Things Done).
  7. Execute against the plan.
  8. Schedule goal reviews every month. Correct your course accordingly.
  9. CELEBRATE goal milestones reached.

This is something you can use if you’re self-employed, unemployed, over-employed. It fits inside all the frameworks of our lives. My point about not letting your company run you is vital to the process, and important to realizing who’s in control of your self-improvement. Oh. Right. “SELF” improvement. “PERSONAL” development.

Harold got the block, and he was really happy with it. And, just like you and your career, Harold celebrated the victory, and then went on to his next goal, a stuffed cat named Cowboy Kitty.

Want to share? Submit a few of your HUGE goals and the stretch goals you’ll use to get there to the comments of this post. Or send trackbacks to the post and I’ll come visit your site.

–Chris Brogan has the HUGE goal of taking Grasshopper New Media to full startup mode by 2007. He writes about the business at [chrisbrogan.com]

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut only to get back into another one.

How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

  • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
  • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
  • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
  • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
  • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
  • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnancy in life, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help.

Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

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1. Realize You’re Not Alone

Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths.

Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

2. Find What Inspires You

Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation.

What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem.

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If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

3. Give Yourself a Break

When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave.

Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future.

These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

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4. Shake up Your Routines

Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’re 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

5. Start with a Small Step

Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward.

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Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years.

On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

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Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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