‘You have brains in your head, You have feet in your shoes, You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own, And you know what you know, And YOU are the guy who will decide where to go”
At one time in my life, I believed that my success was based on the amount of money I made, how good I was at my job, and how many people liked me. The older I got the more I realized that success for me was actually based around how happy I felt.
I did spend many years caught up in the whirlwind of defining my success by comparing it to how other “successful people” lived their lives. I wasted a lot of energy chasing other peoples’ definition of success.
I never really truly believed I was successful. Many times I felt I was a failure because I believed I was not achieving the levels of success that I perceived people around me were. On the outside I am sure that people considered me to be a success but I never was that happy with myself. I always felt that something was missing and that there was more to life for me.
This Quote Changed My Understanding of Success
“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful”.
Many years ago I read Albert Schweitzer’s quote – his words resonated with me. Maybe I was ready to listen, I don’t know but I did stop and think about how unhappy I was and how unsuccessful I felt. I then tried to work out what I wanted to do that made me happy.
In my heart I always knew that I wanted to live my life writing and teaching, but the thoughts in my head blocked any attempt to acknowledge how much my dream meant to me and there was no way I could tell anyone else either, it was just too scary.So I kept my secret hidden for a long time.
It was also very hard for me to break free from the cycle of success that I aspired to. I was living a life where I believed that money and status would bring me success. I l pursued this definition of success, because, I felt I had to and I was too scared NOT to. When everyone around you works really hard, earns lots of money, has lots of status and all the toys that come with it, you want to have all of that too! You want your kids to have all the things that their friends have and you want to enjoy the comforts of life as well. So you keep working believing that you have no other options and you keep convincing yourself that life is not that bad – but for me over a time it became bad and I started to feel that my life was slipping by.Advertising
Even though I knew what I wanted to do with my life, I did not do anything about it for a long time. There were some feeble attempts but when I got scared I would scurry back to living a life that was familiar and comfortable. I still had to face a few more knock backs before I committed to begin my journey to discovering how to be successful and happy with my life.
“The good news is that the moment you decide that what you know is more important than what you have been taught to believe, you will have shifted gears in your quest for abundance. Success comes from within, not from without.”
-Dalai Lama XIV
I was following the wrong path to success and as a result my chances of feeling that I was successful were zero. Once I started to get clear about what success meant for me and began the journey to living a life where I truly felt successful, then I discovered what it felt like to be happy.
“I want to define success by redefining it. For me it isn’t that solely mythical definition – glamour, allure, power of wealth, and privileged from care. Any definition of success should be personal because it is so transitory. It’s about shaping my own destiny”.
To start the journey to becoming and truly believing that you are successful is hard work and it took me many years to find the courage to step out and begin the journey. If you are wanting success and happiness in your life then you need to really look at the “bad habits” you have created in your life that stop you from achieving the level of success that you desire.
For me there were 10 bad habits I needed to eliminate. By sharing with you how I managed to overcome these bad habits, hopefully this will help you to find your courage to begin your journey to attaining a life of happiness and success.
1. Believing that you have to wait for the right time to begin.
There is no perfect time to start this journey. It will never be perfect and you will always have challenges and obstacles to overcome – it doesn’t really matter – just start NOW. When you choose to be successful then the actions, the decisions and the choices you make today will create your future.
“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great”.
2. Accepting that moderate success is easier to achieve then aiming to achieve your wildest dreams.
It is so much easier to accept being moderately successful than aiming to achieve success beyond your wildest dreams. Dream big and set goals that are beyond the realms of your current reality – go for it ,you may just surprise yourself as to what amazing successes you can achieve.
“If any of you have a desire to be mediocre, you will probably find that you have already achieved your ambition.”
-Hugh B. Brown
3. Believing other peoples’ approval is important to defining your success in life.
You will never start your journey to success if you are waiting for others to give their approval. It is your ego and your fear of being criticised that directs you to seeking their approval. Get over it and move on and do what you have to do to be successful. For me committing to my 12 month plan with practical goals, set tasks and activities was how I overcame this bad habit. I just had to follow the plan and didn’t need anyones approval to do so.
“The good news is that the moment you decide that what you know is more important than what you have been taught to believe, you will have shifted gears in your quest for abundance. Success comes from within, not from without”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
4. Believing that your success can only be defined by the success in your professional life.
This bad habit you have to give up immediately because there is no way you can be successful in one part of your life. Your professional and your personal life are interconnected and all aspects of your life need to be balanced.
“I believe that being successful means having a balance of success stories across the many areas of your life. You can’t truly be considered successful in your business life if your home life is in shambles.”
5. Using other peoples’ definition of success to define who you are and what success looks like for you.
This was one of my really bad habits, in that I constantly compared other people’s successes to how I wanted success to be for me in my life. I now know that success comes from within and once I achieved true happiness living the life I love, then success was guaranteed. Using other peoples success, as a benchmark for my success in life would not bring me happiness – that was something only I could do, nobody else could do that for me.
“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner”
6. Believing that money and wealth is the only measurement to defining how successful you are
I don’t know why so many of us believe that money and wealth defines how successful we are. If I wanted success in my life I had to be earning lots of money – the happiness would come later! Well that didn’t work out for me – even with money I didn’t feel successful! I knew in my heart that money wasn’t going to bring me happiness and for me to feel that I was successful I had to overcome my belief that, my success would be measured by how much money I could make. Once I got that bad habit out of the way, then I was free to embrace on my terms success and happiness in my life.
“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing,and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you”
7. Constantly focusing on all the reasons why you don’t deserve success in your life
This bad habit reflects a lack of self-confidence and belief in you! I had to work really hard to overcome this bad habit. For a long time I would rationalise in my head all the reasons why I felt I wasn’t as successful as my peers, colleagues, and friends. I would look back at all the bad choices I had made in my life and wish I could have been a different person. I spent a lot of time wishing I could be the same as everybody else, because then I would be successful! I didn’t deserve success because I didn’t have the qualities that successful people have. Now I reflect back and I shake my head – what was I thinking??
“In the School of Life events, situations, and the people you have attracted to be part of your personal experiences is synchronized perfectly in order to teach you the lessons that need to be learned. They show you exactly what is needed to be successful in your Life.”
8. You don’t know what you want or what success means for you so you just don’t do anything.
Achieving success in your life is not complicated but you can make it as complicated and as hard as you want. Success requires hard work, perseverance, clarity and focus. If you look at any successful person those elements will feature somewhere in their journey to having a successful life.
To aspire to be successful in your life you have to know what a successful life means for you. Success comes from the way you act, the way you think, your attitude toward life – success is a habit and you work on it everyday of your life. If you don’t know what success means to you then it is really hard to start the journey.
Knowing what you want and setting out a plan with practical goals increases your chances of success. The plan gives you the clarity and focus you need to start the journey – without a plan and not knowing what you want, you will never begin the journey.
“One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.”
9. You have a limiting belief that to be successful you have to pay a price at the expense of others.
This belief has come about as a result of society promoting that to be successful, you have to be tough and prepared to make sacrifices. It is people that will pay a price for your success – mainly because successful people will do what ever it takes to get what they want. This is rubbish and if you believe this to be true then you will not experiences the great joy and happiness success can bring to your life.
Your success in life is not determined by how many people you have to step over or push aside to get what you want. You, your actions, your thoughts and how well you serve others are what contribute to you having success in your life.
10. The fear of failing and making mistakes is a huge block to you making the changes you need to make in your life.
For me, clinging on to this bad habit stopped me from making the changes I needed to make for me to be happy and have a successful life doing what I love to do – writing, speaking and coaching. If you want to be happy and successful you are going to have to accept that failures are necessary on the path to success. It is a given.
I recently read a great book by Tim Harford called Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure.
This book gave me great tools and strategies to effectively manage my fear of failure. Tim Hartford talks about the wrong way we react to failure and that our egos take control and as a result we try to “bury the failure – not a good thing. He suggests that we should adapt the way we think and react to failure by adopting a “trial and error approach”. What this means is that we cant really predict how things are going to turn out and so we test it, adapt and adjust along the way. Failure according to Tim is the opportunity we need to figure out how we can succeed.
If you desire success in your life, you have to be prepared to change. The first step to change, is for you to face those “bad habits” that prevent you from achieving the success and happiness you desire in your life. Once you have overcome your bad habits, you will be unstoppable, and your life will be full of happiness and success.
“So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you’ll move mountains.”
Last Updated on April 23, 2019
How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated
Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.
While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.
For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.
While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.
I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.
Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.
Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.
Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.
The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.
Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.
Table of Contents
What Is a Stretch Goal?
A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.
In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.
For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.
This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.
It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.
The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals
The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.
I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.
Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:
1. Get Outside of Your Head
If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.
If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.
I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.
Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.
2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time
When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.
I see this in so many areas of life:
When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.
In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:
“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”
Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.
3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting
When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.
The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.
For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.
We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.
From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.
When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.
Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.
4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals
is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.
While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.
Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.
For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.
By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.
5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts
I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.
When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.
One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.
Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.
I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.
A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.
As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.
From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.
The Bottom Line
These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.
For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.
More Articles About Goals Setting
- How Setting Personal Goals Makes You a Greater Achiever
- How SMART Goal Setting Makes Lasting Changes in Your Life
- How to Set Goals and Achieve Them Successfully
- How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life
Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com
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