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Change Client-centered Therapy Psychology

Setting Stretch Goals for Personal Excellence

Large strawberry on left, sitting on sidewalk, with smaller tortoise named Kevin with mouth open in attempt to take a bite of the strawberry.
Why should you ever try to set stretch goals? Why even think of biting off more than you can chew? Because the process of trying — and even failing – grows us towards personal excellence. Photo credit: Haley Luna of HaleyLuna.com

Recently, I’ve been thinking about failure. After taking on bigger goals, it’s part of my process to consider the possibility that I might not achieve them. This is because my goals aren’t particularly small. 

In the world of business, failure is a scary word. You’re likely to hear more advice about developing a mindset such as, “Live as though failure is not an option.” Even the idea of thinking about failure comes with the belief that you will then anticipate it, and thus the very thought about failing becomes a predictor of it. 

However, failure is all around us; failures abound like weeds in the grass. They fill up the digital pages of Social Media and spill into our homes. Failure invades our junk drawer space, and even our convenience foods that sit on our shelves.

Many people come to our counseling office in hopes of escaping the pain of failure, and there are plenty of ways of avoiding it. Apply for a job that does not require new, challenging skills. Avoid romantic relationships, and isolate oneself to the point of loneliness. Don’t travel far, stick to your usual paths, and by no means should you push yourself to do something different, because you might not be good at it, and you might experience the feeling of failing at yet one more thing.

Rather than avoiding failure, is there any way we can learn from situations where failure may well be a viable and even reasonable option? Is there a way of minimizing its damage while exploiting its lessons? Should we attempt to do things that leave us feeling like we’re biting off more than we can chew?

I propose that there is a way, and there is a reason. It’s called setting stretch goals. And instead of adopting the mindset where failure is not an option, you create a pathway of learning, where you gather everything you need to learn about yourself so that you grow that area of personal excellence, regardless of outcome. You may not even need to succeed at your goal in order to reap the benefits of having set it in the first place.

Want to know more about setting stretch goals? And why on earth should you ever intentionally try to bite off more than you can chew?