Stretch Goals


I’d like to start this newsletter with advice given to a young Native American at the time of his initiation told by Joseph Campbell:
As you go the way of life,
You will see a great chasm. Jump.
It is not as wide as you think.

I think goals can sometimes seem insurmountable—but as we all know, you only have to jump the width, not the depth of the chasm.  To achieve goals, I think stretch goals can be helpful.  Stretch goals are goals that are small, incremental goals that push us into the next level and fit within the context of a larger goal.   Stretch goals could also include innovative ways of dealing with problems, collaborating with others, and learning new skills.  I want to propose two ways to stretch: (1) stopping ineffective activities and (2) envisioning and starting productive activities.

First, figure out what to stop doing.  What behavior needs to change, what needs to die to open up new energy for you to grow?   There’s a saying: “a snake that cannot shed its skin will perish.”  Are you doing the exact same things you were two months ago? Two years ago?  What unproductive activity have you been involved in?  Citing Campbell again, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”  So, with all growth, there will be some death in the ways of thinking, feeling, or acting…permit it!

Plan for and try something new.  There’s a great TED talk on trying something new for 30 days.  In the video, Matt wanted to be a novelist.  For 30 days he wrote 500 words a day and at the end of the month was a novelist (he did say it wasn’t a great novel, but he IS a novelist).  There’s one exercise I like which is to envision three people you admire, and let some of that energy run through you.  What activities are they doing, why do you admire them, how are (or have) they interacted with others, how do they keep their edge?   Using others as role models and trying on new ways of being can be helpful.

Stay motivated when thinking about your stretch goals.  Do things that make you feel more confident, inspire you.  Do you have authors that you love?  Poems you like to read, a particular setting you like? Graduate school can seem tough to get into, challenging to work through, and the dissertation or theses a big chasm to cross.  You can make it through with love, support, motivation and perhaps small stretch goals.

Best to all,

James Lani, Ph.D.

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