Reaching a Stretch Goal
“We are kept from our greater goal not by obstacles, but by a clear path to a lesser goal.” Will Mancini
It is very satisfying to reach a stretch goal–a goal we weren’t sure we could achieve.
Jim Collins calls them a BHAG–which stands for a big, hairy audacious goal. He says, “there is a difference between merely having a goal and becoming committed to a huge, daunting challenge–like a big mountain to climb.”
Michael Hyatt calls them scary goals, and we must be clear on “why” when we set and move toward a scary goal. Knowing why it matters keeps me pushing forward when facing resistance and discouragement.
My wife and I, with two other friends, Rick and Judy Bayley, recently set a stretch goal. It wasn’t to accomplish some great work to serve others. But as we set this goal and pursued it to successful completion, it reminded me of what it takes to achieve any worthy stretch goal.
Our goal was climbing Mt. Elbert, the highest peak in Colorado at 14,433 feet. I recognize this isn’t Mt. Everest, being a little less than half the height of Mt. Everest, which is 29,035 feet. But to us, it felt like Mt. Everest.
Every time I looked at the stats before the hike, I got concerned. We had to start at about 10,000 feet elevation and climb 4400 feet, hiking 5 miles to the summit then return, in one day. The other 14ers we have hiked were not as demanding as this one. As the four of us set a goal to hike to the top of this mountain, we prayed God would provide great weather and the stamina to make it up and back.
We got started at 6:30 am, and the beginning wasn’t too bad. Then it got steeper and more difficult. Questioning whether we could do it, we challenged and encouraged each other as we continued.
Then I started really feeling the impact. I said to myself, “Let’s make it to treeline (12,000 feet), and then decide whether to continue.” At treeline, it was, “Can we make it to 12,500?” Then at 12,500, to 13,000? Then at 13,000, to 13,500? When we reached 13,500, we were committed to go all the way, and we made it to 14,433. God answered our prayers, giving us the strength and good weather to reach our goal.
Setting stretch goals—or as Michael Hyatt calls them, scary goals—means there is a good chance of failure. While climbing the mountain–questioning whether we could make it–a little of my pride compelled me to continue. I told others what we were going to do, and pictured myself returning home and getting the question, “How did it go?” and me saying, “We didn’t make it.” My ego was dreading that conversation, helping me go a little further every time I thought about it.
Back To The Basics
God calls us to attempt great things for Him, and expect great things from Him. How can we successfully reach a stretch goal? Let’s review the basics:
First, is the goal from God? I only want to pursue goals God gives me (Proverbs 16:3 and 16:9, Psalm 37:4-5). God provides the desire and embeds the intensity of the desire. How bad do I want to achieve it? I give God permission to take the desire away if the goal is not from Him.
Get prepared. What resources will we need? If we don’t have the resources and can’t get them, we have to trust that God will provide (Philippians 4:19). How can we prepare so we are ready? We exercised daily and did other hikes. We had the right boots, clothes, food, plenty of water, and backpack. We went to bed early and got plenty of sleep. We prayed and trusted God would prevent thunderstorms (a common occurrence above 14,000 feet in the summer in Colorado).
Make the commitment to do it. We can get prepared, and never start. We set a date and committed to do the hike with each other, then told others when we were doing it.
Join with someone in pursuit of the goal. Setting goals with like-minded people allows us to encourage and challenge each other as we progress. When wanting to quit, others inspire us to keep going, and vice versa. When climbing Mt. Elbert, we not only did it with friends. A lot of people were also climbing to the top that day. Arriving at the trailhead shortly after 6 am, the parking lot was overflowing. On the trail, we leap-frogged with several others climbing at our pace. And when arriving at the top, others were already there who were on the trail with us, and others we saw soon arrived at the summit after us. We were an informal club of people that didn’t know each other, but had something in common connecting us. We achieved something most people would never do.
Set milestones to gauge successful progress. We set intermediate milestone goals to reach a certain elevation, and when reaching it, the goal was to reach the next elevation milestone. Setting and reaching intermediate milestone goals encouraged us to continue. This overcame doubt about whether we could make it to the top of the mountain, and increased our trust in God and ourselves. The mistake was not setting elevation milestones before beginning the hike. This came after the discouragement set in, but it worked.
Celebrate the accomplishment. We posted on Facebook the completion of our goal, and had a celebratory dinner on the way home. We thanked God for a successful goal reached, giving Him the glory.
The above stretch goal didn’t accomplish some great generous work. But the principles are the same whatever the goal.
What Stretch Goals Have You Achieved Before?
God has given me many stretch goals that would only succeed if He was in them. I didn’t see any way they could be completed, but God made them happen. The time frame wasn’t as expected, nor did I plan for or anticipate the way God did it. I had to trust Him, especially through the discouraging times when it didn’t seem possible. Remembering stretch goals I reached gives me the courage to do more.
William Carey has been called the father of the modern missionary movement. He had discouraging events happen, but God gave him the courage and the will to persevere. He is quoted as saying, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God!” (Source: Christianity Today)
We don’t know if we can do it, but of course that is the point—we cannot do it if God is not in it.
Originally published on Whole Life Generosity.
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