Setting Stretch Goals That Leverage The Moment

By Joan Michelson

Imagine if Serena or Venus Williams only set goals of being good tennis players winning their local tennis tournaments. Imagine if Tom Brady only sought to be on his college football team. They set stretch goals, setting the bar high. Where you set your gaze directs your choices, your attitude, how you build your skills and assets, and your self-confidence – and lifts you up when you fall.

What do you want your life to look like on December 31, 2022?

The past two years fighting the pandemic and the economic and societal turmoil it unleashed have changed us and our world in various ways, so your goals for this year should reflect those changes. This time has likely changed you in some way, maybe altered your priorities or perspective, maybe you relocated or changed jobs, maybe you earned a degree or gained new knowledge another way. 

As outlined in “Setting Goals That Celebrate, Leverage And Stretch,” the first step to setting new goals is to celebrate your accomplishments of the past year, big and small. The second step is to review how the world around you has changed in ways that you might be able to leverage to achieve your own goals.

For example, the economy has become much more focused on environment, social and governance values and practices – or ESG – and that pivot has opened up a range of possibilities. Every industry now has needs related to that shift that you may be able to leverage for your own professional fulfillment and growth, especially if making a difference is important to you. Organizations have become much more attuned to needing to serve their talent as well as their customers and shareholders, so you’ll likely have more leverage there too.  You may not need to leave your job to gain more satisfaction, or a raise or to learn a new skill.

Here’s how to set goals that leverage this moment and catapult you to where you want to be this year:

Make goals for every part of your life.

You want career goals, money and finance goals, goals related to both your personal and professional relationships. You want health goals, and those related to where, how and with whom you want to live. You’ll want goals about your personal growth, and your role in society too, as a voter and member of the communities that align with your personal values.

Think about how your industry has changed and opportunities that arose.

The shift to an ESG-focused economy has affected every industry in the economy. For example, it created an increased need for accountants to help validate the metrics companies provide, for information technology people to make sure the data is being collected properly, for communications people to help tell the story about the organization’s values effectively, and for sports players and leaders to be more aware of who is on their teams and in management and how those people are being treated. It caused everyone to be more aware of their impact on the environment, from what they drive to what they throw in the trash. 

Consider how your skills, talents and resources enable you to seize new opportunities to achieve your goals.

Your “assets” include your network, who you know and who they know.  If you want a leadership role, for example, how can you leverage this ESG-focus in the economy to land it? Where do you fit? Who do you know who can help you? Your skills apply to different industries and purposes. How can the puzzle pieces of your abilities and experience be put together differently to do so?

Determine your risk fingerprint.

To achieve your goals, especially ambitious ones, you’ll need to take risks, especially in this uncertain world.  As Michele Wucker, author of “You Are What You Risk,” explained on my Electric Ladies Podcast, your risk fingerprint combines your genetic makeup, personality, experiences, “and lots of social influences, whether it’s within your organization or your country, your culture, your peer group, within your family.” Those things together “pretty much tell you what it is that you care about, what you value, what you’re ready to risk losing or not.”

Identify what you want or need to change this year to achieve your goals.

Do you want to live someplace else, for example? What would need to happen for you to do so? What do you need to do to buy that house in the country or by the beach?  

Be honest with yourself and list new credentials you may need or new skills you may want or need to learn to leverage these opportunities.

What do you need to learn to get the new job you want? Julie Lenzer, a serial entrepreneur and Chief Innovation Officer of the University of Maryland – and former head of the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration – went back to school to earn a Masters in Machine Learning, for example, and someone earned their Ph.D. in their late 80’s last year, too. It’s never too late.

Make the space for the unexpected.

The pandemic certainly showed us how fragile our plans can be. Agility and resilience are critical in today’s dynamic world, so leave the space in your goals to seize opportunities that may show up.

Include joy.

What goals would bring you happiness and joy? What would make you smile and energized in the morning?  

Wherever we set our gaze, we aim our efforts and mindset there.  Be creative and stretch your thinking as you set your goals. Think about your role models and how the path they took to get where they are. What can you learn from them that you can apply to your own life – and still be uniquely you? A happy you?

Go for it.


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