What was your last big goal that caused significant growth in you?
Big goals force us to venture into new territory, and we often learn something about ourselves and our teams along the way.
My big goal for this summer was to climb a mountain 14,000 feet or higher, known as a “14-er” in Colorado. My family and I chose Quandary Peak as our climb, which tops out at 14,265 feet.
Coming from Minnesota at 965 feet elevation, I was well aware that in addition the physical demands of the hike, getting enough oxygen at high altitude would be another significant challenge.
Our team of five faced many challenges and learned powerful lessons along the way that will guide us in the years to come. Here are just a few lessons I took away from Quandary Peak.
Identify your peak, but focus on manageable milestones
When we drove to the trailhead of Quandary Peak, I was in awe of the giant mountain in front of us. It was so high, and the air was already thin as we got out of the car! The summit was four steep miles up a very rocky trail. I was instantly overwhelmed and couldn’t help but wonder what I was thinking when I decided to do this.
I learned early on that focusing on one section at a time – getting to the top of the tree line, climbing up a steep rocky section, a very welcome moderate section, and the final push up the last punishing mile – instead of focusing on the whole mountain was the best way to keep from feeling overwhelmed. I looked at the peak occasionally to check my progress, but the majority of the time, I focused on the immediate objective. This was critical to effectively managing my emotions so I didn’t get so overwhelmed I’d give up.
Big goals at work can feel just as overwhelming. Once overwhelmed, people can procrastinate or even avoid challenges altogether because they don’t know where to start and have difficulty believing they can achieve the goal. Breaking those goals down into manageable chunks in terms of time or milestones is essential. As soon as you do so, you’ll find that your confidence and motivation increase, and you’ll be ready to move forward.
Don’t allow perfection to delay your launch
I knew when I set the goal that this was going to be a physically demanding climb. Online comments from other hikers made me question whether I was physically ready. Luckily, I had a few months to get in shape after setting the goal.
Unfortunately, when the time came to climb, I still didn’t have the strength and endurance I thought I needed to make it to the top. I had two choices. I could either postpone the climb or give it my best shot. It would have been easy to postpone and wait until I was in “perfect” shape, but there is also a good chance that I would never achieve what I considered perfect. I decided that 80% was good enough and that I would give the mountain everything I had. If I didn’t summit, I could always try again.
It’s common in business for people to delay a launch, a change, or a big project until everything is just right. I’ve worked with several people recently who delayed starting a business until they had the perfect website, product, or process in place, wasting valuable time and money. Don’t wait until everything is perfect. Take action when you’re 80% ready, and the rest will fall into place.
Surround yourself with supportive peopleThere were many times during my climb when exhaustion, physical pain, or difficulty breathing had me wondering how I was going to make it. It seemed like just when I needed it most, one of the four people I climbed with that day said something encouraging that pushed me forward. We leaned on each other throughout the five-and-a-half-hour hike.
As someone who tends to be very self-reliant, it struck me how beneficial it was to tap into the strength of others. There were even a couple of people who passed us as they came down who offered words of encouragement. One woman said, “I’m not going to lie to you, you have a long way to go, but it’s worth it. You can do it.” Whether it came from strangers or our group, each offer of encouragement was like a shot of adrenaline.
We all encounter times when we wonder how we’ll find the energy to keep going. It may be after a significant setback or after spending weeks or even months on a project that seems to be going nowhere. It’s times like that when it’s invaluable to have people around you to encourage and support you. People with whom you can openly share challenges and struggles are a valuable asset when things get tough. Do you have a robust support system around you who will help you stay focused on your goal when the going gets tough?
Enjoy the journey
I often find myself so results-focused that I fail to appreciate the journey. I was determined not to let that happen climbing this 14er. A five-and-a-half-mile hike offers many rewarding opportunities in addition to the final summit, and I focused on finding them. Those efforts paid off in the form of beautiful wildflowers, noticing a mountain goat that others missed, and unique rock formations. Each thing I noticed and appreciated gave me a little burst of energy that helped me continue up the mountain.
It’s not an either-or when it comes to results and appreciation of the journey; you can have both. Some people naturally notice the “sights” along the way, and others need to make more of a conscious effort to do so. As someone who needs to make an effort, I can tell you it’s worth it. Pay attention to the people you meet, the progress you make, and the surprises along the way. When you do, you’ll have more to celebrate than the accomplishment of the goal.
Don’t avoid discomfort and adversity. Most growth requires it.
I encourage you to set a big goal for yourself and use it as an opportunity for growth and self-mastery. Break it into manageable chunks, then launch quickly toward the first milestone. Celebrate your smaller victories and build momentum toward the next milestone. Not only will you increase your chances of following through on your goal, you will also quickly gain valuable insights into yourself and how you respond to challenges.
If influence is your goal, join us for Maximum Influence. If improving your leadership skills is a goal of yours, join us for Superior Leadership. If you want to understand yourself and others better so you can lead and influence more effectively, join us for Increasing Your Emotional Intelligence. Remember, nothing accelerates growth like setting and pursuing a big goal!