When you stretch outside your comfort zone, don’t be surprised when you feel uncomfortable. The longer you stay in that new zone, the more comfortable you will become.
As you begin to make changes in your life, don’t burden yourself with a long list of goals. Instead, get inspired. Set a goal that stretches you and, as a result, excites you enough that you are spurred into action. A “stretch goal” develops your character by tapping into and cultivating your strengths.
It starts with asking yourself the right questions. Here are a few questions to help you find your own stretch goal. Answer them to find the inspiration to forge ahead and stick to that goal:
1. What vision feels just beyond your reach?
It might be something you see for other people, but for whatever reason you don’t see it for yourself—even though you want it. Maybe it’s an income double or triple of what you make right now. Perhaps it’s exploring your romantic streak or your fun side. It may even be your dream of being disciplined enough to eat healthy and exercise. The goal here is not to choose something that’s realistic, but to choose something that feels beyond your reach—as though it’s not really possible for you. But it is possible. Do you have the faith to believe it? A stretch goal is one that forces you to reach higher than you think you can. If you don’t have to stretch for it, it’s not big enough for this exercise.
2. What specific, measurable, and time-sensitive goal would bring you closer to that vision?
Now for the fun part. Get specific about the goal. Make it vivid. Describe it in a way that allows you to measure your progress and know when you have reached the finish line. And most importantly, give yourself a deadline. You know what happens when there’s no deadline, right? It’s always something you’ll start tomorrow. Before you know it, a year has passed and you set the same goal again! “I’m going to have more fun and truly enjoy my life rather than treating every activity like a burden” is a great vision. You could break that down by saying, “I am going to travel for pleasure more. Once every three months I am going to take a fun trip, even if it’s just a weekend road trip somewhere adventurous. And my first trip will be four weeks from now.”
3. Who will you tell?
Don’t keep your vision and goal to yourself. Tell somebody. In fact, tell multiple people—supportive people. Negative people tend to throw water on your passion and excitement: “Are you sure?” “That sounds hard.” “You’ve never done that before!” You don’t need those comments. Find someone encouraging—someone who may even want to do this exercise with you. Don’t keep it to yourself so you can quietly drop the goal if you don’t achieve it. Commit to it. Declare it out loud. Sharing your plans with others makes it far more likely that you’ll actually carry them out.