Now that we are beginning to master the art of S.M.A.R.T. goals I want to delve more into the idea of stretching ourselves. The A in S.M.A.R.T. stands for Achievable and here I mentioned that your goals should give you cause to stretch. Meaning you should feel challenged. The idea that there is a sense of required effort that needs to be made in order for the goal to be accomplished. This is how you know you are working towards something and in addition, it might be the most important element of goal setting. If we do not stretch ourselves how can we ever move forward?
The most common definition for the word stretch is to lengthen, widen, or distend. And, to take it one step further it means to enlarge beyond the usual or proper limits.
I’d like you to take this time to think about some of your greatest accomplishments in life. First, recognize what they are and acknowledge yourself for achieving them. Second, think about how they make you feel? What is it that makes them special? Great? If I had to guess, I might think someone would say they are special because they took a good deal of work to achieve and you are proud you were able to do it. Sure the work might not have been enjoyable or easy in the moment, but when it was all said and done you hung in there and just might dare to do it all over again. It’s the method of the madness behind the marathoner, going to grad school, achieving significant weight loss, receiving that incredible promotion or title change at work, etc. No one accomplishes these things and says man, I wish I didn’t work so hard. No, instead you celebrate your success and then set yourself up on the next course of action to go even further.
The other day while on the phone with my dad he was talking about the plans he and my mom had laid out for the next few months. After he got through the extensive list I immediately thought to myself, when were they going to find the time to accomplish all of these things they set out to do? Sure my dad’s retired but my mom still works, and they have tons of other things going on that requires their attention. In his next breath he said… “You know Ameerah, we have to STRETCH. Stretch ourselves so that we don’t become complacent. So that we are always challenged and reaching for something better.”
It was in this moment that I was personally reminded how important the idea of stretching oneself really is. It was with this same mindset my dad had on this day, last week, that he and my mom raised my sister and I with all those years ago. Leading by example and always stretching themselves so that we could have a better life. Teaching us never to settle; that we were capable of accomplishing anything we put our minds to.
Have you ever set out to do something that was so easy it almost felt like a waste of time? I know I have, and to be honest it’s a very underwhelming feeling. Easy is boring and basic. It does nothing to set you apart or help you to move forward. When things are easy you’re more likely to become lazy, complacent and stagnant. Stretch on the other hand is probably one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself and those around you. When you’re challenged you automatically become motivated, driven, and purposeful. You invite positive energy into your space and open yourself up to new ways of thinking, learning, and growth.
This is the essence of stretch.
The push. The challenge.
This week I challenge you to push yourself beyond your normal limits. Maybe it’s an extra 2 miles on the road, increasing 5 lbs in weights at the gym, biking to work, signing up for that seminar you’ve heard such great things about but haven’t found the time in your schedule to do, enrolling in continuing education classes at your local community college or online, tacking on two additional books to your reading list this season, scheduling that meeting with your boss to discuss ways you would like to grow your position within the company, going to that meet up group you found online, or fitting that much needed vacation into your plans before years end. Whatever it is, extend yourself further than you have before and see how it feels.
What are the immediate benefits? Do you feel as if you are more alive? Are you creating awareness around what you are doing as opposed to just going through the motions? Take note of the positive and negative effects so that you can make adjustments accordingly.
It may take time for you to figure out what the right amount of stretch is for you and that is ok. Start off small if you need to and take it from there. The point is to explore the idea and get moving.
Trust me, you’ll be amazed how far you are capable of going if you remember that nothing is out of your reach.