I’m working toward a crazy-big goal right now. What’s a “crazy-big” goal? It’s a challenging goal that requires sacrifice in other areas of life. I’ve been pursuing this goal for almost four years, but the past several weeks has been the most intense period as fulfillment of the goal is now within reach. During this time, I’ve noticed a heightened mental and emotional state that has also influenced my thinking about organizations and organizational goals. Pursuing a challenging goals has increased my focus in seeing issues such as challenges, opportunities for improvement and growth, and potential solutions.
Reflecting on this, I’ve concluded that it is more important for leaders to set personal goals than organizational goals. I’m not saying organizational goals are not important, but I believe that leaders who do not set challenging personal goals are just fading into irrelevance as a leader. Setting and pursuing a crazy-big personal goal from time-to-time increases personal leadership capacity!
So what’s my goal? I will be testing for black belt in Soo Bahk Do karate on April 12.
What does it take to pursue and accomplish a crazy-big goal? I think there are six very important elements: preparation, plan, partners, persistence, patience, and prayer.
Crazy-big goals require a lot of preparation. What is a lot? It depends on the goal. I’ve been preparing for black belt almost four years. By the time of my test in April, I will have almost 1,000 hours of in-class and personal training time. Other goals require different time commitments. The nature of activity and number of hours required to complete a graduate degree, or master a musical instrument, or become proficient in a language are all different. Crazy-big goals require lots of preparation.
Every crazy-big goal requires a plan. They don’t happen on their own. My instructor, a 5th degree black belt, has more than 30 years’ experience in this art and has guided many people to black belt. He has a plan to prepare each candidate for success. Some plans are driven by others (e.g. my instructor), some by a system (e.g. a university), and some by yourself (e.g. learning a language on your own). Every plan needs to address all the elements required to accomplish the goal.
It is hard to underestimate the importance of partners in executing your plan. I’ve pursued two crazy-big goals as an adult: my doctorate and black belt. In both cases, I had partners to work with. As a student at Regent University, I studied in a cohort with eight others. During our 3-year journey we took every class together, discussed every topic together, struggled through every paper together. We became a family. When I wanted to quit a couple times, my partners encouraged me to continue on toward the goal. (Two of those partners are my fellow blog authors, Robert and Greg.)
I have partners in my black belt goal, too. The most important partner is my instructor. His knowledge of my strengths and weaknesses and how I think enables him to challenge or encourage me appropriately. I also have a testing partner who is also testing for black belt. We encourage one another and push each other to go on when we’re tired. There are other partners on this journey: other black belt candidates, current black belts, and my own family. Each of these people provide support, guidance, challenge, and encouragement.
One of the greatest benefits of having partners when pursuing a crazy-big goal is their help in persisting when the journey gets rough. There will always be roadblocks when pursuing something important. Some roadblocks are internal (mental, emotional, and physical), while others are external (other people, finances, responsibilities, etc.). One of my greatest roadblocks is my physical condition. I’m in good shape, but I’ll be 49 years old when I take this test! Persisting through or around the roadblocks ensures continued progress toward the goal. (Let me pause for a moment to say that some roadblocks should not be avoided. If your crazy-big goal is causing damage in a relationship, then it’s time to re-evaluate the importance of this particular goal.)
While I am persisting through roadblocks, I’ve also found it important to be patient. Some days I see tremendous progress in my skills and preparedness for the test. On these days I celebrate the progress. Other days, I feel like I’ve taken six steps backward. On those days, I have to remember to be patient as it’s all a normal part of the process.
Prayer has a tremendous sustaining power when I am trying to be patient. Sometimes I feel silly talking to God about my karate goals. He’s my “Abba Father,” though, and in his infinite love he cares about these things, too. He’s never too busy or preoccupied with other concerns. So I pray often, asking for quick recovery from a tough workout, for a sharp mind in class, for mental and emotional stamina, and I pray for the others that I train with as well.
When was the last time you pursued a crazy-big goal? As a leader, you should consider pursuing something fantastic and motivating once in a great while. The best goals are those that, when accomplished, have the potential to change who are and how you see the world. Transformation of this kind helps prepare you for leading others and leading organizations.
Please let me know about a crazy-big goal you’ve pursued. Were preparation, planning, partners, persistence, patience, and prayer part of your journey?