Are You S-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g?
Well, it’s January 21st 10.05 am as I begin to write this post. I am sat at my desk looking out at a grey sky and barren trees. How beautiful the winter is.
Anyway, I was wondering how many people by now have probably let their New Year Resolutions slip away from their thoughts and out of sight; no longer to be pursued.
And as one thought often leads to another of the same topic, this got me thinking about goal setting and what I shared with the great people who attended my seminar a couple of weeks ago.
On that seminar, I advised that they should set themselves one goal that they thought would be nigh on impossible to achieve. Some of those attending found this quite shocking especially after they had just questioned if some of their goals they had just set were already unrealistic!
But that was just their current limiting belief system in play and hopefully, I eliminated that restrictive thinking (I think I did after collecting some powerful testimonials and receiving further ‘thank you so much’ messages afterwards).
Back to my thinking.
I remembered the first time I set an ‘impossible’ goal, or a stretch goal (as the legendary Jack Welch coined it in the mid 1990’s).
It was 1992 and I was sat around a desk at Heathrow airport having an emergency meeting with about 10 other top people of the company and one of the owners.
Some people may laugh at you, criticise you, tell you to get real and not to chase your big dreams. But if you have faith or a strong belief, you will not be deterred by such petty comments
I was in the Holiday Ownership industry and the European Timeshare Act was about to be enforced. This meant that all customers who signed up didn’t have to pay a deposit for their membership and would be allowed a 14-day ‘Cooling off’ period after they signed. So anytime in those 2 weeks they could simply cancel their membership. No reason had to be given or supplied by the customer. And there was absolutely nothing any company could do it about it.
And if you were caught putting any obstacles in the path of any customers new legal rights, the individual (And not the Company) would face jail. Yes, jail. And one or two people did not Pass Go as it happened.
The whole industry in Europe was in panic mode. Why? Because with the legal recourse and the full weight of English Law behind them to enforce the contracts of anyone who signed, cancellation rates were still running between 40% at best, and up to 80% at worst. Although my personal figures were at a lowly 93% for a 6 or 7 month period.
The meeting was about how we were going to tackle this major upheaval. Virtually everyone knew it would hit the industry and hard. Exactly how much business would we lose and how would we survive were the frightening issues on the agenda.
Anyway, during this meeting, sat around the board room table, I piped up, “I am not that bothered about it. I am going to achieve just a 20% cancellation rate when the Act comes into force” (Something very similar, but the figure is correct).
The whole table erupted in laughter. Some were crying with laughter they thought it was so ridiculous. I just sat there and stared at them all, one by one, for what seemed like 5 minutes but was probably only 30 seconds.
Other minds were focusing on how high their cancellation rates would become, not how low they could be
“Are you out of your mind? No company is achieving that without a cancellation period!” And then more laughter.
Funnily enough I was not phased or moved about it negatively. In fact it made me more determined to reach it.
Then someone asked me, “How the hell are you going to achieve that?”
I couldn’t answer. I had absolutely no idea. No response sprang to mind. Nothing. Zilch.
Then those last of the chuckles followed, you know, those when your laughter bank has emptied, and I was dismissed, probably as some kind of nut and the meeting resumed its melancholy agenda.
After the Act came into force I never did reach my magic 20% cancellation rate in any given month in the UK. But I did manage 47%. And 38%. And 32%. And 29%. And 24%.
Other offices in my company were running at over 70%. Some companies in the UK were at a whopping 97%.
That year I believe my figures were the lowest in the U.K. and then in Europe. One company even employed a psychologist to suss out if the people who signed up were going to cancel or not. On his advice, they would either let the customer buy or the company would cancel the contract on the spot themselves. Which in my view was cheating. But I still beat them and the psychologist.
Stretching yourself opens your mind on an epic scale
Remember, back in that meeting when I said I would hit 20% I had no inkling whatsoever of how I was going to achieve my magic number. But by stretching my mind I can tell you this: It made me highly creative. I would be constantly asking myself, “How can I do this? How can I achieve such a low figure?”
This opened my mind on an epic scale. It got me to try different techniques on the customers. It made me read even more on body language, human behaviour, sales and sales processes and ‘buyers remorse’. It made me work harder.
And it gave me a greater sense of achievement as each month I took a step towards my impossible goal.
And can you see that if I had set say 40% as my target (Which everyone else was doing and what the company had set as a ‘phenomenal target’) I may have come in at 44% or higher. I may still have missed the mark. I would have not got so creative on the scale I did. I would not have learned more, become more or done as much.
You lose control by aiming for the # 1 spot. But you full and utter control on setting your own standards and raising your own bar to new heights
Now I didn’t aim to be #1 in my company, or the UK or in Europe. In my opinion that is not healthy. Why? Because isn’t there someone out there, somewhere, better than you? And therefore I have no control of being # 1 or making it to # 1. The fact that I did was a bonus.
But I did have control over my actions. I did have control on how hard I worked, how much I studied. I did have control on raising my own standards. And that attitude, that way of thinking, paid dividends.
And did not reaching my goal pay off? Of course. The owner of the company called me and asked me what I wanted. I said a company car please. I got it (Now that was unheard of).
Some time later when the company decided to close down its UK operations and focus solely on its interests abroad, I received phone calls for about a year, from all over the world, asking me to go work for them.
So set yourself one stretch goal. Something really, really big. Reward yourself, even if it is only with an uplifting pat on the back each time you take a step toward it, no matter how small the step may be.
It will take the blinkers off your thinking and softly force your mind to expand way beyond its current comfort zone and limitations.
The personal rewards can, and are, astounding and outstanding.