I like quotations, and I have a quotation site I especially like full of nuggets I often find timely and relevant.  Earlier this week, one showed up right at the end of a two-day strategy meeting: “Set a goal SO BIG that you can’t achieve it until you grow into the person who can.”

As a business leader, woman, and mother, this strikes a deep chord:  it is always the goals I have no idea how to achieve when I set them, but believe in with great passion, that teach and stretch me the most.

With this quote fresh in my mind, I flew out the day after our meeting to spend three days with a client also working hard to achieve a big dream they’ve been chasing for several years now.  The people in this organization are excited, inspired, and a little bit daunted by the challenge they have set for themselves.  I was struck as I talked with leaders across the system that I was witnessing an organization collectively growing into its dream.

I’ve worked closely with these wonderful people off and on for a little over three years and they are now in the midst of a well-planned and thoughtful leadership transition. Many people I’ve known for a long time look more relaxed, more confident, and more hopeful than I’ve seen them, and a good many commented that the leadership changes would allow the seeds the organization has been planting to thrive.  I saw something else at play though:  a wave of outgoing leaders who had been integral to setting a bold vision, dedicated enough to inspire and develop people to believe it was possible, and brave enough to recruit a new generation of leadership excited and ready to make it real.  What a tremendous legacy they are leaving: an organization ready to realize its dream.

As leaders, it is so easy to fall into the trap of setting only goals with clear targets, measurable outcomes, and obvious interim milestones.  These goals matter for running organizations day-to-day and they help us grow in a linear and systematic way, but they do little to inspire transformation.  A recent Harvard Business Review blog post underscores the power of a dream:

Dreaming is at the heart of disruption — it is only when we dream that we can hope to create something truly new, something that will overtake old habits, old customs, and old ways of thinking and being.”Quote

If you know you need this kind of disruption in your life either personally or professionally, try setting aside the New Year’s Resolutions and Key Performance Indicators for a moment and ask yourself what really matters:  what dream will inspire you, your team, or your organization to stretch beyond what is possible today?   If your dream seems within reach, it probably isn’t big enough.  Once you find the goal you’d love to live into but can’t fathom how, you may just be amazed by how the universe moves to help you become just who is needed to deliver on that bold promise.  What dream are you growing into?  I’d love to know…

2 Responses to “Stretching…”

  1. April 22, 2013 at 10:54 am, Eric Pomert said:

    I walked by the neighborhood ice cream store in Berkeley yesterday, and the line of customers went halfway down the block (about 75 people for a store in which about 6 can stand). It instantly spoke to me “this is my dream image for clients wanting to work with me!” A long stream of enthusiastic people willing to wait for a great product/service, and everyone gets served. I love the video storytelling work I do, and it holds so much surprise and unknown, that I no longer dream about finding the thing I was born to do in the world. But, a week without my next client lined up goes fast and deep into the worrisome zone of “maybe I’m washed up.” So, I’ll hold the ice cream line as a fortunate disruption.

    Thanks for the posting!

    I welcome any comments.

  2. June 11, 2013 at 4:55 pm, michael said:

    Hi Jennifer

    thanks for your posting I read it through quickly then went back and read slowly twice. it has inspired me,I have always spoken and taught that we should make goals that are within our reach and set new ones once achieved but you have given me a different perpective.