The Stretch Goal:
A Place on the Podium

by Sharmi Duncan

Five months after I first started cycling, I was set to compete in my first ever cycling race, the Twelve Hours of St. Pete.

When I began cycling, my goals were simple. Learn to clip in and unclip, don’t crash, and get in some miles. After one of my first rides, I quickly realized that I could and would do much more, so with my coach (i.e., boyfriend) as my riding partner, I started training for the Twelve Hours.

I would never have guessed I would be competing in a race. I’m not the competitive type, but that’s not what this race was about (well, not totally). This race was about setting a goal and pushing yourself beyond the point of pain.

I’d been training and focusing on my mileage goal for a couple of months. My goal was to exceed my personal best mileage by 15 to 20 miles. It’s what I called an achievable goal. It was going to push me beyond where I’d ever been. And, I felt confident I could get there.

Then suddenly, something changed.  After reading the racer registration list, I realized there were only seven competitors in my class. Seven! That was all. As soon as I saw that number, my mind reeled, and I told myself I had a stretch goal... getting on the PODIUM! I was competing against seven people. I had to beat four to place. Could I do it? I didn’t know, but Iwas certainly going to try.

For months, I’d been training for a race that was never about winning. It was about me. And I was racing against no one but myself. But now I was working for more. It was a stretch goal because I had no idea what it would take to make the podium. Third place was all I wanted. But I knew this:  I was going into this with a new set of goals, and I couldn’t have been more excited.

Those five months made a huge difference in my life. That experience taught me that I can do more than I realize. It gave me a confidence that I’ve never had. And it was fun.

In business, as in life, we must have goals:  goals as individuals, goals for our department, and organizational goals. Not only do goals give employees something to work toward, they are the key to setting expectations and aligning priorities. Without goals, we are just spinning our wheels. And it is equally important to have achievable goals and stretch goals.

If the company you work for doesn’t focus on goal-setting, then do it for yourself. You’re worth it.

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