It was a beautiful crisp Spring afternoon after work today. Blue sky. The onset of warmth filtering through the lingering winter cold. T-shirt weather. Clean air. Time to walk! And so I did. I drove out to the Glendoveer Golf Course in Northeast Portland. There is a two mile walking path which circumnavigates the grounds of the course, with the exception of a half mile stretch that cuts through its heart. I opted to walk the easiest stretch, avoiding a particularly tough climb on the backside of the course. The result was a abbreviated 1 1/2 mile walk. But still, I got my heart rate up and felt the benefit of the exercise.
Two things stood out to me as I made my way through the course. First, the squirrels here are very brave. The one in the picture was not afraid of me at all. In fact it approached me. I moved out of its way because I had in mind visions of a rabid squirrel! In retrospect I realize it probably was expecting me to feed it or it simply was very accustomed to human contact. It surprised me because normally squirrels will flee at the slightest hint of contact. This one apparently had become acclimated to people.
Second, I remembered some of my training from my days as a long distance runner. Although I am in no shape to run like that now, I recall one of the principles for making it just a little farther. I applied it to my walking. What I do is look about ten feet ahead of me and focus on a fixed point with the goal of reaching that point. Then I repeat the process over and over again until I am done. In running this disciplines me to focus on what is necessary for the moment, rather than despair concerning the far off completion of my ultimate goal. The same can be true for walking. And, by way of analogy, for ministry leadership.
In leadership we are trained to focus on the end goal and design intermediary steps, or short-term goals, to attain the long-term goal. I liken looking forward ten feet (as in running or walking) to an intermediary step in goal setting. When I set goals I try to remember to make them specific, realistic and measurable. The intermediary short-term goals force me to think in manageable steps. They are doable. Many of them taken together under the covering of an overarching long-term goal design make it possible to meet that larger goal, just as taking my walk ten feet at a time makes it possible for me to accomplish the entire walk successfully.
So ask yourself next time you look at your goals. Are your long-term goals sufficiently ambitious to challenge you? Do your short-term intermediary goals contribute to the success of the long-term goals? Are they specific, realistic and measureable? Do the individual short-term goals build on each other with the aim of reaching the long-term goal? By fulfilling 100% of any given short-term goal, what percentage of the long-term goal have you reached? How do you know? What instruments of measurement have you put into place to ascertain levels of goal completion? That is to say, how do you hold yourself accountable?