You want to stretch yourself in your goals. If you already know you can accomplish it without much effort, that’s not growing. Sure, there are some things we need to do that are well within our reach. For instance, most people can write out a basic budget. That’s not a stretch. Sticking to that budget, now there’s the real stretch. The idea is to push yourself, to believe you can do more. You want your goals to be attainable, but you don’t want them all to be too easy. I did say “all.” There is something to be said for an “easy win” that gives you confidence. However, if you’re only going after “easy wins,” you’re not growing. Goals, as a whole, should grow you.
One of my goals is to be able to take very technical subjects and make them reachable to a non-technical audience. I have a role model in mind: Dr. Richard Feynman. Dr. Feynman was a legend in physics, especially in cutting edge areas. As a result, he didn’t teach undergrads until they needed him to “spruce up” the instruction being provided. That led to The Feynman Lectures on Physics, which are an absolutely awesome resource. Or take QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter. This is a graduate level topic. What Feynman did was develop four lectures given to a lay audience, ones without formal backgrounds in physics at all, and explain Quantum Electro Dynamics (QED) to them on their terms. He was successful. The book is an adaptation of those lectures. This is the same guy who demonstrated the Challenger O-ring failure by putting them in ice water and showing they weren’t able to do the job at cold temperatures, thus leading to the explosion.
As a result, the last two weeks at Toastmasters I’ve given talks on coyote encroachment into South Carolina and the Higgs boson. Toastmasters talks are short. The first was 5-7 minutes and the second was 6-8 minutes. These are complex subjects. However, I want to develop the ability to take such a big topic and drill it down to its essentials with examples that make sense for someone who doesn’t have the full technical training. I think this is an important skill to develop. Last week was more successful than this week. My evaluator told me that he felt like it was a bigger topic, that I had more to say and that’s true, I did. However, I got the gist out in ways they could understand and also explained why it was an issue to the audience. Today was a harder challenge. The Higgs boson has a lot that goes with it. A lot of the feedback was positive, but I needed more visuals and I probably needed to narrow my focus. I tried to frame it too big.
That’s okay. That’s the kind of feedback I need in order to develop the skill I want. I can only get that feedback by pushing towards the goal. It’s not going to be an easy one. It’s going to require me to stretch. However, in that stretching I will grow. That’s what I want. That’s what you should want, too. Pick the bulk of your goals to stretch you. Make them ones where you have to push yourself to achieve them. An easy win to start or sustain motivation is fine. But a life of easy wins is an easy life and that means you don’t grow.