Introduction We all lead complicated lives. Most of us are from the middle class. We are always the "neither here nor there" class. We keep on running. We keep on working so hard. Yet, we need to plan a little more and execute that perfectly well. We may have leisure hours, but we need to act very fast now. For inflation and other complexities of life can easily eat up at any point in time. The concept of "Stretch" dictates that we do that small extra every day, are more focussed and go on to set new challenging goals. "Stretch" is the exact opposite of what we normally call, "take life as it comes". The simple fact is that we need to shape that life, our life, to a far greater degree than what we are doing now.
The concept of Stretch is even more important in our lives. It is not just hard work. It is the conscious application of mind to pursue goals of passion. Of achievement. Of special talents and milking such talents. Of everything that is positive in life. Of looking for opportunities where seemingly none exist. Of being winners.
Obviously, lessons have to be distilled only from practice. This concept of Stretch is particularly relevant to a) the Art of setting Stretch goals b) The process of achieving short-term objectives c) Revising the Stretch goals d) Looking for avenues to maximize talent and e) Enabling the rub-off effect on everyone in the family.
The Art of setting Stretch goals This should happen as a routine. The big task may look daunting, but it is not. If we have our long-term goals of enough bank balance, good health, retirement plans, the health of spouse and children, we will obviously work very hard right now. The Gen Y is now very much into this game. Their ways of setting Stretch goals are simply fabulous. For instance, many of them want to turn entrepreneurs within two years. The urge to become one's own boss is so huge. They just do not want to become chamchas under someone. Unfortunately, such opportunities do not come to millions who do not study in such institutions. What should one do? Simple. Set the Stretch Goal, keeping the long-term in mind and explore options. For example, if you are an HR professional, now working as a Senior HR officer with a huge MNC, an Original Equipment Manufacturer, in their plant at Chennai, the sky is the limit for your growth. Yes. However, for meaningful growth to happen, you must quickly become an all-rounder. You must go towards IT and take a risk. Having made your hands dirty for six long years in hard-core industrial relations, your stretch goals will be a) to become qualified as an NLP practitioner in three years time. b) To become a good trainer in some set of behavioral skills in four years time c) To break into IT and learn the nuances of HR, including the most progressive HR practices.
It is just not enough if you join an IT organization. Working very hard to compete with your colleagues will mean doing extraordinary things. The Stretch goals will then completely change in the organizational context. Of course, you have a big choice. You get wedded to only Industrial Relations and move on to another organization with a distinct IR focus. Your laziness is obvious. Making the Stretch Goals would mean sleepless nights. However, you can land up as Vice-President in a good company by the age of 40. This is just in order, as the new crop of high--performers are becoming younger day after day.
The process of achieving short-term objectives In the process of achieving the long-term goals, it is but essential that you achieve the short-term objectives. For instance, if it means that you take a loan of three hundred thousand rupees to get qualified in NLP, do it. Most organizations will not support such huge expenditure on anyone. You may not get it. But to live in the midst of HR professionals, to talk their language, it is but essential that you are tuned to new realities. You become part of the new HR game. It is similar for Finance professionals too. For example, those who have burnt the midnight oil in managing the complexities of mergers and acquisitions in more than two organizations go up the ladder so fast. The biggest challenge for the Chartered Accountants is the new wave of hot MBAs from IIMs, who are as skilled, if not better.
Revising the Stretch goals As already pointed out, this is largely context-specific. If for example, you already have a good deal of experience in the Corporate Sector the new Stretch goal might be to try for a job in Singapore or Australia, where you could get international exposure. This is exactly what is done by very street smart professionals. Get going to revise the Stretch goals.
Exploring avenues to maximize talent This is hugely context-specific, but it applies to everyone. Upgrading skill sets is a huge challenge. However, we do not have a choice. For example, when he observed that he could face massive competition from his colleagues, each of whom was as or more qualified and had very good skill-sets, at the age of 44, an employee of an IT firm in Chennai, went on to pledge his wife's jewels, took a loan for five lakh rupees and joined the IBM certified course in Data Analytics, conducted at the SSN college, Chennai. He immediately got another good job with a competitor and quit his organization. Imagine the Stretch goal at the age of 44. It can happen to anyone.
Enabling the rub-off effect on everyone in the family Realising that no amount of preaching will have any effect on his 15-year-old son, a 40-year-old father took to learning Yoga. When the boy saw the sincerity of his father, he also joined a similar course. Of course, Bangalore has too many facilities and it was easy for him. Nevertheless, the story is simple. The concept of Stretch is applicable at any stage of our lives. For example, if you want to learn the art of trading in shares, you not only need to have a Demat account with say, Karvy Consultants but also learn the trade. This might involve more of your spare time. Less sleeping hours. Of being alert to signals emanating from everywhere. Of course, just be informed that you do not have any choice. If you want to stay ahead of inflation, learning the art is just one Stretch goal for most of us. Give it 48 months to learn all the techniques. However, we need to start right now.
It can be made applicable to anyone. Hard work is essential. However, Stretch goals, as explained above, is not merely doing hard work. It is far more than that. It is the art of framing Stretch goals and reviewing them.
The game is on. There is absolutely no choice for any of us. Let us start the game right now.
Conclusion Some dimensions of Stretch as a concept have been explained above. Of course, the concept will keep on changing and when the context changes, the concept has to necessarily change. It is relevant for each one of us. That we do not have any choice is one reality that should hit us very hard.