Set Stretch Goals

From Joan Burge’s new book, Joan’s Greatest Administrative Secrets Revealed (2018)

THE BROCHURE PROMOTING AN administrative training pro­gram said, We will never make you do anything you don’t want to do. Oh heavens, I thought! Really? How do you think a person grows? This was in a brochure from a company who hosts supposedly high-level classes for assistants. Pleeeaazzz!

Since 1990, I have been stretching assistants out of their comfort zones. I have asked them to write and give three-minute presentations; role play with participants; challenged them to think beyond the typical answer in class; project their voice; write diffi­cult development plans; and even come up on stage with me at our Annual Conference for Administrative Excellence. And do you know what? As scared or nervous as they were, they stepped up to the plate and they were proud of themselves afterward. Do you know what else? They got promotions, salary increases, developed bet­ter relationships with their executives; they joined committees and chaired events; they set healthy boundaries; they gained immense confidence! That’s what stretching can do for you.

Don’t you dare settle for mediocre goals. You were not born to be mediocre. Staying in a comfort zone will eventually be your career death. Nothing great comes without discomfort.

What is a stretch goal? It is a goal that causes you to go beyond what you know. It is a goal that challenges your thinking and basi­cally makes you uncomfortable. Please trust me on this one. It is okay to feel discomfort. Don’t be afraid of it; rather, lean into it. I would not be where I am today professionally and personally had I not set stretch goals throughout my life. Do they hurt? Yes! Sometime you will want to scream and run away and say, “I don’t want to do this.” But if you stop or if you quit, you will never know the beauty that lies on the other side.

I will never forget when my husband, Dave, and I moved away from my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. I had lived in Cleveland all my life. It was my home. I had a huge family in Cleveland and I loved growing up there. I met Dave Burge when I was working for Fabri-Centers of America in Cleveland. I was a secretary working at the corporate office in Cleveland and Dave reported to my boss. Dave lived in Minneapolis. He was a District Supervisor, who with all District Supervisors, reported to my boss and had to give me their weekly travel schedules. Yes, it ended up being an ‘office romance.’ For Dave and me, it was our second marriage. When we were mar­ried, I moved to Minneapolis where Dave lived. That didn’t last too long as I was so homesick for my family in Cleveland. Dave was so in love with me, he gave up an awesome job and we moved to Cleveland where Dave worked for my dad’s company. That lasted eight years, which was really long because Dave was ready to move away after a few years.

When we finally moved from Cleveland with our two little chil­dren, I was definitely out of my comfort zone. I had never lived away from family and Cleveland for any length of time. On top of it, we moved to South Carolina to live with Dave’s parents for a while until we found jobs. Yep, we left Cleveland with NO jobs and two kids! The little old South was nothing like the big city I grew up in. I kept wondering, “Where are the disco clubs?” After several months of pounding the pavement every day, Dave found an amaz­ing position and we moved to Asheville, North Carolina, where we lived and thrived for five years.

Over our 34-year marriage, Dave and I moved out of state eight times and lived in twelve different homes. I tried various jobs until I finally started my own company, which was definitely out of my comfort zone. Now that I reflect on my life, it seems that I have rarely lived in a comfort zone for very long.

The most incredible things happened to me over all those years of change and moving around. I met and still have very good friends in different states. My perspective of the United States broadened. My appreciation of diverse personalities, religions, cultures, and ethnicities has grown. I am confident traveling and going to unfa­miliar places. I have incredible memories, many good times, many hard times, but most of all, I am eternally grateful.

Do you see I would know none of this if I didn’t venture out? I would not be who I am today without all those experiences. I would not have tons of friends and a huge support group had we not moved around. Of course, I’m not saying you should move out of state. I am saying you have to move out of your comfort zone! You can do that right where you live and where you work. Go to lunch with new people. Take on a course that challenges you. Travel to Las Vegas and attend our fabulous conference and meet assistants from countries around the world.

The world is waiting for you—what are you waiting for?

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