It’s that time of year where the preferred salutation is greetings of a happy season, and we warm our hearts by partaking and/or being touched by this season of giving. Recently, a video by Calgary based Westjet has gone viral that showcased the best of the season and the best of the season’s giving.
If you’re unfamiliar with the video, I suggest you take the few minutes to watch the video (and then take a few more minutes to wipe away the tears). However, here’s a quick summary of the video if you’re strapped for time and would rather stay on this page (yay, you!): Westjet set up a special virtual Santa kiosk in the Toronto and Hamilton airports. Guests scanned their boarding passes and were delighted that jolly old Saint Nicholas greeted each of them by name. The big guy then asked what they wanted for Christmas. Good fun! Well, unbeknownst to the passengers, as they flew to their destination (Calgary), Santa’s elves were quickly fulfilling the wishes of the passengers and, rather than boring old luggage coming down the conveyor belt, wrapped gifts with their names on it came out. And, lo and behold, every little boy and girl and big boy and girl got what he or she wanted, even the couple who asked for a big screen television!
Although there is little doubt that everyone was overjoyed at the surprise and incredibly grateful for the gifts they received regardless of what that gift was, I can’t help thinking about the couple who reached for the moon and asked Santa for a big screen television and the guy who kept his wishes in check and asked for socks and underwear. Is there a tiny piece of that man who might be kicking himself for not asking for something a bit loftier?
Now I’m not suggesting he should have been greedier in asking for more. I’m talking about the dreams and goals we have and what happens when they’re big screen TV type dreams versus socks and underwear type dreams? Well, in this case, both achieved their dreams, but I’m betting I can guess which passenger was slightly more excited.
But, again, it’s not about who got the TV and who got the socks. It’s about what they dared (or didn’t dare) to ask for. The couple who asked Santa for a big screen TV likely didn’t expect to get one and, therefore, it wasn’t driven by greed. It was driven by taking a risk, by going for something that not everyone has the guts to ask for, and by reaching for the moon. The socks and underwear guy? He wasn’t even reaching for the clouds.
If your goals and dreams are mediocre, at best, how does that affect what you achieve versus what you could achieve? Is it more advantageous to set awesome goals and dreams?
There have been arguments made for and against setting stretch goals. Some of the arguments against highlight how they can be demotivating, especially if they’re far from achievable or they can lead to excessive risk taking or unethical behavior. I would actually agree with that argument if the stretch goals are solely financial in nature. However, as author Steve Denning points out in the Forbes article, “In Praise of Stretch Goals”, emphasizing goals that are awesome over mediocre and tap into strong intrinsic drivers can lead to contributions that are big and worthwhile.
Think of the giant leaps for mankind that can be made by thinking big. Take a cue from the man who literally shot for the moon, President Kennedy. He not only set out the goal of “landing a man on the moon”, but also, “returning him safely to Earth”.
What’s your moon dream? Have you dared to say it out loud?
"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."
- Les Brown
I was watching my 11 year-old nephew play atom hockey (ice hockey to my friends outside of Canada) the other week and noticed on the back each of their jerseys is a big stop sign patch. At first, I thought it was just on my nephew’s team, but then noticed both teams had it on their jerseys, so then I asked my brother what it meant. He said it was to remind the players to stop themselves from making dangerous hits, or, more specifically, body checking from behind.
Upon some further investigation, I discovered that the stop sign patches come from the organization S.T.O.P, which stands for Safety Towards Other Player (STOP) program. So why do these kids need to be reminded when they know that they’re not even permitted to hit at this level? Daniel Goleman, the author of the 1996 book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, describes it as the Amygdala Hijack.
The Amygdala Hijack is when you encounter a situation as a threat (i.e., your opponent is about to score or, even, has the puck), and your emotional brain (think: fight or flight) hijacks your rational brain. Unfortunately, this hijacking often results in irrational, ineffective, and, in some cases, destructive behavior. It’s only after these reactions that the rational brain catches up and helps us realize that our reaction was inappropriate.
Let’s go back to the hockey cross checking example: What’s the point of the stop sign patch? The patch actually can serve to help us control the amygdala and allow the rational brain to catch up and act first. It acts as a trigger to make us stop and think, “Hmm, what’s that sign all about?” and then, ultimately, allows the rational brain to think and respond before the emotional brain has a chance to react. It’s akin to the string tied around our finger to help us remember something.
Is this just useful for kids playing hockey? Absolutely not. We have all faced situations where we reacted and reflected on the situation after the fact saying to ourselves, “What the heck was I thinking?” (the reality being that most of us aren’t thinking…at least with the rational brain). Worse, most of us have had this occur within a professional environments. So what can we do?
S – Stop what you’re doing.
T – Take a breath or two. We’re talking really good, deep breaths. The kind that take a few seconds to inhale and a few seconds to exhale.
O – Observe your thoughts, feelings, and emotions about the situation at hand. What’s actually happening? Bring it to the conscious level.
P – Proceed. Determine what you need to do in order to support you during this time. This might include taking a quick break, getting some fresh air, drinking a cup of tea, or visiting a website that puts a smile on your face and gives you perspective.
What else have you found to help you take back your brain?