My big personal goal for 2018 is to do a triathlon, not just getting round, but not coming last. At sprint triathlon distances, the cycling and running will be straightforward for me, but the big problem is the 400m swim. I could do it easily breast stroke, but to compete it needs to be front crawl, of which at the turn of the year I could only do 200m without a break.

At the start of the year I started googling potential events and found to my dismay that if I wanted to go for one with open water swimming, the distance was actually 750m. And of course in a lake I couldn't just take a break if I ran out of steam, it's 'in for a penny, in for a pound'. I started to wonder whether I'd bitten off more than I could chew.

But what has happened since has been extraordinary. First swim of the year I did 250m at a go which I was pleased with. Then last Wednesday I did 300m and on Friday 400m. Yesterday I did 500m without stopping (at a faster pace than the 400m). So I went from worrying about hitting 400m to smashing that barrier within two weeks simply because I lifted my sights from 400m to 750m.

I've seen exactly the same thing happen in Sustainability. Businesses who set really audacious goals – zero waste, zero carbon, zero toxics – change their whole approach as it is clear that tinkering around the edges just won't do. Ambition makes you to consider options you'd never ever dream of by pursuing continual improvement.

When people tell me they set SMART targets – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound – I always worry about the A for Achievable. It narrows the mind inwards to the everyday rather than stretching it out to the extraordinary. As per my new favourite quote from conservationist Alan Rabinowitz “Only those who set goals beyond what is obviously achievable make a real difference in this world.”

 

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