As I jumped down from a helicopter perched somewhat precariously on the ridge of an almost 14,000- foot peak in the Rockies, gasping for breath given the thin atmosphere (and stunning views), the primary thought going through my head was what in the world am I doing here? Was it too late to turn back?
I then reminded myself that helicopter skiing was one of my long-time personal stretch goals, and I had taken advantage of being out in the western U.S. with my family this past holiday season where it was offered in a remote corner of Colorado. Despite the reminder, many doubts quickly cropped up when I first boarded the helicopter. Were my legs up to the steep back-country terrain? Could I keep up with my two sons? Would I succumb to the thin air? Does avalanche protection gear actually work? Just how precise will the pilot be as he flies perilously close to the jagged peaks?
These doubts were a good reminder that stretch goals aren’t always easy and sometimes you have to wait for an opportunity to execute on them. When that opportunity does arise, doubts can quickly come into play, causing you to hesitate about executing on the goal. For me, I ultimately overcame many of my fears this past Christmas break as I tackled a long-time stretch goal of mine, and it wasn’t effortless to say the least. At one point my skis stopped suddenly on some unseen rocks, yet my body kept going forward, tumbling down the mountain head over heels. At other times, unsettled snow started shifting under my feet, which is a clear warning sign of avalanche danger. And I can’t tell you the number of times I thought my legs might give in or I’d pass out due to the thin air. But once I became somewhat comfortable out there I not only managed to complete a single run, but six different ones in total.
Overall, this full-day experience was as nerve wracking as it was exhilarating. Here I am pictured with my sons.
As you think about what you need to accomplish this year – both professionally and personally for your own development – be sure to keep a stretch goal or two in mind. It doesn’t have to be as nerve wracking as the one I tackled in the Rockies, but it’s key to remember a stretch goal is not always comfortable or comes free of risk. And sometimes you have to rely on others (like my back-country guide or the helicopter pilot) to help you get where you want to go. Ultimately, achieving these kinds of goals can end up becoming some of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
John Crisan is Chief Compliance Office at Johnson & Johnson, a position he has held since January 2012. He oversees the company’s global Healthcare Compliance & Privacy organization, working to further establish and sustain a strong culture of compliance across our business segments through collaboration and the development of processes, systems and training programs.