“The culture and history of our Board has never been to raise big dollars.”
“Our endowment needs to be twice what it is currently, and we just don’t have the donors for that.”
“We are in year 4 of our 5-year campaign and we still have 30% of the money to raise. We’ll never get there.”
These are the types of statements which place too much emphasis on the mountains in our lives and our work. We see the monumental goal in front of us and it is easy to express our concerns about succeeding. It’s the snow-capped mountain far off in the distance – we feel so small and allow ourselves to believe we can’t possibly reach that summit. And it’s easy to focus on the mountain because it is huge. It’s the biggest part of our field of vision. The mountain dominates the landscape of our work and our lives – what we see, think, and talk about. It’s what we allow to occupy us.
But, a way to reach the summit of the mountain – a way to exceed our goals – is to focus on the process of climbing. Not that we forget that we are heading up a mountain. But when we discipline ourselves to focus on each step, each move, each part of the process, we focus more on our activity and less on the fact that the mountain is there.
Two years ago I began jogging. I was in such poor cardiovascular shape when I began that I couldn’t jog continuously for more than a minute or two. So, I didn’t. I started by jogging some, and walking some. And this wasn’t easy for a guy who used to be active to admit to myself. I was heavier than I needed to be and I was in bad shape. But over the course of a few months, I was able to jog continuously for a mile, then two miles. And, then, about 4 months after starting, I ran my first 5-k. My goal was simply to make it to the finish line without walking. And I did.
Had I started my jogging experience focused on running a 5k without stopping, that mountain would have seemed far too large to climb. I couldn’t climb a flight of stairs without noticing my breathing getting labored! How could I even imagine jogging continuously for 3.11 miles? But, when I simply said, “I want to do a little better than I did a few days ago,” I would. And eventually, I climbed my mountain.
What is your mountain? Maybe you need more major gifts to finish a project or campaign. Maybe you need a higher percentage of alumni donors. Maybe you need more staff. Maybe your mountain is more personal. Whatever your mountain, take the time this summer to build a plan. And then, forget about the mountain and just work your plan. Let the plan be your focus and not the mountain. Before you know it, you’ll be reaching the summit.