Sustainability - feeling the stretch

Sustainability - feeling the stretch?

Inspired by the UN's new set of global development goals, Impact associate Penelope Mavor asks what stretching goals you are setting - on an individual and organisational level.

After a lot of work and with much fanfare, the United Nations have agreed on a new set of global development goals. And it means a big stretch. As the Ethical Corporation observed “eight big Millennium Development Goals have become 17 super-sized ones”. These Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) “are monumentally ambitious. Take, for example, Goal 1: “End poverty in all forms everywhere.” Or Goal 16: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.”

The goals are daunting not at least of all because of the challenges of financing them and the existence of dysfunctional governmental and business structures but they are compelling in their aspirations. As humans we are born to stretch ourselves in mind, body and soul. By its very nature stretching can be uncomfortable, but it is the only way we can enter new realms of possibility.

In our leadership programmes, we often use stimulation projects which explore a team’s behaviours and attitudes towards stretching themselves. Some will set goals below their abilities, sure of non failure. Some will benchmark themselves on the competition or what has been done before. Some will just try once and be satisfied with whatever score and will not want to try again. Some will stretch and surprise themselves at what they can do.

Stretching – it takes us to somewhere new, untested, unknown and unfamiliar. We go up to those limits and exceed them. We lean into the discomfort but also notice the leeway. We breathe into previously fixed boundaries and see them dissolve. We notice the pain but also the potential. We accept the awkwardness, clumsiness and tension and move through it to find new areas of ease, flexibility and opportunity.

As an organisation, what are you doing in terms of setting stretching goals? Big Hairy Audacious Goals as Collins and Porras termed them. What will you stretch into, in terms of knowing about, understanding and contributing to the UN’s SDGs?
And where in your day to day actions, moment to moment choices can you stretch? It can take unlimited forms. It may involve...

  • choosing to do more to look after your health in terms of exercise, diet, meditation
  • speaking up against inequality
  • expanding your understanding of the world through new perspectives, interests and networks
  •  increasing your donation or volunteering time to support a cause you believe in
  • delving into understanding yourself and your deepest truths
  •  having that courageous conversation
  • doing what you have never done or not doing what you always do

Decide what the stretch is for you, go into it and feel it.

Click here to read Penelope's blog.