Tag Archives: Inspiration

Set your Big Goal for 2018 and beyond

Just a few days to go, and 2018 is starting.

The last few days of the year are useful to look back in gratitude at what you achieved and experienced this year. At the same time, you can also look forward and determine if there are any Big Goals you would like to work on next year. New Year’s Resolutions, anyone?

Do you need some inspiration? We often can find it in people who do truly big things. That’s why I would like to share Jaco Ottink‘s inspiring story today. I met him a few weeks ago, and his talk prompted me to write about his Big Goal.

Seven Summits

Jaco Ottink climbing Mount Everest. Source: Beyond Summits, www.beyondsummits.nl

Jaco Ottink climbing Mount Everest. Source: Beyond Summits, www.beyondsummits.nl

Jaco dedicated twenty years of his life to his dream: climb the highest mountains of each continent. By 2015, he was almost there: he had the highest peaks of the North and South America, Europe, Africa, Australasia, and Antarctica covered. Only one summit was keeping him from realising his dream: the 8,848 meters of Sagarmatha in the borderlands between Nepal and Tibet – better known as Mount Everest. Getting there would make him the ninth Dutchman to climb these Seven Summits.

In Jaco’s story, there are three key lessons: preparation, perseverance, and setting the right goal.


Step one of achieving your Big Goal is preparation. If you want to climb the Mount Everest, you need to be top fit. In Jaco’s case, it required months and months of training: running, weight-lifting, and lots more, for 25 hours per week.

And every single detail matters, so the gear had to be top notch too. You want to make sure that your sleeping bag and layers of clothes actually keep you warm when spending a lot of time below zero degrees. (Keep clothes in your sleeping bag, to prevent them from freezing in the tent). And between an ice hammer of 400 or 800 grammes, the best choice is obvious – every gramme of weight needs to make it to 8848 meters.


Without perseverance, you cannot achieve a Big Goal. When trying something as demanding as the Mount Everest, you inevitably will have setbacks. So, if he couldn’t train one day for some reason, he gathered the courage to do it double next day.

Support will be needed to persevere. Jaco told us his eyes almost froze one hour away from the top, and he felt he might not be able to reach the summit safely. It was the support of his sherpa that convinced him to go on – without him, he’d fail to meet his Big Goal.

Set the right goal

The notion of perseverance is also visible in Jaco’s definition of success: achieving something beyond your current means. But there’s more in it: to achieve a Big Goal, you must be sure you set the right one.

What is the goal of a mountain climber? Achieve the summit, you might say. But think again, it isn’t. The real goal is to return back safely, as unfortunately doesn’t happen to all who set off to climb Mount Everest. Hence, sometimes the right call might be to return to safety and abandon the expedition.

And what is your goal?

I gather most of you have more mundane ambitions than climbing Mount Everest. As Jaco tells his audience, your Big Goal could also be something to make you happy and proud in your daily life, such as spending enough quality time with your family (he is now a part-time inspirational speaker running a firm called Beyond Summits, part time stay at home dad). His next Big Goals might be a bit far off for most of us: he aims to travel to the North Pole, and to inspire 1,000,000 people with his story and workshops.

My own Big Goal is already a bit closer to the type of things you might have in mind: my objective is to learn Polish fluently. Not an easy one, given the complicated pronunciation, grammar and vocab of this Slavic language. But if it was easy, it wouldn’t be a Big Goal. I have a few more years to go, but with preparation, perseverance, and maybe a little tweaking with the right goal, I should get there.

These are our goals – what is yours?

The Independent’s Top 100 (of happiness, not of wealth)

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the richest of them all? In 2013, Bill Gates topped Forbes’ annual billionaire list, with a wealth of $77.6 bn. To compare: that is above the annual GDP of about one hundred countries on earth. His wealth is about the size of Oman’s GDP in 2012, which ranked 65th.

'Underground artist' Kim Kalan

‘Underground artist’ Kim Kalan. Photo via the Independent.

Fortunately life is not about money. As an antidote against Forbes-like lists of the rich & famous, the UK newspaper The Independent last week released its seventh annual Happy List. As The Independent writes, their feelgood list contains “100 people who, without thought of personal gain, give back and help others, rather than themselves.”

Again quoting the paper, the Happy List of 2014 features: “a 93-year-old who has raised more than £100,000 for Age UK by dressing as a bee; a teacher who donated a kidney to one of his pupils; the world’s oldest barmaid; the limbless Plymouth man who founded a charity to help other amputees; the London woman who founded a pop-up restaurant that employs only refugees and migrants; a couple who set up a bereavement service for parents who have lost a baby; and the heroic lollipop lady of Rhoose.”

What a great positive and inspiring message! Happiness often lies in small but significant acts of kindness. The stories of the 100 individuals making Britain a better, more beautiful and ultimately happier place. But the people on the list also offer a lot of inspiration. Their efforts are easier to emulate and more valuable to society at large than the efforts of most of the billionares listed by Forbes.

Let’s share some of the most striking stories (all bios written by the Independent). Even if they do not inspire you to raise money, fund charities or volunteer, they’ll bring a smile to your face.

Jean Bishop. Photo via the Independent

‘Buzzing Fundraiser’ Jean Bishop. Photo via the Independent

Jodi-Ann Bickley: Happiness spreader

A tick bite led to encephalitis and a stroke, leaving this author from Birmingham unable to walk or write. She learnt to write again, and now, via her website, onemillionlovelyletters.com, spends her time writing cheering notes to all those who ask for one. And thousands do.

Jean Bishop: Buzzing fundraiser

Known as the Busy Bee throughout east Yorkshire, 93-year-old Jean began raising money for Age UK Hull 14 years ago after her husband died. She wears a bee costume (made by her daughter) while rattling her tin, and has so far collected over £100,000.

Kim Kalan: Underground artist

Kim, customer service assistant at Caledonian Road Tube station, north London, brightens up the ticket hall with whiteboard drawings. Kim draws up to two a week in her breaks or at the end of her shifts. Her Mona Lisa is among works bringing daily smiles to the faces of commuters.

Colin Marvell: Job finder

After a banking career, partially-sighted Colin, from Hatfield, Hertfordshire, was unemployed at 50. His struggle to find another job prompted him to launch Inspire4Work, a charity that helps the older unemployed gain new work. He also organises soul music events in aid of charity.

Charlie Simpson. Photo via the Independent.

‘Fundraising cyclist’ Charlie Simpson. Photo via the Independent.

Charlie Simpson: Fundraising cyclist

Charlie, aged 11, from west London has been raising money for international children’s charity Unicef since he was seven. After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, he cycled round his local Fulham park seven times. Word of this feat spread, meaning he eventually raised a massive £260,000.

Robert Williams: Kindness dispenser

Robert helped set up The Kindness Offensive, a group which carries out “random acts of kindness” across London, from delivering Christmas gifts to the underprivileged to handing out chocolate to passers-by. One nominator said Robert has “a real impact” on Londoners’ happiness.

The full Independent on Sunday’s Happy List 2014 is available here.