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Goal Setting: The Peter Principle

Posted on January 08, 2014 by

A recent encounter with a bump in the road (aka "adversity") in the pursuit of one of my goals, for some reason my mind turned to Peter the apostle in the Bible's New Testament. Now, even if you aren't Christian, keep reading because I realized that one of Peter's experiences in his life can teach us quite a bit about setting, keeping and working for goals.

The story in question is found in St. Mathew chapter 14 (or St. Mark 6 and St. John 6). The story tells us that Jesus Christ's disciples, of which Peter was one, were out on a small fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee on their way to Capernaum. We read that it was late at night, during the "fourth watch" which according to the Roman's method of keeping time was "quarta vigilia noctis", or just before dawn, which tells us that the disciples had been rowing and fighting the storm throughout the night.

Now storms on the Sea of Galilee can be quite violent due to the cold air coming down from the hills around the sea where it meets the warmer air around the Galilee due to the lower elevation. So there the disciples were; it was late, it was violently stormy, the wind was roaring, the waves were crashing over the tiny boat's sides and the rain was coming down in sheets. It was at this point that Jesus appeared, walking across the thrashing water. While the disciples feard it was spirit at first, Jesus said "Be of good acheer; it is I; be not afraid." Peter, upon seeing his master, cries out, "Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water." to which Jesus simply responds, "Come." This is where it gets interesting.

1. Peter Set a Goal
When it comes to achieving any level of success in this world we must first start with an objective/goal in mind. If you don't know where you want to go, then as the Cheshire Cat told Alice while in Wonderland, "Then it really doesn't matter which way you go." Peter now had a goal: reach Jesus out on the water. To get anywhere in life, we need to set short-, medium-, and long-term goals that move us in the direction of our dreams and are in line with our core values and desires.

2. Peter Got Out of the Boat
This is a pretty important part of the story that most people blow right past, but to his credit Peter got out of the boat. He left the (relative) safety and security and took that first big step. How many of us sit on our goals, staring at them in our minds, but fail to "leave the boat" of our comfort zone and take those first steps, no matter how halting they may be? As the Cheshire Cat also told Alice, "Every adventure requires a first step. Trite, but true..."

3. Eyes on the Prize or Else
So Peter set a goal, he took the first step and he was on his way. It was only when he took his eyes of the prize, reaching his master, and instead focused on the stormy waves, the rain, the wind and the lightening that he began to sink. In the pursuit of your goals, the storms of adversity will most definitely show up at some point. The question is, will you keep your eyes focused on your goals with optimism and hope, or will you let discouragement and despair rob you of positive energy and therefore cause your heart/spirit/mind to sink?

4. Even if You Fall, You're Falling Forward
One thing that people forget (because they are so afraid of failure) is that falling is still moving forward. Peter, although he began to sink, still stretched for his goal, even Jesus. Many people criticize Peter for this moment where his faith/motivation/optimism/hope seemed to fail, but at least he tried. He was the only disciple to leave the boat and make the effort.

As U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt once said, "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

5. Adapt and Achieve Victory
While Jesus may have chided Peter for his lack of faith (Mathew 14:31), I fully believe that both recognized Peter's act of courage to get out on the water in the first place and his good desire to achieve the goal he set. And in fact, while it may not have gone according to Peter's plan, with a little help he was still able to reach his objective. We should never be afraid to ask for help or to change and adapt our plans according to circumstances so that we can ultimately achieve success. Reaching out for assistance or changing our strategy are not signs of weakness: they are indications of a determination to succeed.

So there you have it, The Peter Principle as I call it. Don't worry about the storms of adversity; keep walking, swimming, crawling or whatever you have to do, but keep moving forward. Don't quit, don't give up and don't sink into despair or discouragement. That goal you want so badly is just within reach so stretch, take that leap of faith and keep fighting until you emerge victorious.

As Rocky Balboa said, "That's how winning is done."

Fire on Ice by Jeremy C Holm

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Jeremy Holm

(Printable Bio) - American bobsled pilot and coach Jeremy Holm is a respected author, motivational speaker, journalist and graphic designer. Jeremy was born in Pennsylvania and grew up in Oklahoma and Utah where he currently resides. A graduate of Skyline High School, he attended Salt Lake Community College and Brigham Young University after serving a Christian mission to Honduras and Belize.

Jeremy became one of the world’s first adaptive bobsled coaches when he began instructing the U.S. Adaptive Bobsled Team in 2009. In 2008 Jeremy founded The Athlete Outreach Project, a philanthropic organization that uses sport and the Olympic movement to serve the community. Jeremy is also the author of two books: The Champion’s Way and Fire on Ice.



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Fire on Ice Jeremy C Holm
Racing down an icy track at 80 miles per hour leads you to think of many things. For Jeremy C. Holm, it made him think of God. In Fire and Ice, Holm shares his experiences as a bobsled pilot and coach, presenting a message of faith and personal courage that will inspire you to come closer to Jesus Christ and reach for that ultimate prize of eternal life.

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The Champions Way Jeremy C Holm
How do we achieve gold medal moments in life? How do we find peace and confidence and what truly makes us happy? Discover the answers in Jeremy's new ebook, "The Champion's Way", available now at

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