It is possible that it wasn't Michelangelo who
actually said or wrote these words, but that's okay.
The words themselves are the important part, and it's
basically another way of saying that if you aim for the
treetops and reach them, then what? But if you aim
for the stars and reach only the heights of the sky, then
you're still better off than if you were in the treetops.
I agree only partly with this idea, though. I do
believe that it's important that we set our sights high,
that we create real challenges for ourselves that will
force us to step out of our areas of comfort and push
ourselves harder than we would without the lofty
goals. If we "settle," if we set our aim
low--be it for a job, a spouse, a vacation, a new car--we
could end up with a job we despise, a spouse who treats us
poorly, a horrible vacation, a clunker of a car that's
unreliable and costs more to maintain than a more
expensive car would have.
On the other hand, I've learned from teaching over the
last two decades that one of the most important things we
can give ourselves in our efforts to improve ourselves is
a series of successes--we must feel that we've
accomplished something sometimes if we're to have the
confidence to take on the next challenge, to learn the
next thing, to accomplish the next project. If our
goal is to reach the stars and we never do so, then we
never will have successfully reached goals we've set for
ourselves, even though we had to accomplish a great deal
to get where we did.
I've had students on the track team who could have trained
with the best coaches in the world for years, and who
still NEVER would have won state in their events.
And that's okay. In working with them, we set goals
for improving their times, for reaching personal records,
for doing well in the regional meets and the
invitationals-- even reaching the state meet
sometimes. We never would have set a goal of winning
state because it simply wouldn't have come to pass.
Those students finish the track season having succeeded in
most of their goals, and they have the experience of
having set realistic goals and then doing the work
necessary to achieve them.
We must be careful with our goals. It is important
to set our aim high, but it's also important to include
goals that are very achievable so that we can keep track
of our successes and know that we are moving forward and
upward in life.