How to Set Stretch Goals And Actually Attain Them

Goals are crucial to any project that you are looking to accomplish.

But when you hit that goal, what happens next? That’s where a ‘stretch goal’ comes in.

A stretch goal is an ambitious target designed to force you outside your comfort zone. These goals should be challenging (but not impossible).  

Stretch goals will make you think and work differently, rather than only working harder or longer hours.

What Are Stretch Goals?

By design, stretch goals are aggressively ambitious. They force you to expand your mindset and get you to think outside of the box. This is where true creativity comes from.

Stretch goals should require you to form innovative approaches rather than working harder or working longer hours. With the right conditions, a stretch goal should inspire you to think differently, commit to a new approach, and take your performance to the next level.

When setting goals, people think they need to select “attainable” goals so that they don’t get discouraged. And in many cases, setting attainable goals is a great way to ensure that your goals are met. But the problem with attainable or easier goals is that they don’t challenge you, they don’t bring out the best in you, and they don’t inspire you.

Stretch goals are those goals you think are “impossible” and don’t know how to reach – yet. This is what leads to innovation and more significant accomplishments.

smarter faster better

Smarter Faster Better

by Charles Duhigg

⏱ 13 minute reading time

🎧 Audio version available

What Makes A Good Stretch Goal and How to Set Them

It’s effortless to set limits on ourselves of what we can and cannot do in this day and age. When setting a stretch goal, we have to think of the impossible.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • If anything were possible, what would you want to happen in your life and business?
  • What is something you’ve always wanted to do but didn’t think was possible?
  • If you were rich, what would you do with the money?
  • If you could travel the world, have your ‘dream’ job, and do anything you wanted. What would that look like, and how would you get there?

These questions make you think of the impossible.

It’s hard for most people to envision the impossible. This is where you need to start small. Get the small victories and work your way up. You also have to believe it. If you don’t believe what you think is possible, you won’t achieve it.

The Considerable Benefits of Stretch Goals

What exactly are the benefits of setting an ambitious goal that you may not ever reach it? At first glance, this may seem like an exercise in futility or a waste of precious time. In reality, though, stretch goals do offer several significant benefits.

To start, stretch goals force you to expand your imagination and envision what your world would look like if you could achieve your most ambitious aspirations. While there is nothing wrong with being a realist, there is something to be said for adopting an idealist mindset from time to time.

After all, it isn’t easy to strive toward your ideal life if you have never taken the time to pause and imagine what your ideal life looks like. Setting stretch goals forces you to perform this valuable exercise and adopt an idealist mindset, if only for a temporary period of time.

The second considerable benefit of stretch goals is that even falling short can still mean you end up at a very good place when you strive toward your most challenging and ambitious goals. There’s a saying that says if you shoot for the moon and miss, you’ll still land in the stars, and this is a saying aptly sums up one of the most significant benefits of setting goals that are incredibly ambitious and difficult to attain.

Even if you fall short of the exact goal you set, you may still end up making an incredible amount of progress in your life and end up very pleased with where your pursuits lead you.

The final benefit of setting stretch goals has to do with the fact that so many people underestimate their capabilities. If you never challenge yourself or strive toward a goal that is exceedingly difficult to achieve, you may never discover just how far your limits can be pushed.

After all, many, if not most, of the most incredible innovations and accomplishments throughout human history have been achieved by people who were told at the time that their objectives were impossible. In short, you’ll never know where the line between the possible and the impossible lies until you push yourself harder than you’ve ever pushed yourself before.

Tips for Making the Most of Stretch Goals

While stretch goals offer a wide range of benefits, they can also lead to disappointment and frustration if you do not adopt the right approach. To help you make the most of stretch goals and fully enjoy all of the many benefits that they have to offer, here are a few tips that you should certainly employ.

Tip #1: Accept the Possibility of Falling Short

This is a problematic aspect of stretch goals to get right. On the one hand, you want to give any stretch goal you set your very best effort and strive as hard as you possibly can to achieve it, or else there’s no point.

Stretch goals by design offers many benefits even if they are not achieved, and there’s no need to feel as if you have failed if you end up falling a little short of the exact goal you set. Keeping both of these things in mind as you go about pursuing the stretch goals you set is a bit of a balancing act, but it can be done.

If you give your goal your absolute very best shot while at the same time accepting the possibility of falling short and understanding that there are still plenty of benefits to be gained even if your exact goal is not reached, you can maximize the advantages of stretch goals.

Tip #2: Be Sure to Set Goals that Will Push Your Limits

A good stretch goal is one that is so ambitious and difficult to achieve that is nearing the border of impossible. It’s one that will make you feel as if you can accomplish anything should you manage to reach it and one that will push you to the very limit of your capabilities.

While there’s certainly nothing wrong with setting goals that are a little more attainable, these goals don’t qualify as stretch goals and don’t offer the same set of benefits that stretch goals provide. Ensure that your stretch goals are incredibly ambitious and challenging if you decide that setting stretch goals is something you want to do.

Tip #3: Don’t Rely on Stretch Goals Alone

Stretch goals should not be the only type of goal that you set for yourself. Since stretch goals are so incredibly difficult to attain, only setting stretch goals is likely to mean that you will rarely ever reach your set goals.

Therefore, it’s much better to combine stretch goals with other, more attainable types of goals such as smart goals – and we will take a look at the benefits of this combination below.  

Stretch Goals + Smart Goals

After you’ve written down your stretch goals, it’s time to turn those “impossible” goals into a reality. This is where we can use smart goals to turn those outlandish stretch goals into specific and measurable goals that we need to attain to achieve the stretch goals.

What is a smart goal? A smart goal is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timeline.

Example: Stretch goal = Run a half marathon.

  • Specific sub-goal: Run 7 miles without stopping.
  • Measurable: Run twice around the neighborhood, no walking.
  • Achievable: Definitely, if I run four times a week.
  • Relevant: Sure, if I wake up early every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.
  • Time-based: Run 1 mile this week, 2 miles next week, 3 miles the following week, and so on.

Smart goals give your stretch goals an outline to make them more specific, achievable and measure your progress along the way. Setting smart goals in combination with stretch goals ensures that you will meet at least some of the goals you set for yourself, even if you fall short of your ambitious stretch goals.

Related: Why You Can (And Should) Embrace a Growth Mindset

Stretch Your Limits With Stretch Goals

If you are looking for a great way to challenge yourself, expand your horizons, and explore your capabilities’ true limits, then stretch goals are an excellent tool to use.

From forcing to adopt an idealist mindset and imagine what your ideal life looks like to motivating you to push yourself harder than you have ever pushed yourself before, there are certainly plenty of benefits to be gained when you set and strive toward stretch goals.

By combining these difficult to attain goals with much more attainable smart goals, you can develop a goal-setting strategy that is ideally suited to help you achieve your dreams.

Start Your Snapreads Free Trial

What Is Snapreads?

With the Snapreads app, you get the key insights from the best nonfiction books in minutes, not hours or days. Our experts transform these books into quick, memorable, easy-to-understand insights you can read when you have the time or listen to them on the go.

Back to site top