Why Stretch Goals are Important

Updated: Aug 8

Why Stretch Goals are Important in Your Career

What are stretch goals and why are they important? The definition of a stretch goal is “a deliberately challenging or ambitious aim or objective.” Although this may sound intimidating, stretch goals play an essential part in growth, personal development, and high-achievement in your career.

As a high-level executive, I’m sure you’re aware of the importance of setting concrete goals for your business that will also ignite leadership development. But are you setting the right stretch goals?

Oftentimes when we write our goals, we limit ourselves to what’s “practical” or “realistic” because when we don’t achieve our biggest goals, it can negatively impact our confidence and self esteem, leaving us feeling inadequate and less likely to set tough goals for ourselves in the future.

And let’s face it, some of us are afraid to declare our biggest, loftiest goals because even though we may want them with all our hearts, our self doubt can get in the way. When I work with clients in my leadership coaching programs, I help build their confidence in their decision making abilities so they can move forward. It feels like we’re protecting ourselves by not declaring our biggest and brightest dreams but really, we’re potentially depriving ourselves of what would make our heart “sing.”

Researchers from the University of Maryland and the University of Toronto reviewed a collection of studies focused on goal setting and achievement and found that 90% of the time, specific and challenging goals led to higher performance than easy goals, “do your best” goals, or no goals at all (Locke & Latham).  The researchers also found that having challenging goals positively affects performance by directing attention, mobilizing efforts, and increasing persistence toward those goals (Locke & Latham).

In addition, goal setting is most likely to improve task performance when the goals are specific and sufficiently challenging (Locke & Latham).

The key is to set goals that are achievable but stretch you enough to make you uncomfortable. Getting comfortable with discomfort is the key to breakthroughs, personal and professional growth, and achieving your biggest, brightest goals.

There are life-changing benefits to setting stretch goals for yourself and your career, and I’ve compiled the following list to walk you through some of those benefits of setting stretch goals:

1. You force to move beyond your comfort zone

Without stretch goals we can get “stuck” in the same place in our lives and careers, often without even realizing it. Sometimes when we have already achieved so much, we get comfortable where we are and forget that growth is always possible and we still have so much to learn. I’m here to remind you that personal development never stops, not even for the world’s most high-achieving professionals. In an ever-changing world, there is always room for improvement.

2. You build your confidence

Setting stretch goals for ourselves reminds us that with hard work and consistency, we can achieve those goals and more. It can be much easier to set less challenging goals for ourselves to avoid the hard work and commitment they require, but when we do this we’re only hurting ourselves. You are capable of much more than you think you are, so setting those stretch goals can be a great reminder that you’re talented and hardworking enough to accomplish them.

3. You stay focused on what you want

I’m sure you’ve heard the term, “out of sight, out of mind.” People often think of goals for themselves in their minds but don’t write them down or keep them in sight. I recommend putting your goals somewhere that you look at on a daily basis, whether that’s the bathroom mirror or your computer background. This will help keep you focused on what you want and steer you away from the distractions you will inevitably face that could lead you off course.

4. You hold yourself accountable

Another reason why stretch goals are important is because they hold us accountable to do the work required for our desired results. When we set goals and don’t achieve them, it can take a serious toll on our self-confidence. Reminding ourselves of the things we want to achieve ensures that we work towards those goals daily. Accountability keeps us disciplined and on track.

5. You visualize your future with intention

Visualization is an incredible tool that should be implemented by anyone looking to fulfill their dreams. This is because the brain makes very little distinction between what is real and what is being vividly recalled in the mind’s “eye.” When you vividly imagine yourself accomplishing your stretch goals, you are utilizing one of the most powerful tools available within you.

6. You are reminded of your ‘“why”

When faced with adversity, it can be easy to give up and lose our vision for the future. When setting stretch goals, you can reflect on why you wanted to achieve these goals in the first place and why they are so incredibly important to you. Whether it’s your kids, spouse, or your clients, we all have a reason “why” that keeps us going everyday, especially when dealing with obstacles.

7. You achieve overall happiness, a sense of purpose, and achievement

When we finally reap the fruits of our labor, it feels incredible. I’m sure you can recall a specific goal or dream you had, that once achieved, made you feel amazing.  The feeling of achieving your biggest and brightest goals makes all the time and effort you put into them well worth it.

In order to not overwhelm yourself with a long list of stretch goals, it can be helpful to choose one stre