3 Reasons Why You Should Set Stretch Goals At All Times — And 3 Ways How

woman reaching for goals

Canva / Fairygodboss Staff

Sara London for Hive
Sara London for Hive
Do you have dreams of reaching a million website hits in the next year or launching a brand-new product by the end of the quarter? You might have a stretch goal — and even though it might seem like an impossible feat, you know it can improve your work performance just to have it in the back of your mind. 

What are stretch goals?

A stretch goal is a somewhat unrealistic milestone that you have to try hard to achieve – it’s challenging and painstaking but ultimately extremely rewarding if that milestone (or something close to it) is met. You might not think you can reach your stretch goal, and it might take a whole lot of work. But with your team by your side and the right tools to help, these goals that seem unattainable can turn into an inspiring setting to fuel the rest of your everyday work.

Why is it important?

It’s a good idea to have at least one of these high-effort high-risk goals, whether you’re batting around the idea in a meeting or you’re seriously putting it on your visions board — and here’s why.

1. They fit the mission.

Stretch goals shouldn’t just be lofty ideals made out of impossible dreams. If done right, they’re an excellent opportunity to connect with something beyond yourself and allow you to grow your company from within.
They should ultimately fit in with your company’s larger mission, so you won’t be stretching in a direction that’s inorganic for your team. They should also be authentic to your personal mission, as you can’t stretch in a way that your body and mind simply don’t go, lest you want to set yourself up for failure.

2. They encourage innovation.

If your stretch goals include working harder but not smarter, you might not be getting the most out of the experience. The right stretch goals can spur creativity, increase problem-solving abilities, and develop skills required to work through adversity.
Having aspirations that require new ways of thinking can be incredible learning experiences, so if you’re going to make a stretch goal, be sure that it’s more about trying something new than it is about working harder at something you’ve already been doing.

3. They enhance productivity.

Another great thing about stretch goals is that they fuel productivity under the right circumstances. If you have this new and exciting reason to wake up in the morning, even the tasks that seemed monotonous before can become invigorated with a new sense of passion and exhilaration.
A report from the Harvard Business Review shows that these somewhat difficult goals cause a release of beneficial neurochemicals such as adrenaline or norepinephrine, both chemicals that can stimulate excitement and motivation.

How do I achieve it?

Yes, stretch goals are indeed achievable (and even if they aren’t, you’re achieving something along the way). Reframing your mindset about what success is can ensure that if you don’t reach these lofty goals, you’ll still feel proud and confident about what you accomplished along the way.
Many prefer to organize stretch goals within the SMART framework, ensuring that their goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. But the option is always there to create goals based upon a looser sense of what your company needs and keep these aspirations nebulously omnipresent to encourage positivity.
If you’re looking to keep your eye on the prize, however, you need to make sure that you’re a little more disciplined about the way you tackle your stretch goals. One of the best ways to reach your stretch goals is to make sure that you’re working towards them as efficiently and practically as possible. Hive has tools like time tracking to help you bring your stretch goal vision to life and find the hours in the day to devote to these enormous projects.

Making the perfect stretch goals

1. Specialize.

It’s vital that your stretch goals should be personalized for your team and that you focus on crafting these ideas based upon the skills you each have. A report from Business Matters notes that in recent research, stretch goals are found to work mainly because they spur on the contribution of new ideas.
If your stretch goal isn’t directly related to the culture and talents of your team, you might have a flurry of new ideas that are disjointed and perhaps uninformed. But if you stay in your lane and focus on your strengths, you can use stretch goals to get better at the things you already do.

2. Keep it real.

Being honest with yourself and your team is another key to creating the perfect stretch goal. To keep it real, many companies don’t end up accomplishing their stretch goals, and some researchers believe that the jury is still out on whether or not they’re beneficial for team building. In truth, making an impossible stretch goal will just make employees feel disappointed and apathetic.
Studies show that if you keep impossible stretch goals based on production, the quality of an employee’s work might decrease just so their quantity can go up. Stretch goals are the most effective with focused employees who have a good sense of their own limits.

3. Remember the big picture.

Your stretch goals should reach all the way into your company’s mission. This could include something like a project that involves upper management or an internal project for a fundraiser, something that’s hard to accomplish or coordinate but would yield a remarkable outcome. Just make sure that whatever you’re planning, it’s more about the company’s mission than your own personal mission.
While stretch goals can be personal, and you can aspire to run a 5K or write your first novel outside the workplace, working with a team is about considering things outside yourself. When creating stretch goals with your team, remember to adjust the objective to account for their input and participation — because their skills can ultimately complement yours.
This article originally appeared in Hive — the world's first democratically built productivity platform. Learn more at Hive.com.

What's your no. 1 piece of goal-setting advice? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!