Stretch Goals: Risk or Reward?

Stretch Goals: Risk or Reward?

There is a popular saying about goals: “Shoot for the moon, because even if you miss, you will land among the stars.” This idea i falls in the realm of common dictums about success: aim high, dream big, take risks. However, when we inevitably start setting goals, it is easy to start thinking about stretch goals — those lofty, but often-unrealistic achievements that Jim Collins coined BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) in his book Built to Last.

However, goal setting is much more than aiming high. The process should be an in-depth conversation either with yourself or with a coach. A coach needs to help coachees understand their priorities, their motivations, and the true challenges they face. Only then can coaches and coachees work together to set goal that will actually get accomplished. But why not “aim high? Should people and organizations have stretch goals? Should a coaching conversation include them?

That depends on the situation, the organization and/or the person. But here is what you need to understand:

  • Stretch goals can produce results — as long as they are realistic and properly planned for. More than anything a person must have the resources and infrastructure necessary to obtain those goals. Masterful Coaches call this an Impossible Future.
  • However, stretch goals are inherently risky. One of largest risks in achieving any goal is that the goal is set too lofty. When a goal seems out of reach, simply the prospect of starting the goal can be enough to turn people off from ever taking the first step.

Reducing the Risk of Stretch Goals

If a coaching conversation does lead to setting a stretch goal, there are ways you can reduce the risk.

Start by setting smaller, more achievable goals that pave the way to the stretch goal. A series of victories, however small, creates momentum and helps drive motivation. After all, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

There are many techniques that can help with achieving stretch goals. Two popular methods we have highlighted before are the GROW model and the SMART framework. You might recall the GROW model first involves declaring the goal. Then, you need to examine current reality, and available options to achieving the goal. You finish by establishing the will to follow through on the goal. The SMART framework keeps goals from becoming too unrealistic by ensuring the goal is: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. Click on the links above to learn more about these two coaching models.

Setting too high of a goal, and then missing it, can be demoralizing. Worse, the more often this happens, the more one’s overall motivation might decrease leading to a vicious cycle. By keeping stretch goals in check and planning appropriately, coaches can keep their coachees from losing momentum and ultimately keep them on the road to success.