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Are Your Stretch Goals Really a Stretch?

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This article previously ran on Oct. 22, 2014.

Successful people feel deeply driven to reach their goals.

The most successful people set goals meticulously, diligently track them and relentlessly pursue them.

Related: Chart Goals to Create a Road Map to Your Success

And here's an extra secret for success: many successful people keep two sets of goals -- business-plan goals and stretch goals. Business-plan goals revolve around maintaining a healthy organization, keeping the doors open and making a living. Stretch goals focus on doing much more. Stretch goals mean reaching for big opportunities and accomplishing extraordinary results.

Stretch goals fuel remarkable success. But they come with some inherent dangers:

1. The stretch goal is too low.

Low stretch goals do not truly challenge you or your organization and you realize afterwards that you were capable of more. You know your stretch goal is too low when you meet it and you still come away disappointed. Samuel Johnson put it this way: It is a most mortifying reflection for a man to consider what he has done, compared to what he might have done.”

2. The stretch goal is too high.

Unrealistic stretch goals lead to discouragement, a sense of failure and ultimately to a danger of overcorrecting on the next attempt. Utterly unrealistic stretch goals leave you feeling like the whole endeavor was a charade, and that you wasted time and energy for nothing.

Here's how to find a balance:

1. Pick a goal that both scares and excites you.

First, you need to know and believe (heart and mind) that you really want to achieve your goal. Select a stretch goal important enough and worthy of making sacrifices to achieve. If you have no idea (at first) how to accomplish your goal, you are on the right track. If you do not feel a little scared, you are shooting too low.

Related: Be Strategic. Set Aside Time to Select Daily and Weekly Goals.

2. Define what must happen.

Lay out the steps that must occur to reach your goal. Make them aggressive, but plausible. If one of your steps is “win the lottery,” you are on the wrong track. You want steps that are difficult but doable.

3. Define the goal as "normal" in your mind.

Stretch goals not only challenge your business plan, they also challenge your mind. They feel uncomfortable because they do not fit within your current definition of “normal.” Get comfortable with the goal. You need it to sound and feel normal.

Don’t worry about action steps yet. The first thing to do is to accept the stretch goal as plausible. Make it believable. Do this by reviewing it every day and get accustomed to it as a normal part of your daily thought pattern.

4. Build a team.

Do not attack stretch goals all on your own. You need helpers, encouragers, accountability partners and co-visionaries. Build your team and share the vision. Consider a joint reward when you accomplish the stretch goal.

5. Start the flywheel.

More than anything else, you need momentum. The key here is identifying an aggressive first step. The good news is that the first step is in your control. Don’t think about other steps at this point. Focus on the fact that you can handle the first action.

The largest, most difficult distance to cover when you begin pursuing a stretch goal is the distance between zero and one. The key is to put yourself out there and just get started.

Once you start, you are off to the races! Stretch goals becomes more and more realistic as you continue taking each new step. Before you know it, you will accomplish incredible things. At that point, you will change the world!

Related: A SEAL's Perspective: 5 Ways to Be a Better Leader

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