Peter Thiel, the founder of Paypal, has an interesting philosophy regarding goals.
He believes everyone should have one goal at a time.
If you have more than one goal, you’re always going to gravitate towards the easier goal.
While this thinking is extreme, limiting the amount of goals you set makes a lot of sense. It also makes sense when taking on difficult goals — the ones that provide you with the most satisfaction when you achieve them.
That’s why a lot of people tend to set more reasonable goals. No one wants to set unrealistic goals and watch themselves fall short.
But setting difficult, nearly unachievable goals is crucial to your success.
This type is called a stretch goal, and they can make all the difference in how you perform over the course of a week, month, quarter, or year.
The thinking around stretch goals is if you’ve hit all of your goals, you’ve aimed too low.
Traditional goals limit people in a couple ways. People tend to slow up, or even take a break, once they’ve achieved a goal. They also tend to work just enough to make sure they hit their goal within a certain time frame. So, if you typically have 10 goals for the month, you hit all 10 and consider yourself successful.
They seem achievable only under the best circumstances. But they are possible to hit, which causes you to stretch past your traditional stopping point to see if you can achieve them.
And even if you don’t, you make it farther than you would have with traditional goals.
Say you set 15 goals instead of 10. Now, you feel more pressure to hit every one. Maybe you won’t achieve all 15, but if you finish 13, you’re more successful than the month before.
Stretch goals force you to think about things differently.
You push your mind beyond what’s realistic — the normal way of doing things. You may not reach every stretch goal, and that’s okay.
But you’ll think about doing things differently to put them within reach.
What could you do to achieve one stretch goal, even if you don’t hit the others?
Another way to think about this is through the lens of running a mile. If you can run a six-minute mile, and you make that your goal, then you’ll probably finish right around six minutes. But if you make your goal a five-minute mile, you’ll probably finish faster. You might not hit five minutes, but you might be able to get your time down to 5 minutes and 30 seconds.
You aren’t necessarily faster than you were last week, you just changed your mindset.
Stretch goals provide you with a little extra momentum, like a rocket taking off.
The vast majority of the energy goes into getting a rocket off the ground. Once it’s in the air, it doesn’t take nearly as much energy to keep it going.
Stretch goals help provide that initial energy, pushing you beyond the limits of traditional milestones and getting your rocket in the air.
When we started using stretch goals at Morphic, we made it clear that the team wouldn’t hit every goal. They were aggressive goals, and we didn’t want anyone taking shortcuts. We wanted high-quality performance, because it doesn’t benefit anyone to hit a goal in a mediocre way.
And midway through the year, when it looked very tough to meet the goals, people weren’t worrying about it. Instead, they were thinking about what to do differently. Even late in the year, people were coming up with new processes to achieve their goals.
This is really the mindset behind stretch goals.
It’s not about hitting each one, it’s about creating an environment where people are always pushing the limits and finding new paths to success.
Originally published at medium.com