Setting Goals Too High or Too Low: Which One is Undermining Your Success?

There are many schools of thought around goal setting. The accepted SMART goal model (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) focuses on attainable goals that don’t set the bar too high. They’re practical and challenging, but don’t have that sense of struggle and stress attached to it.
Another model making the rounds is stretch goals.í The general idea is to set goals that are difficult, maybe impossible, to achieve. The idea is to shoot for the moon and see how high you go.
The reasoning is, if you set realistic SMART goals, you’re capping yourself. You might not know the heights you can reach because you’ve set goals that are modest when you compare them to moon shots.

Which Approach is Better?
The answer largely depends on the type of person you are. Are you motivated by failure? Does it make you want to try harder? Are you stubborn and resilient?


Or, do setbacks and missed milestones leave you anxious, deflated, and ready to give up? Do you like to have realistic expectations and a clear understanding of where you want to go?

When you set SMART goals, you are deliberately setting targets that you can achieve, by the deadline you have selected. Stretch goals are designed to stretch your ability and are created with the assumption you are going to ëfailí by normal standards. With the stretch mentality, achieving 65% – 75% of your audacious goal is a success.

Which Approach Has the Best Chance of Success?

If you constantly feel like your goals are unreachable, it can undermine your performance and confidence and leave you frustrated. If you are too safe, you might not experience groundbreaking achievements.
Research has shown that if your goals are moderately difficult, then you have the best chance of achieving them. This leans towards the SMART model of goal setting.

Depending on your mindset, you might try adding one or two stretch goals to your SMART goal list. Here are some tips:

Consider your current situation

How are you feeling? Have you recently lost a client, changed careers, or started a new business? Are you in the middle of a big rebrand or product launch? What’s going on in your personal life? If there’s a lot happening, adding stretch goals to the mix is probably not a great idea.
On the other hand, if you’ve signed a new client, have relative stability in your life, and have been operating your small business for a number of years, maybe you’re ready for a challenge. Add one or two stretch goals and see what happens.

Set Goals for Different Areas of Your Life/Business
You might not be ready for stretch goals in your current business, but maybe you’ve always wanted to write a book, bring a product you’ve invented to market, work remotely from a different country, or become a voice actor. Try out a stretch goal in one area of your life.

If you do set a stretch goal, make it OK to fail

Really understand what it means to strive for a stretch goal. Feel free to go for the moon and be ok and safe if you only hit 70% of your goal. In fact, understand that 70% is a success and reward yourself.

Overall, the SMART approach is sound. SMART goals provide you with a clear roadmap and a sense of purpose, stability, and structure. You know where you’ve been and where you’re going.
Take incremental, productive steps towards your goals in the time you’ve allotted. You can always raise the bar once you’ve achieved your initial goal, pushing yourself to greater heights on your own terms.

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