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Goal Getting

What Are Stretch Goals (And Why It’s Important for Success)

Written by Leon Ho
Founder & CEO of Lifehack
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If there’s one thing that visionary leaders have in common, it’s their relentless pursuit of success and, often, ambitious targets that defy the ordinary. Coined by the former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, stretch goals are challenging and often considered highly ambitious.

Have you ever marveled at how serial entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk built multiple billion dollar businesses or witnessed athletes like Ben Lecomte take on extreme challenges such as swimming across the Atlantic Ocean in 80 days?[1] Their stretch goals are not simple aspirations; instead, a north star ties in closely with their intrinsic motivation.

According to panel data collected from Denmark, it’s believed that “serial entrepreneurs—those who open more than one business—have higher sales and greater productivity than do novice entrepreneurs—those who open only one business.[2] Ultimately, daily habits can only take you so far if you don’t have a plan.

In this guide, you’ll learn why stretch goals are essential for success and how to use the time flow system to help you set and achieve them.

Unlock Your Highest Potential With Stretch Goals

Simply put, a stretch goal is a goal that’s both a high level of difficulty and risk. It’s also a “type of goal” that aims to energize, motivate, engage, and challenge the individual. Regarding stretch goals, these ambitious objectives require a reservoir of inner strength, focus, and determination to navigate the path ahead.

In pursuing stretch goals, willpower emerges as a force, guiding individuals to step outside their comfort zones. Achieving such ambitious goals involves breaking through mental barriers and questioning limiting beliefs.


When under stress, our body goes into a fight-or-flight response. When we go into the practice of self-control, then our body goes into a pause-and-plan response. This shift is critical as energy transmits to our brain’s prefrontal cortex, where we keep track of our goals and can override impulses. This shift transforms into a heightened motivation.[3]

Yet, while willpower is powerful, you would still need a comprehensive guide or plan to meet your stretch goals.

5 Reasons Why Stretch Goals Are Important for Success

1. Increases Motivation to Reach New Heights

Studies show that setting stretch goals increases motivation. Intrinsic motivation is known as “an incentive to engage in a specific activity that derives from pleasure in the activity itself.” [4]

Start by looking at all components of each situation or task you face, especially related to your stretch goals. It’s a good time to break it down and think about the why, how, and what. By honing in on these three components, you’ll discover what aspects of your goal give you internal enjoyment.

2. Sparks Creativity and New Innovative Methods

When delving into stretch goals, it’s not about honing in on hyper-specific targets but daring to dream big and visualize the impossible. Aim to go for ranges rather than a target. As you navigate the different roadblocks, hurdles, and opportunities, the focus shifts to thinking outside the box.

Think of creative methods and expansive possibilities beyond constraining systems to help you take steps toward your stretch goals.

3. Strengthens Team Collaboration and Camaraderie

In a team setting, stretch goals inspire and motivate one another. This process helps team members think collectively rather than individually. This allows them to recognize “that everything is connected, and achieving any one goal depends on making good progress toward all the others.”[5]

4. Consistent Upward Growth

It’s also vital to look at stretch goals and personal growth simultaneously as parallel endeavors. Individuals embark on a transformative journey examining their various skills, mindsets, strengths, and weaknesses by intertwining these two endeavors. As a result, it contributes to a more purpose-driven life.

5. Shapes a Vision for the Future

Consider your stretch goals as more than just objectives—they should seamlessly align with the overarching mission of your life. In adopting this perspective, the goal becomes more than a mere endpoint; it transforms into a pursuit that extends beyond conventional boundaries.

Remember that dreaming bigger doesn’t have to be difficult; all it takes is clarity.

Examples of Stretch Goals and Strategies to Keep You Motivated

At times, stretch goals can feel overwhelming. Negative thoughts can creep in, especially when confronting the magnitude of your stretch goals that might trigger some limiting beliefs. Incorporate a strategic tool such as the Time Flow System to help keep you focused and navigate any challenges that may present themselves.

Here’s a quick guide on how to utilize this system:

1. Find your North Stars

Similar to intrinsic motivation, in the Time Flow System, we call this “North Stars.” North stars guide your life aspirations. Determine how you will feel rather than what the end goal looks like. Stretch goals are out-of-the-world goals that seem impossible, but that’s the point. It’s also training us to achieve and believe in the impossible.

2. Small Achievable Steps

Schedule goals, not tasks. Strategic planning allows you to streamline your tasks into different categories. For example, if your stretch goal is to read 50 books in one year, reclaim some of your time gaps. Lost time can take up 20-50% of our days.

In the Time Flow System, we call these “Initiatives.” It involves strategically planning smaller achievable tasks for these time gaps, such as preparing for a full marathon.

If you’re a new runner with a goal to complete a full marathon by the end of the year, the training process may initially feel overwhelming. Break up your training into different levels, making each level more challenging as you progress.


There are different tips for setting a good milestone. One way is to keep the overall process simple. Here’s an example below:

  • Level 1: Walking 40 minutes per day and running 15 minutes per day
  • Level 2: Running 30 minutes and walking 30 minutes per day
  • Level 3: Running 60 minutes per day
  • Level 4: Begin tracking mileage: goal running 4 miles per day
  • Level 5: 4 miles 4 days a week; 6 miles 2 days a week
  • Level 6: 10 miles per day 5 days per week: 2 days rest

3. Make Deadlines/Levels Your Friend

When it comes to stretch goals, many people might need help knowing where to start. The Time Flow System considers these as “Focus Blocks.” One focus block method is constructing a progression stairway to systematically break down your plan and goals into distinct strategies.

What Are Stretch Goals (And Why It’s Important for Success)

    Focus blocks can look like the following:

    • Focus Block 1 ( Walking 40 minutes per day and running 15 minutes per day): Run for 15 minutes. If running without stopping is difficult, aim to get this part of the exercise out of the way in the morning. The remaining 40 minutes can be completed at the end of the day.
    • Focus Block 2 (Running 30 minutes and walking 30 minutes per day): Run and walk in intervals. If running for 30 minutes straight may be challenging, walk for 15 minutes and then run for 15 to make it easier.
    • Focus Block 3 (Running 60 minutes per day): Make the goal to run for two intervals of 30 minutes. Carve out time in your schedule and commit to that focus block daily.
    • Focus Block 4 (Begin tracking mileage: goal running 4 miles per day): Decide how many breaks and how long you want your breaks to be during your 4-mile run. Try to stick within those blocks, eventually working up to running for 4 miles without stopping.
    • Focus Block 5 (10 miles per day 5 days per week: 2 days rest): Make the goal to run as far as possible before you need a break. Track the mileage and proceed to beat your goal the next day.

    You can learn more about the Time Flow System here.

    Final Thoughts

    It’s clear that stretch goals aren’t just lofty aspirations but instead a transformative journey. The connection between stretch goals and success is profound and rooted in innovation, team building, and continuous growth.

    By considering stretch goals parallel to personal development, it becomes instrumental in crafting a long-term vision. Tools like the Time Flow System and strategic planning become indispensable to navigate the challenges, offering guidance while on the path to accomplish extraordinary achievements.


    Dreaming big isn’t daunting; it’s about gaining clarity, setting achievable steps, and progressing through strategic milestones. With this approach, you can achieve your stretch goals with progressive levels that will teach you to stay innovative.


    Don't have time for the full article? Read this.

    What Are Stretch Goals (And Why It’s Important for Success)

    Introduced by Jack Welch, stretch goals are highly ambitious and challenging.

    Stretch goals are crucial for success, requiring a high level of difficulty, risk, and internal motivation.

    Stretch goals increases motivation, spark creativity, strengthen team collaboration and encourage consistent upward growth.

    Use the Time Flow System — a strategic tool for focus and navigating challenges as you try to reach your stretch goals:

    North Stars: Identifying life aspirations and feelings associated with goals.

    Small Achievable Steps: Breaking down goals into manageable tasks.

    Making Deadlines/Levels Friendly: Using the Time Flow System to create focus blocks for systematic goal progression.


    [1]The New Humanitarian: The Man Swimming Across the Pacific Ocean
    [3]Stanford Medicine: The Science of Willpower
    [4]American Psychology Association: Intrinsic Motivation
    [5]Cfthoughtleader.com: Stretch Goals
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