S.M.A.R.T. goals and stretch goals.

These two types of goals can work together for incredible results.

S.M.A.R.T. stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and based on a timeline. This system works really well for defining how to make small adjustments to your current performance to hit short term targets. It’s often used in the corporate world and can easily be applied to our personal lives so that we can turn vague aspirations into a concrete action plan.

For example, if we want to be more fit; we’d get specific, measurable, and set a timeline with, “I want to run up the hill at the park in under 2 minutes, by the end of the month.” We’ll train at the gym twice a week for 20 minutes before work (achievable) and we know it’s within our grasp (realistic). Checking each goal off our list will make us feel great and give us motivation for the next one.

A fulfilled life, however, requires more than a series of short-term goals. It’s also important to stretch ourselves now and then with challenges that we don’t immediately know how to achieve. Such as starting our own business, or fundraising for a charity, or travelling to an unknown destination with little resources, or pushing the previous goal past climbing a hill to perhaps a triathlon challenge.

A stretch goal is innovative and transformative. It may seem audacious at first, so we need a flexible, open, creative mind to brainstorm possible paths to achieve it. If it’s a true stretch, we’ll also need some outside resources. Books, courses, and a coach or mentor can help us figure out how to make it real.

Once broken down, we can pair stretch ideas with a series of S.M.A.R.T. goals, to help turn our big dreams into reality. Even if we don’t end up with the results we initially expect, the journey will improve our lives.

Take action: What stretch goal do you want to achieve? Think big enough that it makes you a little nervous. Next, brainstorm ways that could make it possible, consult some outside sources, and choose the most enjoyable route. Then start breaking it down. You don’t need all the details, just the top line view and first few steps. Know that when ready, you can turn those steps into S.M.A.R.T. goals, and start achieving them.

:: Inspired by Charles Duhigg’s book, Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business

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