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Goal Setting

Setting Stretch Goals and Visualizing Targets to Increase Motivation and Enthusiasm

July 24, 2012 by Dr. Jon Warner in Goal Setting

Setting stretch targets or ensuring that individuals have enough motivation to achieve the targets that are set is often seen as an ‘elusive’ subject because it is more of an “art” than a science. However, we readily talk about motivation towards a goal on the sporting field for example, and can often recognize when an athlete or footballer, etc., is ‘motivated’ to achieve a target or goal (and when they are not). Most theorists agree that motivation is heavily affected by the capacity of an individual to imagine the ‘win’ or the achievement of their target. This often means the vivid projection of a mental picture of what it will look, sound, smell and feel like to have achieved an outcome. If this future image is powerful enough, it will not only catalyze our current actions but maintain our enthusiasm when times are tough.

Given the above, setting targets can obviously, therefore, benefit from an individual immersing him/herself in the payoffs or benefits of achieving each goal they set themselves. This immersion process means taking time out to picture this future state. This is not a task upon which to cheat or restrict to a few seconds of thought. Ideally, this will be a slow, careful, reflective process that can be re-conjured in the future at will. Of course, if you can’t picture the future state or can’t see any pay-offs or benefits at all, your goal may not be the right goal or may need substantial re-working.

Good “stretch” goals energize and push people to work harder at meeting more difficult targets and to achieve more than if you had set an easier goal. When you set a stretch goal you know that you may not meet it 100%, but by coming close you will likely achieve an acceptable and even very good result. Stretch targets however can be extremely problematic if great care is not taken. If the target is too easy, then people may reach it too quickly and loose motivation to do any more or pace themselves in reaching it. Too stretching and people may think it is unattainable and give up very quickly. The golden rule is simple. “Make sure your targets are just out of reach and not out of sight.” This simply means the target, scoreboard or capacity to know how you are doing, is visible enough to want to keep going.

The featured video clip is a short excerpt from the ReadyToManage, Rapid Skill Builder eLearning program, Goals & Objective Setting: An RSB eLearning Course.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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