Goal Setting: Stretch Objectives and SMART Goals

When I saw that Charles Duhigg had written a follow-up book to The Power of Habit, l knew it would be worth adding to my reading list. Having finished it this week, I was not disappointed.

Charles Duhigg, Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive contains (perhaps unsurprisingly) many tips on being more productive, including some very useful information on setting and achieving meaningful goals.

Duhigg observes that SMART Goals (i.e. goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound) are very helpful in getting things done, but can cause the goal setter to set mediocre goals. This gives the goal setter the feeling that they are setting goals, as well as the satisfaction of reaching them, without actually achieving anything meaningful.

Duhigg also observes that a Stretch Objective by itself might be motivating from the outset, but can be daunting and demoralising without a clear path to achieving it.

His proposition is the best way to achieve meaningful goals is to write a Stretch Objective at the top of a piece of paper (for example, run a marathon). This will provide some motivation and remind you why you are doing the things on the list. With the Stretch Objective set, write down a series of SMART Goals to achieve that Stretch Objective (in this example, find a personal trainer by 14 February, start running 5kms each Saturday morning for the next month).

By bringing the two goal setting techniques together, you will have the best of both worlds – motivation from having a big goal, and a specific to do list to get you there, as well as the short term satisfaction of reaching your SMART Goals.

Credit: Charles Duhigg, Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive