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Words By Tara Wagner

Stretch Goals vs The MTO Method & Why You Should NOT Reach Your Goals

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I want to talk about Stretch Goals; how they differ from SMART goals, and why you should use the MTO method of setting stretch goals if you’re not quite ready to set big goals.

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There is something to be said about setting stretch goals, sometimes called big hairy audacious goals, basically goals that you don’t intend to hit. Things that are so far out of reach that they are forcing you to really stretch yourself to be able to get there.

Now, these are pretty much the opposite of smart goals which are all about being attainable and realistic but there was a time and a place to set them. I want to talk a little bit about how to know whether or not you’re in the right place to set stretch goals and whether or not you should be focusing on something else instead, particularly the MTO Method that helps you move up towards stretch goals.

So why would anybody want to set a goal they know they can’t reach?

It kind of goes like this: small goals equals small progress.

Big hairy audacious stretch goals equal way more progress. It’s sort of like that quote “If you shoot for the moon and you miss you still land among the stars”… or however it goes. It’s this idea of if you shoot high you’re going to end up higher than if you shoot just at a moderate realistic level.

I’m a big, big fan of stretch goals I’m constantly setting them for myself but they’re not always a good fit, they’re not right for all businesses and they’re not right for all seasons of business.

So let’s talk about how you can know whether or not a stretch goal is appropriate for where you’re at right now.

Tara in a yellow shirt and black shorts with arms out looking unsure, with a graffiti background.
When should you “stretch your goals”?

When you should utilize stretch goals is when you have a healthy mindset.

This means you’re feeling confident – you’re handling challenges and stress well, you’re bouncing back from things quickly, you feel positive you’ve cultivated a growth mindset. Also if you’re already making progress – the reason for this is that you want to be capitalizing on the momentum that you already have.

Stretch goals are also a good fit for you if you have the time and the resources to really go for it.

This means you have the skill, the talent, the help, the support, the strategy in place… basically, all the pieces are in place and now you can really run with it.

When do you not want to set stretch goals?

You don’t want to set stretch goals if you are struggling with clarity or are not yet getting good results with something.

This means you are testing things out, you’re still kind of fine-tuning your marketing or sales process, or maybe you don’t have your numbers where you want them to be yet.

If you don’t have a proven system that’s already converting or if you’re struggling with the mindset, you’re struggling with motivation, with focus, or with confidence, you’re struggling with fixed beliefs. Also if you’re struggling with revenue, cash flow, or resources as well. Basically, you don’t have enough to spare to be able to put some extra energy into this goal.

So essentially if you’re doing good right now it’s time to stretch yourself and if you’re doing so-so or you’re kind of shaky or you’re not doing so well right now it’s time to pace yourself.

You gotta kind of look at this like rocket fuel, if your jet is in good shape that rocket fuel is gonna help you take off and actually reach your destination but if the wings of your jet are rickety and falling off and held together with duct tape that rocket fuel is going to make everything fall apart.

Stretch goals are only appropriate if the wheels aren’t going to fall off when you start picking up speed.

It’s sort of like with money, right? Money amplifies what’s already there; if a negative person gets a lot of money it’s going to bring out that negativity, if a positive person gets a lot of money it’s going to bring out those character traits. If your business gets a lot of push behind it but it’s not ready for it it’s going to bring out all of the problems within your business even if your business is in good shape you can expect your stretch goals to show you where your weaknesses are because again when you start putting rocket fuel in something and things start getting a little shaky you’re gonna notice what parts and pieces start to fall off.

Comment below with rocket fuel if all of this is making sense to you and the question that you might be having right now is “Okay, what do I do if I’m not quite there yet maybe I’m in the middle of really shaky and really ready to run?” or maybe “I’m really shaky but I want to get to the place where I can really run with it… what do I do instead?

Hand writing a billeted list
This is where I recommend that you set MTO goals.

MTO goals are three goals that are incremental steps up. You have your Minimum Goal that’s your “M”. Your “T” is your Target Goal and your “O” is your Outrageous Goal (or your stretch goal).

Your “Minimum” goal should be just barely above where you are, in fact when it’s minimum you pretty much are guaranteed that you’re gonna hit it. You know, “No matter what, in the next 90 days I can hit this goal – this is my “Minimum”.

However, I’m going to shoot for the “Target“. This is a little bit of a stretch goal but it’s not taking me too far outside of my comfort zone. It’s gonna require that I increase some skills or that I focus on some things but it’s probably realistic, “Target” is where I’m gonna aim for, and that way I know that I’m definitely gonna hit my “Minimum”. I’m gonna get pretty close to my “Target”.

And then I’m going to have this “Outrageous” goal because if something happens… if I get a lot of energy, a lot of time, a lot of support, the right tools fall into place I want to know where I can put it to bring me towards that next goal.”

So your Outrageous Goal is like if you really blow it out of the water, what would that look like?

The MTO Method is something that I use a lot in the Inner Circle because it helps us take those incremental baby steps, building up our mindset, building up our belief in ourselves, and building up our skills as we go along.

It’s also giving us that ultimate vision so that we make sure the little tiny goals that we’re setting now are still aligning with where we want to go in the future.

You can use the MTO Method in any number of settings.

  • You can use it when you are figuring out your financial goals
  • When you’re figuring out how much you want to do or what your results are going to be in a year’s time
  • You can set it in terms of different time frames. So maybe your minimum is “I want to reach this goal in 1 month vs. 3 months versus 6 months”.
    – That would actually be turned around the other way, the “Outrageous” would be one month versus three months versus six months.

There’s a lot of ways you can do this, but I highly recommend you start using this method because, again, it’s just gonna train you, just like we’re training those muscles it’s gonna train you to be able to move in that direction getting more and more confident in your ability to get there.

Remember that video we were talking about the difference between outcome goals versus objective performance process goals?

You can use the same MTO Method with those goals as well when you’re setting these separate goals set them as an MTO so that it allows you to incrementally make progress without losing motivation, without getting discouraged.

Ready to get down to business on those goals?

No matter what stage of goal setting you’re in, or what method you plan on using I encourage you to join our FREE 5 Day “Get Out Of Your Own Way” Challenge.

You’ll join hundreds of women LIVE to learn how to overcome overwhelm, eliminate procrastination, get unstuck and out of your own way, so you can take powerful action in your business and finally crush your goals (not your soul). 

Learn more here or join the waitlist by clicking the button below.

What about you, boss lady?

Have you ever set Stretch Goals or used the MTO method? What do you prefer? Comment below with your fav types of goals!


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*This post may contain affiliate links and I may earn a small commission when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. You can read my full disclaimer here.


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Tara Wagner

I’m Tara Wagner, creator of the Breakthrough Boss®. I help small biz owners overcome burnout and create part-time schedules with full-time profits. Not with some new marketing strategy, but with a holistic approach to how you operate. Click here to learn more.
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