“Stretch goal” is a phrase popularized by Jack Welch, the highly-regarded former CEO of General Electric (G.E.).

Stretch goals are those that push us beyond what we think possible. A stretch goal is a deliberate attempt to reach for the unreachable, a goal so outlandish that it cannot be achieved simply by working harder or longer.

This “reach for the stars” aspect of stretch goals forces us to release our current methods of thinking and search for original, radically creative strategies and solutions. Stretch goals force change in how we think and in how we behave, communicate, relate, and coordinate. Stretch goals inspire an urgency to innovate.

Many of Jack Welch’s stretch goals were not fully achieved. However, virtually everyone who embraced stretch goals during Welch’s tenure at G.E. achieved significantly greater gains than they imagined they would. They may technically have “failed,” but they failed forward and at a higher level than they thought possible.

Stretch goals require courage and passion and a willingness to abandon excuses.

Closing quotes:

“By reaching for what appears to be the impossible, we often actually do the impossible. And even when we do not quite make it, we inevitably wind up doing much better than we would have done.” — Jack Welch

“If you reach for the stars, you might not quite get one, but you won’t end up with a handful of mud, either.” — Leo Burnett

“Most people have a million reasons why they can’t when all they need is one reason why they must.” — Unknown (folklore)