What are long term goals? What are examples of long term goals? And do you actually need long term goals to succeed?
If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions then you’ve come to the right place.
This post breaks down everything that you need to know when it comes to long term goals:
- What they are
- Real examples of them
- The benefits (and pitfalls) you may run into
- Plus much more
So look no further. All your long term goal questions will soon be answered. But first, let’s figure out why goals in general are so important to begin with.
Long Term Goals: What Are They And Do You Actually Need Them?
Imagine you’re sailing a ship out on the ocean. There’s wind in your sails and the sky is nice and blue. You don’t have a plan for which direction to head, but that’s ok because it’s a beautiful day out.
All is well.
But then, a storm comes in. The wind is blowing every which way and suddenly you’re lost and don’t know which way to go. What do you do?
Well, for most of us, when things get tough or we get slightly blown off track, we panic and abandon ship. We swim out to the closest island and vow to never sail the seas again.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Imagine that instead of panicking, you have a map and compass with you. A plan that dictates which direction to head.
Well in that case, when the storm comes through you may get discouraged, but you’ll still know where to go and how to get there. You won’t abandon ship, you’ll power through until you reach your destination.
That is your life with goals.
An overview of goal setting
Whether or not you find long term goals valuable, goals in general are incredibly helpful for steering your life in the direction that you want to go.
Using our sailing analogy from above, without goals you’re likely to get lost. To get thrown off course with the slightest change in breeze. On the other hand, by setting goals for yourself you can map out your future and decide where you want to go.
So even if you get knocked off course temporarily, you’ll be able to correct it and get back on the right track.
Simply put, the ideal future that you seek is possible as long as you use your time effectively. Setting goals for yourself is one way to do just that.
Whether that’s with short term goals, medium term goals, or long term goals, goal setting is incredibly valuable when it comes down to how you spend your time.
With that, let’s explore what long term goals are.
What are long term goals
If you didn’t already gather from its name, long term goals are goals set in the long term. But how far out does the timeline need to be for something to be considered long term?
Well, opinions differ but the general consensus is that long term goals are anything that take 12 or more months to complete.
However, that definition is not set in stone. You get to decide what long term goals are for you.
For me, long term goals start around the 18-24+ months range. Anything less than that would be considered a short or medium term goal.
However, one important thing to consider when deciding which bracket your goals fall into is context. Yes, context. Context plays a large role here.
For example, if your ultimate goal is to save $300 within a month, your:
- Short term goal could be to save $10 a day
- Medium term goal could be to save $150 by day 15
- And your long term goal could be to save the full $300 by the end of the month
So as you can see, when you take context into consideration there is a lot of variability. If you’re looking for a hard and fast rule though, I consider long term goals to be anything that take more than 18-24 months to be completed.
Short, medium, long term goals – what’s the difference?
You may be wondering, so what’s the difference between short, medium, and long term goals?
The simple answer is that they are a function of time.
Short term goals take less time to achieve than medium term goals. Medium term goals take less time to achieve than long term goals.
If long term goals are those that take more than 12 months to accomplish, the general rule is that short term goals are those that take less than 12 months to accomplish. However, I tend to view goals as anything that can be accomplished within the following range:
- Short: 3-6 months
- Medium: 6-18 months
- Long: 18-24+ months
You can base your own goal setting terminology off whatever feels best to you. If short term feels more like 6-12 months and medium term feels better at 12-18 months, more power to you.
Again, the difference between short, medium, and long is a function of time and context. Short term goals will be accomplished sooner than medium term which will be accomplished sooner than long term.
Examples – a long term goals list
Whether for business, health, financial, or really any other category, there is a seemingly endless list of potential long term goals you can set for yourself. Let’s take a look at some long term goal examples.
- Health: Lose 30lbs of weight over the next 3 years
- Financial: Within 6 years, save up for and purchase a house
- Business: Double your client base every year for the next 5 years
- Social: Over the next 2 years save up $5,000 to go visit friends in another country
- Personal: Start a family within the next 8 years
As you can see, the different goal categories and things you may want to achieve can vary drastically. The one thing these goals have in common, however, is their duration of time.
Because each goal is set years out and would fall into that long term goals category.
Now that you have some examples to work with, the thing that you need to figure out is whether or not long term goals are right for you. Let’s look at the pros and cons to help influence your decision.
So, what are the particular benefits of long term goals? There are several. For instance, they:
- Allow you to see the big picture
- Give you an overall sense of direction
- Provide an opportunity to spot roadblocks ahead of time
By setting goals for yourself that are based in the long term (for example, more than 24 months away), you are allowing yourself to zoom out from the normal day-to-day to instead focus on the big picture.
This big picture view point will allow you to gain a better understanding of yourself and where you want to go.
Plus, doing so will enable you to chart a course forward and provide a direction for you to head in.
And as an added bonus, by mapping out your future so far ahead of time, you will be able to spot and handle potential roadblocks before they become major issues. Thus heading off any problems that may arise.
While goals in general are good to have, there is one major con to setting long term goals that needs to be addressed. And that is that…
The future is always changing.
Yes, that is a con when it comes to your long term goals. Why? Because setting a goal to accomplish something by the end of 5 years sounds great, but life changes quickly and with it, your plans.
For example, let’s say you set a goal that by the end of 3 years you want to put on 25lbs of muscle to compete in a bodybuilding championship.
So you create a detailed plan to achieve that goal by combining various workout schedules and nutrition programs. You have your entire fitness life planned out for the next 3 years and you get to work.
You start hitting the gym and putting on muscle, but 6 months in you realize you don’t like feeling heavier, or having to get new clothes, or needing to workout for so many hours each day.
In fact, you realize that you actually enjoyed having a slimmer frame like before.
And because things have changed, your goals will now need to change as well. But what about all that work you put into planning out your next 3 years of workouts? Well, it’s no longer relevant to the new lifestyle you are trying to build.
So you scrap it.
That’s the big problem with long term goals; you set out with good intentions, but as you try new things and push yourself in new arenas, your interests, understandings, and desires may change.
And while it’s great to look at the big picture, setting specific long term goals may prove to be more frustrating than helpful.
What should you do instead? What you need is a long term vision.
Do you actually need long term goals?
Personally, I rarely set long term goals. I’ve found that time and time again the plans I create for myself are constantly changing as I learn new things.
I may set a specific long term goal every so often, but I always do so with the understanding that things can change at any moment and my plans may need to be adjusted to match.
So instead of setting long term goals, I set a long term vision.
A long term vision is similar to a long term goal but the difference is that a long term vision is more broad.
A long term goal could be that you want to run your own pizza restaurant within 2 years. Whereas, a long term vision could be that you want to be running your own business within 2 years.
Both look at the big picture, but one forces you down a specific road, while the other gives you the flexibility to change course as needed.
To continue with our pizza example, if you set that specific long term goal, you may find that 8 months in you don’t enjoy making pizza and would rather be making burgers. In that case you would have to trash all your plans and start over.
Conversely, if you had a simple long term vision of running your own business, you could try your hand at pizza, find that you’d rather make burgers, and simply transition into that space instead.
Having a long term vision still allows you to envision a brighter future, it still gives you a direction to head in, but it doesn’t force you down one specific road like long term goals do. Instead, it gives you the flexibility you need to adjust course when things change.
Then with your long term vision in mind, you can set a series of short and medium term goals to guide you along the way.
How to set and achieve your goals
At this point, your question should no longer be how to achieve long term goals, but instead how to achieve your long term vision.
Well, now that you recognize the importance of a long term vision and how your short and medium term goals relate to it, you can go about setting effective goals for yourself. There are a lot of resources to do just that.
First, start off with these three posts to build an understanding of the goal setting process:
From there, I recommend enrolling in our course to gain step-by-step directions on how to set goals, how to better manage your time, and how to create an effective system for you to utilize your time each day.
You can learn more and enroll in the course < there.
We also have a free 6-day bootcamp that you can sign up for to get a preview of the course. Each day, for 6 days, I’ll email you 1 lesson from the course so that you can get a feel for how I do things (for free!). You can sign up here:
For a little extra help, I also suggest you check out these posts on productivity and time management so that you can start better utilizing your time:
- Guide to productivity
- Productivity hacks
- Time management skills
- Tips on how to be productive
- Time management tips
After all, the more effective you are with your time, the faster you will be able to reach your goals.
Set a long term vision for yourself that allows you to chart a course towards a better future. Create a big picture plan for yourself that allows you to be flexible, but still have a direction.
Then, set short and medium term goals to propel you forward. Use the information above to enhance your goal setting efforts and get to it.
As long as you keep taking positive steps forward, you’ll get there in no time.