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Long Term Goals vs. Short Term Goals: Do You Really Need Both?

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Should you set long term goals? Should you set short term goals? Which one is better? Do you really need both? Which one keeps you motivated and focused when the hard time comes?

A lot of people are a little bit confused when it comes to long term vs. short term goals. Some don´t even understand why should they even set a goal at all. 

Setting goals in life is extremely important because it keeps you motivated, focused, helps you to avoid distractions, procrastination, and many other useful things. 

In this article you´re going to find out: 

  • Why you absolutely need to set goals,
  • The difference between long term goals and short term goals,
  • What are the benefits of long term goals,
  • What are the benefits of short term goals,
  • How to set long term goals,
  • How to set short term goals,
  • 5 Step system for setting goals that actually work. 

Why You Need To Set Goals (Long term and short term)

Your alarm starts to ring, you hit the snooze button, on the 3rd try you finally wake up, you go to work, you work for 8 hours on something you hate, then you go home, sit on a couch and watch Netflix until you go to bed. 

Sounds familiar? If this isn´t your case, I am sure you know someone, whose life looks exactly like this. 

My question is… What this person lacks the most? 

Motivation? Focus? Intention? Plan? … Yes. He lacks all of this. But what this person lacks the most is the direction. The clear goal that directs all his actions. 

If you are for example lost in the woods and you have no idea which direction you should go to, the only thing you can do is just walking around and hope to find a way out. 

But, if instead, you see a big lighthouse a few miles distance from you, every step you take is gonna be towards this lighthouse. You won´t waste your energy to do anything else. 

That´s the power of clear goals and in this article, you´re gonna find out exactly how to set these goals. 

The Difference Between Long Term vs. Short Term Goals

There are 2 types of goals. Long term goal and short term goal. The most visible difference between long term goals and short term goals is the time frame. 

Long term goals are goals with a time frame that is more than a year. 

Short term goals are goals with a time frame that is less than a week.

Of course, there are also monthly goals or 3-month goals, but in my opinion, the core of your goal-setting should consist of long-time goals and short time goals. 

But, time isn´t the only variable that differentiates long term goals and short term goals. Long term goals have a different purpose then short term goals.  

Long term goals influence your motivation, focus, or taking action differently, then short term goals. And that´s why you need both. 

Benefits Of Long Term Goals 

As I already stated, long term goals are very different than short term goals.

If you compare graduating from college (long term goal) with going into the class and remember the most information today (short term goal) you see that it takes a different amount of energy, motivation, focus or action. 

The purpose of the long term goal is to get you motivated at the beginning. Your big (long term) goal is usually what makes you started to pursue your dream in the first place.

  • A dream of traveling the world,
  • picture of you finishing your first marathon,
  • a goal of selling a company you started from scratch.

Those are the examples of dreams that force you to start taking action toward your goals. Dreams, that says to you, I want this and one day I am gonna get it!

Many times, when obstacles appear, it´s a big goal that prevents you from quitting. The big goal of helping 10 000 kids to get education keeps you more motivated than go out today and make some money for your new car. 

Benefits Of Short Term Goals 

As you know, the path toward your goals isn´t straight. It looks like this: 

One of the many benefits of your brain is that it tries to keeps you from suffering. In the past, when a person saw a wild animal, he gets a warning signal from his brain that said – RUN! 

Today, when your brain sees a possibility of your suffering, it sends you the same signal. That´s the prior reason, long-term goals aren´t enough. 

It´s nice to have a goal to become a millionaire in 5 years when you are currently broke. But, this goal is:

  • Far away, 
  • Intangible,
  • And mainly, your brain doesn´t evaluate it as possible (at least right now).

So, what your brain does? It sends you a signal – DON´T DO THIS!

That´s the time when short-time goals come. 

The only thing that shows your subconscious that you´re not in danger (suffering) is progress. When you successfully accomplish a tiny goal, your brain stops sending you signals to stop and starts sending your signals to continue, you can do this!

To put it into the example, when your goal is to make a million dollars in 5 years, it´s hard to believe it. But, when you divide this goal and your small goal is to make an extra 10 bucks today, it´s:

  • not so hard,
  • it´s believable,
  • and it´s easy to evaluate today. 

A Difference Between Good Goal And Bad Goal

Whether it´s a long term goal or short term goal, you should know what differentiates good goals from bad goals. Here´s an example: 

  • I want to earn more money. 

What is wrong? The goal isn´t specific!

  • I want to earn 5 million dollars.

Better, but, it´s still not good enough. You need to get yourself an exact time. 

  • I want to earn 5 million dollars in 5 years. – An example of a specific and time-bounded goal. 

The best goals are specific and time-bounded. Without this your goals aren´t clear. You have just a dream. Once you make a specific goal with a realistic time frame and you make a plan how to accomplish it, then you have a nice goal that leaves you no other option, except success.

I know, you  maybe already heard about SMART goals. Specificity and time are in my opinion the most important parts of a good goal. But, when you´re interested in the whole smart goal setting system, you can check it out in this article.

How To Set Long Term Goal?

Maybe you have a lot of long term goals in mind. But, you can´t pursue more big goals than one (per area of your life)

“The man who chases two rabbits, catches neither.”― Confucius

Warren Buffet, legendary investor use rule 5/25 for setting goals. 

Here´s what rule 5/25 says: 

  • Write down 25 goals you want to achieve,
  • Choose 5 goals that are the most important for you right now,
  • Focus on those and until you achieve all of them, never look at the remaining 20. 

Make your list of 25 big goals you want to accomplish. And please, make it right now because this is the start of your whole goal-setting process.

How To Set Short Term Goal? 

Basis of your short term planning should be your weekly goals. You may ask, why precisely a week? 

A week is an exact time that is not so long that you´re gonna feel discouraged by not seeing tangible results, but also not so short time that you can´t get done some important tasks. 

That way, your brain is fed by progress and stop trying to discourage you from pursuing your goals, plus you don´t have to wait a few months until you evaluate whether you´re, or you´re not doing it well.

So, sit down and write down at least 3 goals that you can realistically accomplish this week. Then, divide them into daily tasks, and plan out your days, which helps you not only to being more productive, but also to avoid procrastination and take action.

Check Also: How To Plan Your Day For Maximum Productivity And Success

Should I Also Have Daily Goals?

If you asked yourself this question, the answer is clear YES.  

I am definitely one of the people who thought that planning is just a waste of time. Especially, when I was supposed to set goals and plans daily. I believed I could use my time much better. But, eventually I always ended up wasting time asking myself: 

Today I know, I was wrong. Setting goals give your day an exact direction. Setting daily goals is the most important factor that prevents you from procrastination and wasting time throughout the day.

When you know what is your goal for today, and you plan exactly when and how to do it, at the end of the day you feel much more productive and proud of yourself. 

I believe, when it comes to short term goals, you should definitely have: 

  • Weekly goals – that you evaluate at the end of the week. 
  • Daily goals – these are tasks you need to get done today. 

How To Set Goals That Works: 5-Step Goal-Setting System

In this article, I already shared how to set long term goals and also, how to set short term goals. In this part, I want to get you a step-by-step guide that many successful people use for setting long term and short term goals that actually works:

1. Set big, long term goals. 

Use 5/25 rule and remember to not set more than 1 big goal per area of your life. Your goals should be challenging and far away from where you are right now. 

2. Divide this goal into smaller goals. 

Maybe yearly goals, that are gonna represent big steps towards your goal. 

3. Divide these goals into even smaller goals. 

In this part, let´s say monthly or 3-month goals. It is because between a year goal and week goal would be a huge gap that might discourage you, or keep you unfocused. 

4. Set weekly goals. 

This is the basis for short term planning. Always plan and evaluate your weekly goals. You´ll see:

  • a.) tangible results that are gonna motivate you,
  • b.) that you do something wrong and you can review, adjust and change your strategy. 

5. Set daily goals (tasks). 

This is the part that keeps you focused the most. It doesn´t matter if you have a year, month or week goals when you are not so sure, what you are gonna do today. 

Set 3 big tasks you want to accomplish by the end of the day. Don´t set 10 goals for every day. Choose those that are the most important, those that bring you results and forget the rest.

Read Also: How Top Business Executives Increase Their Daily Productivity By 500%

This 5 step guide shows you how to exactly set long and short term goals. It also answers the question, whether you need both. You definitely need long term and also short term goals because both motivate you and drive you toward your goals differently. 

Long term goals and short term goals alone can help you, but when you use them (the right way) together, you´ll be almost unstoppable.

Comment BelowWhat is your opinion? Do you need long term and short term goals?  


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My name is Patrik. I live in Slovakia and I am owner of dayprov.com. Dayprov is about Everyday improvements in our lives. You will find here tips about success, motivation, personal development and anything you want. Your recommendations for new interesting blog posts you would like to read about send to patrik@dayprov.com.
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