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Last Updated on September 15, 2022

What are Short Term Goals? How to Set Goals for Success

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What are Short Term Goals? How to Set Goals for Success

Change begins with the hope of what’s possible in your life, as hope leads to a sense of expectancy. Combine this with setting short term goals, and the likelihood of being happier and more successful in life moves from possibility to reality.

When created with well-formed criteria, short-term goals offer incremental steps towards successfully achieving your bigger goals.

In this step-by-step guide, you’ll discover the secret to creating short term goals that will set you up for success and help you sail past challenges of staying motivated easily.

What Is a Short Term Goal?

Short term goals are “short,” meaning the timeframe can be as short as 10 minutes or a day, or as long as a week, or even 12 months. Well-formed short term goals begin with the end in mind and can be further connected to long term goals.

What are Short Term Goals? How to Set Goals for Success

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What are Short Term Goals? How to Set Goals for Success
Write down the specific result you want to achieve and the date when it should happen.
What are Short Term Goals? How to Set Goals for Success
Then, work backward from this date, describing what you’ll notice yourself doing (and achieving) until you take the first step.

A short term goal is the smallest step you need to reach a bigger goal centered around achieving something you passionately desire.

Passionate desire” is the key.

As Tony Robbins says,

People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals—that is, goals that do not inspire them.

Having passion when setting goals[1] means getting your mind and body activated to fuel your energy and focus. Each time you achieve a short term goal, your body celebrates by producing and releasing chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins (feel-good neurotransmitters)

Ian Robertson, a cognitive neuroscientist and author of The Winner Effect: The Neuroscience of Success and Failure, says,

Success and failure shape us more powerfully than genetics and drugs.

The regular release of the body’s natural chemicals supports brain change at a neural level, building your confidence and renewing your goal-oriented focus.

How Do Short Term Goals Differ From Long Term Goals?

When differentiating between short term and long term goals, you must understand that a short term goal can be completed in a short period while a long term goal can take months to years.

Examples of Short Term Goals

  • You have an online class to finish
  • Build an emergency fund
  • Exercising daily
  • Stay hydrated by drinking more water
  • Walk more and become more physically active
  • Earn certification for work
  • Improve time management skills

These are all short term goals you can achieve in no time, and many can help you accomplish a bigger goal for your future.

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Examples of Long Term Goals

  • Purchasing a home
  • Building a savings account
  • Investing more money
  • Saving up money for a retirement fund
  • Other real estate investments

For more long term goals examples, check out How to Set Long Term Goals and Achieve Success. With long term goals, you are planning ahead and then acquiring the required knowledge and resources to lead you down the path you want to take.

As you can see, there is a clear difference in timeframes when it comes to short term and long term goal setting. Short term goals can be used to better your life now, while long term goals prepare you for a better and more successful future. Use all the goals you set as a form of motivation and inspiration.

Benefits of Setting Short Term Goals

Regardless of the area in your life where you set your short term goals, it will have a ripple effect across every area of your life. Here are just some of the benefits of great goal setting:

  • Improve your career prospects and your sense of identity
  • Improve your energy in a way that’s noticeable at work and home
  • Improve your mindset and your attitude around how you engage with others
  • Improve your health and your desire for self-improvement
  • Learn how to build motivation and momentum and overcome procrastination
  • Learn how to manage your time more effectively while building self-confidence

Types of Short Term Goals

There are different types of short term goals you can set for yourself:

Short Term Career Goals

A short term career goal can work wonders to improve your career as a professional. With short term career goals, define your objectives, set realistic milestones for the foreseeable future, and become more productive as you prepare for your long term career goal.

You are making your day-to-day business goals more achievable and creating smaller and easier to work with milestones.

Short term career goals don’t have to be complex either. They can be as simple as making small changes here and there, like getting up ten minutes earlier each day or maintaining a clean and organized office.

Here are some short term goal examples related to your career goals to give you an idea of where to start:

  • Read one book on leadership each month
  • Research ways to advance your career with more training and education
  • Schedule at least one informational interview this month with a graduate school counselor
  • Research industry conferences in your area and attend at least one

Short Term Financial Goals

Financial planning, such as setting a budget, building an emergency fund, saving for a vacation, and paying off credit card debt, are all examples of short term financial goals.

From this point, you can start saving your money for things you want in the near future while thinking about how you can invest your money to achieve long term financial goals.

Track Spending

Tracking allows you to see how much money is actually spent each month. With this information, you can set a realistic budget and short term savings goal.

Build an Emergency Fund

An emergency fund[2]
acts as a bumper for any financial situation and can help keep you out of debt when something unexpected happens. The ideal emergency fund has at least three to six months of living expenses.

Pay Down Debt

If you carry a balance on your credit cards each month, a short term financial goal of yours could be to pay down that debt. The avalanche method can be used to pay the minimum on all your accounts except for your highest debt. Any extra money after using this method can be used to pay down the card with the highest interest rate.

Set SMART Financial Goals

Planning with SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) goals can help you achieve your financial aspirations and goals.

Take actionable steps. Decide what you are saving for, determine how much needs to be saved, follow through with realistic goal setting, and set an appropriate date to complete your short term goal.

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Do you work better with a monthly goal? Or do you want to break tasks down to achieve a weekly goal? For example, you can set a monthly goal to pay your bills on time or a weekly savings goal you can put toward a new small business.

You can also make it a point to speak to a financial advisor who can help improve your financial literacy and help you achieve your ideal financial situation in the near future.

Any goal can be turned into a SMART goal to reach your desired outcome.

Professional Short Term Goals

Now is also the time to set short term goals for finding a job, networking, and going on professional interviews to develop your long term career goals and personal success.

Personal Performance Short Term Goals

Personal short term goals give you the opportunity to discipline yourself and find a way to align your work schedule with your personal life. Changing daily habits and taking small steps can invite more harmony into your life.

Up Productivity Levels

To excel in school, your life, and ultimately, your career, you must complete your tasks on time and up your productivity levels. This also gives you the chance to grow your skillset as you work toward a big goal for your future.

Continue Learning

Don’t be afraid to explore something new daily. Not only does this help unleash your potential and creativity, but it can also motivate you and break you away from an otherwise monotonous routine that could derail a specific goal.

4 Steps to Succeed With Short Term Goals

Setting short term goals will lead you closer to a happier and more successful life, but how do you set short term goals that are genuinely achievable?

Complete the following steps, and you will start achieving your dreams:

Step 1: Know Your Best Hopes

Try this process yourself by thinking of an area in your life that you’d like to improve. Thinking about the future makes life more meaningful.[3]

For example, what are your best hopes for your finances/relationship/career/health?

This process involves “chunking up” your ideas to imagine the results more clearly. In this process, you try to imagine your behavior and mindset resulting from achieving your goal.

Step 2: Notice What’s Different

The next question to ask yourself is: “What would you notice that was different from how you usually did things?”

Noticing helps you build a vision of what could be possible. The richer the description you can build around the tiny details, the more real your preferred future becomes.

To complete this step, you may want to utilize some visualization techniques as you seek to create your short term goals.

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Step 3: Answer the Question “What Else?”

Most of us know there’s a hidden reason or a long-buried hope beneath why we want something.

Often, our ego gets a little defensive and protective of it, but if we dig and resurface the truth, a weight can be lifted, allowing us the freedom to move forward.

Define your “why” to discover what else you may be searching for in life.

Step 4: Think About Who Will Notice the Difference

Relationships with family, friends, colleagues and your partner are important. By imagining the change they’ll notice, you can add another perspective to your vision.

Imagine what they will notice about you that would let them know something changed about you as a result of achieving these short term goals.

How to Track Your Short Term Goals

When you set short term goals, establish a measurement system to track your progress:

1. Create a Running Tally

One of the best devices to keep your short term goal setting on track is to keep a running record or tally of the number of days in a row you’ve sustained your goal.

For example, if improving your health is important to you, and you plan to reduce your weight by 5 pounds by not eating any foods containing sugar, then set up a simple chart and track how many days in a row you can do this. Aim for 5 days, then 10, then 20 days in a row. If you have a small diversion and eat sugar one day, simply start again.

Once you feel confident that you can continue with this step, add another, such as taking 5,000 steps per day. Again, set up a simple tally chart, either in your diary or somewhere visible, and enjoy marking up one more day that you’ve achieved your short term goal.

2. Keep a Journal

Maintaining a journal will help you focus on identifying the things that are different because you’ve set well-formed short term goals.

Aim to complete the journal at the end of each day and recall the things you’re noticing in detail. This helps keep you connected with your desired outcome and the transformation you’re experiencing in your behavior and mindset.

Take a look at this guide if you’re starting out journaling: 7 Best Goal Planners To Get This Year

3. Share Your Progress With a Trusted Friend or Coach

By voicing the change and expressing how far you’re noticing yourself moving towards your goal, you’re reinforcing the power of change you’re experiencing.

For example, sharing that you hope to get out of credit card debt in the next six months or move toward a specific career path by taking some courses next month will increase your motivation and help you feel more dedicated to those short term objectives since you don’t want to let anyone down.

You’ll also be activating the feel-good neurotransmitters[4] that are so important for bringing the confidence, motivation, and positive changes you need to succeed.

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4. Visualize Your Progress

Before you go to sleep in the evening, visualize your tomorrow. See yourself continuing to do the things that support your change and the movement toward your short term goals.

Walk yourself through the tiny details that add up to the changes you want to see yourself doing, including the time you’ll wake up. In the morning, re-activate the visualization and step into your day.

5. Establish Triggers for Your Daily Habits

Twyla Tharp (born 1941), a legendary dancer and choreographer, maintains an exacting routine designed to trick her mind into a daily exercise habit. She writes in her book The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life (Learn In and Use It for Life):

I begin each day of my life with a ritual; I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st street and First Avenue, where I work out for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go, I have completed the ritual.

It’s a simple act, but doing it the same way each morning makes it repeatable and easy to do. It reduces the chance that I would skip it or do it differently. It is one more item in my arsenal of routines and one less thing to think about.

To do this list, create a trigger point—the smallest step you’ll do that will catapult you into taking action as Twyla Tharp did. What will be your “cab” as you work toward your short term goals?

3. Talk About the Future

Melanie Perkins, CEO of Canva, a thriving design and publishing solution, is known for “frequently talking about the future.”

Orienting your thoughts towards a future focus reinforces how important your vision and goals are to you. Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “You are what you think.”

  • Make it a habit to read your goals daily
  • Think about what you’ll notice that will be different in your life when you achieve them
  • Express your goals to someone important in your life

Future-focused conversations—both with yourself and others— establish a pattern of expectancy, fueling your desire and the expectation of achieving your short term goals.

7. Manage Mental Resistance

When you begin with hope, you activate a sense of expectancy—a belief that what you want is not only possible but within reach. Hope and expectancy are two powerful motivators in propelling you forward to a successful life.

When you’re moving forward with hope, you’re orienting yourself towards your desired future. When moving away from something you perceive as painful, you’re activating fear, which can also be a strong motivator to help you avoid pain; for example, losing your job if your quarterly performance scores don’t improve.

Summing It Up

Change is possible, and short term goals that build upon each other are the stepping stones to achieving your best hopes.

Using your creative imagination by noticing the small differences occurring daily offers a positive way to create practical change in an easy and doable way.

Above all, make sure your goal is powered by passionate desire, so you achieve your desired outcomes.

Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

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[1] The University of Arizona: The Value of Purpose, Passion, and Vision, and How to Achieve Success
[2] Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: An essential guide to building an emergency fund
[3] Greater Good Magazine by Berkeley: How Thinking About the Future Makes Life More Meaningful
[4] Harvard Health Publishing: Feel-good hormones: How they affect your mind, mood and body

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Barbara Grace

Barbara Grace is the Director of the School of Modern Psychology. She believes in living a purposeful life.

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