Have you ever wondered what your life is going to be like in 5 or 10 years? Will you be doing the same things you are today? Have you taken the time to envision the future through long-term goals?
When it comes to the future, there are really only three possibilities. It will either be the same, worse, or better than the present. If you want it to be better, then being able to set long-term goals is the best way to ensure that you’ll get to where you want to go.
Table of Contents
- What Are Long-Term Goals?
- How to Set (and Reach) Your Long-Term Goals
- Setting Long Term Career Goals
- Final Thoughts
What Are Long-Term Goals?
A long-term goal is what you are planning to achieve in the long-run or in the future.
Where do you want to be in five years?
Everyone has a plan for their life. We all imagine what our future will look like, what we will be doing, how we will be living, and even who we will be living with.
While things rarely work out exactly as planned, it is nonetheless important to set long term goals and work toward them. Without long-term goals, we are just wandering aimlessly through life.
The most successful people know the power of goal setting and how to break down larger goals that may take years to achieve into a series of smaller, short-term goals that will keep you focused and motivated.
Once you understand what long-term goals are, it can be helpful to see some examples.
Long-Term Goals Examples
Long-term goals can be applied to just about any area of your life, including your career, relationships, finances, or health. Here is an example of the types of goals you can set.
- Career: I will receive a promotion and a raise within the next three years.
- Relationships: I will improve my communication skills so that I can be more caring toward my spouse.
- Finances: I will save up enough money for a down payment on a house within the next five years.
- Personal life: I will lower my cholesterol to healthy levels within the next year.
Now that you have an idea of the kinds of goals you can set, its time to learn how to set and reach your own goals.
How to Set (and Reach) Your Long-Term Goals
Do you suffer from paralysis by analysis? It’s a common condition that happens when people are faced with a lot of options. When faced with too many options, they become obsessed with choosing the “right” one and never make a decision.
Likewise, when faced with a seemingly overwhelming task, they may never even start because they “just don’t know where to begin.”
Before we get started with some tips to help you, you can check out this video on setting goals for success:
By following these 7 easy steps, you can set and achieve almost any long-term goal, no matter how big or small it is.
1. Make Goals, Not Wishes
Who hasn’t thought about winning the lottery or inheriting a lot of money from a rich relative? While there is nothing wrong with daydreaming about these things, they are not goals.
A goal should be something that you can work towards during a period of time, not something that falls into your lap through luck.
For example, a good long-term career goal is “I want to have a business that makes one million dollars a year within five years,” not “I want to win the mega millions within five years.”
2. Be Specific
Remember when you were young and a grown up would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
No one ever said I want to work in the medical field or in government. You said I want to be a doctor, the President, or a policeman. These were specific goals that we had as kids, and while most of us didn’t end up as astronauts or presidents, we still pictured ourselves in these very specific roles.
When you are setting long-term goals for your life and career, it’s important to be as specific as possible. Get into detail about what you want, and think about it in very concrete terms.
Instead of saying “In five years, I want to be rich,” think about what that really means to you and what it would look like. Having a more specific goal would be, “In five years I want to own a Ferrari, live in an upscale neighborhood, and be making enough money to take a two week vacation to Europe every year.”
Having specific goals makes measuring your progress easier. You know you reached your goal to have a Ferrari if you look in the garage and see one. It’s much harder to gauge if you are “rich,” as rich is always a moving target.
3. Write Down Your Goals
A goal that’s not written down is just a wish. As humans, we are prone to daydreaming and wishful thinking. We need to take concrete steps to realize our goals.
When you set long-term goals, you need to write them down. This single act will take your goal out of the realm of the mind and into the physical (real) world.
Just by taking this step, your odds of achieving your goal go up tremendously.
4. Break Down Your Long-Term Goal Into Smaller Goals
It can seem overwhelming to say, “In five years, I’ll have a business that makes one million dollars per year.”
How do you get from not having a business at all to having one that makes a million dollars per year? The answer is the same way you’d eat an elephant—one bite at a time.
Once you have decided on your long-term goals, you’ll then need to break them down into a series of short-term goals.
In our business example, you’ll first need to do some research on a business you can start in your spare time. There are a lot of options out there that don’t necessarily take a lot of time or money to get started.
Then, you’ll want to get competent in the business by taking training courses and networking with others who are already successful in the business.
Once you have a good foundation, it’s time to get started. Launching the business will be the scariest and most rewarding day of your life, but you’re still not close to making a million dollars per year, so break it down some more.
Your first-year goal may be to earn $50,000. Your second year, you’ll want to earn $150,000. From there, you’ll basically need it to double each year in order to reach one million dollars in five years.
Each of those years can be broken down into smaller goals until you realize you need to make $149 per day. You can break it down even further to say you need three sales per day to make the $149.
At first, you may have no sales, but by experimenting with various marketing strategies that you learned earlier, the sales will start coming in. Then, it’s just a matter of fine tuning your marketing efforts and building on your successes.
You can learn more about taking action on your goals in this guide: Achieving Goals: The Ultimate Guide to Goal Achieving & Goal Setting This Year
5. Remember Your Long-Term Goals
You have set your long-term goals and even written them down.
We need to have a constant reminder of why we are doing this. Your long-term goals should be displayed somewhere prominent (for you). You don’t need to hang them over the fireplace, but they should be placed where you can see them every day.
Things go wrong, and issues and problems arise that no one can see. It’s during these times that remembering your long term goals is important.
6. Reevaluate and Adjust
You should always be looking for ways to improve what you are doing, but it’s especially important in this new internet age. We don’t have to look very far to see how quickly things can change. You must be willing to change course or be left behind.
Getting back to your growing business, the marketing that got you to $600,000 per year might not be the marketing that gets you to your long-term goal of one million dollars per year.
Always keep your goal in mind, but always be willing to adjust course to get to it.
7. Don’t Give up
Realize and understand that the road to success is never straight. You will inevitably come up against obstacles and barriers to your goals. This is not the time to quit.
In fact, coping with the obstacle or finding a way around the barrier leads to more success than anticipated. Always remember, the only sure way to fail is to quit.
You can learn more on how to overcome challenges you may face in this article.
Setting Long Term Career Goals
1. Know What You Want
This one might seem obvious, but many people never take the time to think carefully about what they want to do in their career. They accept jobs in industries or departments they have no interest in and soon find themselves settled into a career of misery and complaining.
It always amazes me how people spend more time planning their annual summer holiday than they do their career.
If you want to build success in your work, you need to have a clear idea of what you want to do and where you want to go. You need that North Star to guide you in your decisions and to keep you focused on where you are going with each stepping stone.
Without that clarity, you will drift from one role to another, never building any momentum towards your ultimate career goal.
2. Ask Yourself: What Skills Am I Lacking?
When we begin our working lives, we have the academic skills but lack many practical skills.
When you know what you want to do with your career, you can identify the skills you will need. Soft skills such as relationship building, the ability to collaborate with others, and your productivity all form part of these skills, and you need to make sure you are developing them.
Invest in yourself, and for those skills that do not develop naturally, find courses online or some books to study. Once you have studied these skills, make sure you put them into practice through your long-term career goals. This one tip will put you ahead of 98% of your colleagues who treat their work as just a job that pays them money to live.
3. Know That Success Leaves a Path
I teach this one to all of my clients. In every industry, there are examples of people who started at the bottom and worked their way up to become industry leaders. Examples include Satya Nadella at Microsoft and Jony Ive at Apple. These people were not founders or entrepreneurs; they worked their way up to the top from the bottom, and left clues along the way
Whatever company you are in, there will be people who began at the bottom and worked their way up to become leaders. What kind of role models did they have? What books did they read? What skills did they develop?
I remember when I worked in the hotel industry. One of my mentors began as a receptionist. She rose to become the General Manager of my home city’s top hotel through having a clear goal, diligence, and always putting the guest first. She was tough but fair.
I learnt from her that every time you come into work, the guest was always the top priority and to always be respectful of your colleagues.
Find that one person in your industry that rose from the bottom and work out the path they took to get to where you want to be in the future. Then, map out your own path that reflects the path already taken to the top.
4. Watercooler Gossip Will Not Help Your Career
I know it is always tempting to be the popular one in your office, to be the one everyone wants to hang out with and the one to go to when there’s some gossip to share. However, if you want to achieve your long-term career goals, don’t get involved.
Being the “office gossip” will sink your career faster than anything else. If you are serious about building a successful career, you do not have time to get involved in all this gossiping, complaining, and time wasting.
You don’t have to ignore your colleagues, but never indulge them by listening to the gossip. Make your excuses and get back to work. This one tip will safeguard your career more than any other.
5. Do Work When at Work
Your workplace is not a social club. It is a place to do the work you were employed to do.
Of course, being polite and friendly towards your colleagues is important, but never forget you are there to do work. Avoid getting yourself drawn into long conversations about that episode of Vikings or your local football team’s performance.
There is a time and place for these conversations, but it is not on company time. When at work, do your work, or you’ll never be able to make progress on your long-term career goals.
Here are some tips on how to focus on work: 15 Quick Ways To Focus on Work Easily
6. Focus on How You Can Be Better
One of the qualities I have seen in all successful career builders is they have a “How can I do it better?” mindset. They are always asking themselves how they can do their work better, or how could they have solved that problem better.
It is a mindset of continuous self-improvement, and it is a practice that can catapult you to the top faster than anything else.
Look for parts of your work that are taking too much time and figure out how to streamline. Or, identify ways you could better serve your team and begin to implement them. Any of these can serve you when you’re creating long-term career goals.
Often, new working practices are welded on to old ones, and this leads to inefficiencies and duplication, especially if you’re in a leadership position. Find those inefficiencies and develop better ways of doing that work. This habit is always appreciated by your bosses and tells them you are serious about your work.
7. Model Successful Behaviors
Find the person at the top and work out how they got there. This does not necessarily mean the person at the top of your company; it means the person at the top of your industry.
If you are an architect, find out how Sir Frank Foster built his career. If you are a writer, find out how Stephen King or Maya Angelou gained experience and built their careers.
These people have shown you how to do it, and they left clues. Read everything you can about them, learn from them, and model their work habits.
Modeling does not mean copying. It means taking the traits they used and adapting them to work best for you.
is the number one reason most people will never become as successful as they could be. Change is a scary thing, and it’s not easy for people to get out of their comfort zone. Most people won’t unless they have to or they perceive that the reward is worth the risk.
By setting long-term goals and then breaking them down into smaller goals that are easily achievable, you have created your own personalized road map to success.
And while that long-term goal of making a million dollars a year seems insurmountable, the short-term goal of making $149 is easily doable.
It’s time to ask: What are your long-term goals?
While the road to achieving your goals is never a straight line, and there will always be detours and bumps in the road, embrace these things, as they are all part of the journey.
Featured photo credit: Bench Accounting via unsplash.com