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Last Updated on September 26, 2022

How to Set Long Term Goals and Achieve Success

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How to Set Long Term Goals and Achieve Success

Have you ever wondered what your life will be like in 5 or 10 years? Will you be doing the same things you are today, or will you be doing something completely different? These are the kind of questions you may be asking yourself when you are thinking of setting long-term goals.

When it comes to the future, there are only three possibilities that come to mind: it will either be the same, get worse, or be better than where you are right now.

What you wish to do with your life is up to you, but your actions – and inactions – can help in leading to one of those outcomes. In the case of you desiring a better future, as most would, it comes down to setting goals well into the future that you can work on right now. Through consistent work, you can see your life in a completely different way than how you are seeing your future now.

What Are Long-Term Goals?

A long-term goal is exactly what it says: it is a goal that isn’t going to be achievable in the next few months but rather achievable in a few years or more. This is also a very common interview question. [1]?”

Everyone has a plan for their life or, at the very least strong desires. 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. Others will have meticulous details outlining what their dream house looks like, what kind of car they’ll drive, and even how many kids they will have and their names.

While things rarely work out exactly as planned, the importance of long-term goals is to serve as an overall compass for your life. For example, your partner might not agree with having two or three kids therefore, you may foster or adopt kids instead. As much as you had your eyes set on a dream house, you may end up liking living in a condominium instead. The point of having these goals is that without them, you’re just coasting through life with no particular drive or motivation.

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.

Long-Term Goals Examples

Long-term goals can be applied to pretty much any area of your life. Want a better relationship? Set a goal. Want better health? Set a goal. The wording and, of course, the outcome is going to be different, but each goal instills specific habits that you can do every day to reach them. Here is an example of the types of goals you can set.

  • Career: I will receive a promotion and a raise within three years.
  • Relationships: I will improve my communication skills to 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.

Even though these goals are well into the future, the steps you can take right now can help you make those achievable. You can even look at enhancing those goals through specific templates too.

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 many options. When faced with too many options, they become obsessed with choosing the “right” one and never make a decision.

This is the same case as the goals above. It’s easy to get tunnel vision and to feel so overwhelmed by the goals that you give up before starting. In other cases, people aren’t sure where to even start.

And there aren’t specific strategy guides on how to go about getting promotions beyond general advice. However, there is a guide here on how to set long-term goals and achieve success. Before delving into those steps, check this video out first:

Here are 7 particular tips that will help you in setting these goals and reinforcing why long-term goals are important to set and work towards.

1. Make Goals, Not Wishes

Who hasn’t thought about winning the lottery or inheriting money from a rich relative? While there is nothing wrong with daydreaming about these things, they are not tangible goals.

Goals should never be based on “if something happens.” You’re leaving your potential future on a coin toss. A goal should be something that you can influence yourself through working 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.”

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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 was ever vague about it. No one said they “wanted to be in the medical field” when they got older. Most said they wanted to be a doctor or a nurse, and so on. These were specific goals that we had as kids. And while most of us didn’t end up as astronauts or doctors, we still pictured ourselves in these specific roles. We still visualized to a degree what those might be.

When 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.

You don’t need to get down into the very specific details, but knowing what specific desires you have is the key.

Instead of saying, “In five years, I want to be rich,” think about what that means to you and what it would look like. Does that mean retiring in the next 5 to 10 years, or is it simply having millions of dollars within that time?

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.”

Why specific long-term goals help is that you can start to measure the goal. You’ll be able to tell whether you can hit certain benchmarks or whether you need to make adjustments here and there. In the example, you’ll know you reached your goal to have a Ferrari if you look in the garage and see one or check your bank balance and see that you can afford 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 real world[2].

Just by taking this step, your odds of achieving your goal go up tremendously. After all, it serves as a reminder now. A reminder to get out there and get that goal.

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.” As mentioned before, people can often get stuck in their head or feel so overwhelmed that they don’t even bother to work towards it.

It’s easier to come up with excuses or compare your current situation to that goal. Maybe you haven’t even started or maybe you’ve got a business running, and it’s making just enough to pay down the mortgage every month.

How can it get from there to making a million dollars every year? The answer is simpleone step at a time.

Once you have decided on your long-term goals, you’ll need to break them down into short-term goals. The smaller they are in chunks, the easier it is to achieve. Say it’s starting a business, you’ll first need to do some research on a business you can start in your spare time. There are many options out there that don’t necessarily need huge investments 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. In your second year, you’ll want to earn $150,000. From there, you’ll need it to double each year to reach one million dollars in five years.

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Each of those years can be broken down into smaller goals until you realize you need to make $149 daily to reach that target. You can break it down further to say you need to make sales totaling that number. For example, if each item you sell is $50, you need to only sell three every day to get your target.

At first, you may have no sales, but by experimenting with various marketing strategies 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 Why You Are Doing Your Long-Term Goals

Even if you have set your long-term goals and even written them down, you need to have a constant reminder of why you 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.

How to Set Long Term Goals and Achieve Success

    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. This also applies to setbacks as well. Even when a change turns worse for you, there are ways you can bounce back faster than ever before.

    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.

    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 about how to overcome challenges you may face in this article.

    Setting Long-Term Career Goals Around Work

    All goals will be different, of course. However, employee or career goals have more nuances to them. Not only are these goals designed to enrich yourself, but you want to be enriching the people around you and the business you’re part of.

    So with those tips above, also keep these particular tips when setting goals around your work.

    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 [3]. From time to time, people do get stumped when they ask themselves what their career is going to be like in 5 or 10 years after all.

    This manifests in people accepting 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 careers. 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. Your goals are your compass, and if you have no goals, you won’t know where to go or what to do, or even if what you’re doing is the right fit for you.

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    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 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 ensure 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 became 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 learned 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 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 wasting time.

    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 they could have solved that problem better.

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    It is a mindset of continuous self-improvement, 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 them. 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, leading 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.

    Final Thoughts

    Fear of failure

    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 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 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.


    Don't have time for the full article? Read this.

    How to Set Long Term Goals and Achieve Success

    A long-term goal is a goal that isn’t going to be achievable in the next few months but rather achievable in a few years or more.

    When it comes to goal planning, get as specific as possible. Instead of saying, “In five years, I want to be rich,” define what rich means to you.

    Break your long-term goals into shorter goals that make for bench markers to keep you on track.

    Don’t forget to set long-term goals for work, whether modeling successful behaviors of those you admire in your industry or getting clear on what you want.

    Featured photo credit: Bench Accounting via unsplash.com


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