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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

How to Set Long Term Goals and Achieve Success

How to Set Long Term Goals and Achieve Success

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.

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[1]?

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.

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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.

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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[2].

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 elephantone 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.

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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 Lifehack’s free guide: The Dreamers’ Guide for Taking Action and Making Goals Happen. This guide will help you go from dreaming to planning in no time.

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.

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Setting long term goals

    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.

    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 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.

    More Tips on Setting and Achieving Goals

    Featured photo credit: Bench Accounting via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    David Carpenter

    Lifelong entrepreneur and business owner helping others to realize the American Dream of business ownership

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    Last Updated on May 12, 2021

    How to Create a Personal Strategic Plan for Your Goals

    How to Create a Personal Strategic Plan for Your Goals

    Creating a personal strategic plan is necessary to achieve your goals. Most companies do that, but for some reason, some talented, motivated individuals don’t. It makes no sense and yet, people broadly think about their goals but don’t create a personal strategy to achieve them.

    In this article, I’m going to address that as it is one of the most critical single tasks you can do to change the course of your life.

    Defining Your Personal Strategic Plan

    Let’s start with the perfect example of John (pseudonym). As a child, he played football, baseball, and basketball, but he wasn’t great at any of them.At the age of 15, he tried to join the basketball team and failed. He was too short and managed to get in to carry the uniform of the star player. The story continues as he continued to practice hard, waking up at 6 am each day, and after a year finally making it to the basketball team that lost the first three tournaments.

    He continued practicing even harder and eventually became perhaps the most influential basketball player of all time—Michael Jordan.

    You might argue that it is definitely a combination of raw talent and hard work for athletes. Still, no one can say that without practice and working hard for years on the same goal, this hard-working individual would have never achieved his achievements.

    This is why it is crucial to define your strategy and then pursue it. It cannot guarantee that you’ll become a world-class athlete, but it can guarantee that you’ll have the best chances of getting to your goals with your unique set of capabilities.

    We’re going to provide you with research-based proven methods of preparing your personal strategic plan.

    What Is a Personal Strategic Plan?

    According to an article in the Journal of Management Research, “effective personal strategy means being able to think in multiple time frames, clarifying what one is trying to achieve over time as well as what needs to be done in the short term to get there.”[1] In other words, it means setting a vision and a plan to execute it.

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    A growth mindset is essential when preparing a personal strategic plan. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be ambitious enough—and if you’re here thinking about your long term goals, it means that you likely already have a growth mindset.

    According to an essay in Harvard Business Review, “individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts).”[2]

    The main trait that is associated with success is planning. It is sometimes more important than talent.[3]

    There are many methods for building your personal strategy, and I’m going to cover some of them. They all share an understanding of a high-level vision, a sense of your values, and practical steps on how to get there.

    Horizons of Focus

    David Allen is one of the leading time management specialists globally with his famous book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. One aspect of time management is the understanding of what you need to get done in a personal strategic plan.

    His method includes the following horizons:

    Horizon 5: Purpose and Principles

    This is where you set your vision for life. Of course, this is a big thing that requires you to think about what you would be happy with accomplishing decades from now. Sub-questions are which jobs, lines of industry, impact, and legacy are you interested in.

    An excellent method to examine that is by using the “five whys” process. In this simple method, you should ask yourself “why” to help you understand the real reasons for choosing your vision.

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    For example, if you want to become a successful entrepreneur, you can ask yourself why that is. If the “why” is to make an impact, you can ask yourself additional questions, such as whether this is the best way to do that.

    If you decide that it is, you might wonder why you want to create an impact. Perhaps it is because there is something you deeply care about.

    Your vision shouldn’t be only on professional goals; it should be on every life goal you care about. A bad example would be: “To be the most successful entrepreneur ever.” It is not unique and does not address your inner wants and needs. A good one would be specific, non-generic for you and your personal goals.

    By choosing a long-term goal specific for you, you can continue to the next step of figuring out how what the next few years will look like.

    The second part of this horizon is principles. By choosing your principles, you can re-examine your choices and see if they amount to your expectation from yourself.

    Horizon 4: Three- to Five-Year Vision

    Now that you have clearly defined your goal in life as part of your personal strategic plan, you can plan the next few years. Every ambitious goal takes time to accomplish. You should plan how to get there and understand that flexibility is vital during these times, as there are a lot of changes going on.

    This is when you decide on specific goals, such as a career path. If you aim to be a writer, and your goal is to become a columnist in the New York Times, what would get you there? If your dream is to start a successful startup, what can you do to learn the right things to qualify you as a leading entrepreneur?

    When considering the next specific moves you should take, it is always recommended to find a mentor to consult with. This is someone you look up to and picture their life as one that you would like to have. They are usually at least 10-15 years older and successful in achieving their goals.

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    What would be the next step to get you to your vision? This is not an easy question to answer, but broadly speaking, you should envision a road that can’t be 100% clear sometimes and still takes you in the right direction.

    Horizon 3: One- to Two-Year Goals and Objectives

    What objectives will the next year hold?

    Let’s say that you chose a specific career path. Now, you should focus on the main criteria and key performance indicators that would help you get there. That may seem far from your vision, but visions are, by nature, a bit far out.

    If you decided that you want to be a successful entrepreneur in five years to impact climate change positively, but you still don’t feel that you have the knowledge to do that, a first step might be working for a startup that’s doing that.

    When you take a look at the first year of working for that startup, it might be a good idea to understand your job requirements and prepare to be excellent doing them. By doing that, you’re on the right path to your dream.

    Horizon 2: Areas of Focus and Accountability

    After learning what you need in order to plan the next few years, we’re now getting to the important daily stuff. What are the primary few things that are important for your success in achieving your goal?

    This is the part when you understand your day to day responsibilities and excel at making them. Making a daily to-do list may be helpful at this stage. This is one way to hold yourself accountable when you decide on the daily steps you’ll need to take to carry out your personal strategic plan.

    This is also the horizon that will help you avoid procrastination, as you’ll have a clear idea of what to do and when. If you fall into a rut of procrastination, check out Lifehack’s Fast-Track Class: No More Procrastination.

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    Horizon 1: Projects

    These are the open loops of your goals that need to be achieved. One example can be editing that company movie. Another might be finishing that report. It can also be personal things, such as organizing the birthday party for your brother.

    You have tons of these, and every once in a while, it is suggested to ensure that they align with the higher-level goals you have.

    After you add everything to your calendar, the last step is to actually get it done. You can use tons of project management systems, such as Monday, Asana, Notion, and others. In Notion, they actually have a prepared template for this suggested method.

    Additional Methods

    The above method is just one out of many for developing your personal strategic plan.

    Another one is called V2MOM, invented by Salesforce’s founder[4]. The idea is to ask yourself five questions—some of them were also asked above—which would help you clarify your vision and get it.

    The five questions are:

    • Vision: What do you want to achieve?
    • Values: What’s important to you?
    • Methods: How do you get it?
    • Obstacles: What is preventing you from being successful?
    • Measures: How do you know you have it?

    Final Thoughts

    As mentioned, knowing where you want to go and preparing for it has a huge impact on your success in life. That may seem obvious, but some ambitious people don’t manage their lives in a way that helps them position themselves in the best way possible to succeed. Spend a few hours thinking and coming up with a personal strategic plan to put yourself on the right path today.

    More About Goal Planning Strategies

    Featured photo credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters via unsplash.com

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