Long-Term Goals vs. Short-Term Goals - A Simple Way to Determine One From The Other & 4 Tips to Complete Your Goals

Long-Term Goals vs. Short-Term Goals

January 06, 2020   - 

What Are Long-Term Goals and Short-Term Goals?

First things first. Long-term goals are goals expected to take more than a year to complete. While short-term goals will take less than a year to complete. The distinction between the two makes sense, but I would argue that in most cases we do not need it. Let me explain. Creating goals, of any type, is an excellent practice for both individuals and organizations. Knowing where you want to go and how you plan to get there is critical. So how do we figure this out?

How to Determine if Your Goal is Long-Term or Short-Term - Can Your Action Plan Make a Cake?

If your goal is defined properly, you are halfway there. The next step is to create an action plan - the steps needed to achieve a plan (goal, projects, or objectives). Now you will apply the cake test to your action plan. Well, it could be lasagna or any recipe, but I have found that most people are familiar with making cakes.

The recipe test is simple, do the ingredients you have (your action plan) help you create the cake (complete the goal). For example, if your goal is to hire three new employees, but you never create a job posting making your cake will be hard. The recipe has to have the right ingredients.

Organize your tasks

Written recipes are helpful (although my mom rarely does this), so I would recommend writing your plan down if you have not before. Having written plans helps organization and enhances communication, while there are lots of debates on the value without any hard data I have seen positive results personally and when coaching others. So let's move on and look at how we can determine if it is a long-term goal or a short-term goal. Just like a recipe... okay, I'll stop (but it is).

Have a high level view of your goals

Now, this is where I will diverge from some popular thinking. If you have decided that your goal has a deadline that's okay, and if not that's okay too! Wait, what really? Yes! Well, what about the tasks? The same applies to the items in your action plan. Let me explain. There is some level of stress and disappointment associated when setting "false" deadlines and then missing them. But I believe if you can keep track of the plan and actions along with their status you're good. If your goal fits this structure, it is neither a short-term goal or a long-term goal but is guiding you to accomplishing something awesome.

So, let's talk about what I agree with (well kind of). If there is a firm date, or someone has told you "We must complete goal X by Y". Then your tasks should fit in that time frame and if that time frame is less than 12 months, then it is one of your short-term goals and if longer than 12 months it is one of your long-term goals. There are also times when you have determined and committed to (we'll save that for another time) completing "something" by a date, well the same would apply. But when people ask you what your goals are, how often do you use that distinction?

During those conversations, the destination is the most important. The terms "long-term goals" and "short-term goals" are rarely used, people are interested in the destination and your plan to get there. Can you make a cake and what are the ingredients (all right that was the last one)? I believe at the root of the question is "What is your vision and have put thought into how you can make it happen?".

Is It Necessary to Define Long-Term and Short-Term Goals? Well, It's Your Success You Decide

It's your success you decide Many people may struggle with defining or creating goals yet alone, determining if they are "long-term goals" or "short-term goals", although they may have a dream or a vision of what they want to see come true. Guess what, they are the same thing.

We all know someone, perhaps it's us, that have great ideas, but have yet to take the steps necessary to move closer to making them a reality. Equally, we all probably know of several people that have done something that catches our attention. The major difference will always be how many steps they took to make it happen. More than likely they eliminated some if not all of items in their action plan. They could execute.

Tips to Help You Achieve Your Goals

Tips to help you achieve your goals

Odds are you may have seen and read other "Tips to Achieve Your Goals" type articles. The difference with the following tips is that regardless of what method used to create your goals, or any plan, they will get you closer if not across the finish line. They are pretty much universal.

  • Commit to the work, be clear on what you want to accomplish and why. It is very important that even if your action plan has only one item on it, you will do it. When coaching others one question I have always asked is, "Are you committed to doing X?".
  • Remember that this is a commitment to yourself and it's yours. More often than not others will not define your goals for you.
  • Review your progress as often as needed - track it. Whether you are completing a step or tracking progress, make sure that you can visualize your progress.
  • Be flexible and understand that it is okay to course correct. Life happens and obstacles appear even a "perfect" plan needs adjustments and so will your action plan.

Being committed and focused on the right things regardless of the methods you choose will help you accomplish the right things for your life. Like anything else, it takes practice and a level of discipline to see the results.