Short-term goals are great, and we’re not just saying that to make you feel better. We all want to plan for the long-term. However, it’s vital to remember that “quick” goals are equally as important. We all function differently, and sometimes, it can be frustrating struggling to keep up with long-term commitments. If you’ve found yourself feeling stuck lately, then short-term goals are for you.
Making any kind of goal is essential in your life. However, it is critical that you understanding the difference between short-term and long-term goals. It will help you know how to use short-lived commitments to your advantage.
How to Jumpstart Your Future with Short-Term Goals
You’ve probably heard of short-term goals, medium-term goals, and long-term goals. However, you might not entirely have a grasp of what they each mean. As the name already suggests, short goals are what you can accomplish in a short period. Examples of these are those that fall below 12 months. Typically, they range from three to six months.
Meanwhile, long goals are set beyond 12 months. You can complete these goals from 12 months and above (typically from 18 to 24+ months). On the other hand, medium goals fall in-between short and long ones. This means medium-term goals fall within the range of 6 to 18 months.
However, you should keep in mind that these timelines only serve as a guide. In reality, short, long , or medium goals are flexible and dependent on you. Of course, you might ask, “What is an example of a short-term goal?” Well, if you set a goal to accomplish a task in a week’s time, that’s short-term. Looking at it from this perspective, if you put another plan for six months, that’s a long-term goal. In essence, whether a goal qualifies as short or long depends on you and the timeline that you are working with.
The Difference Between Short-Term, Long-Term, and Medium-Term Goals
Below is a short example of how short-term, long-term, and medium-term goals work:
Short-term: buy $15,000 worth of Apple stocks in three months
Medium-term: buy $40,000 worth of Facebook stocks in ten months
Long-term: Use profits made from stocks to buy Eurobonds in 24 months
The levels denoted above clearly show different timelines set for different goals – six months, nine months, and 24 months. These same levels could still be represented as three days, nine days, and 24 days. Alternatively, it could be set as three weeks, nine weeks, and 24 weeks.
The time duration doesn’t really matter. What matters is the perspective in which you make your plans. Three months comes before nine months, and nine months is shorter than 24 months. Therefore, in comparison, they represent short-, medium-, and long-term goals, respectively.
The duration of a short or long-term goal is not set in stone. It all depends on what you’re working towards and the milestones you’ve set for yourself. Short-term goals examples are those that you’re working towards accomplishing immediately, while long-term goals are those you’ve set to complete further down the line. Medium-term objectives fall in between those two.
The Importance and Benefits of Short-Term Goals
If you want to know how to improve yourself in life, you need to learn how to develop short-term goals. Before going into that, let’s look at some examples of healthy short-term goals:
You can set a goal to read one or two books every month for six months
Make a list of your friends and call one person per week for 12 months
Dance to music once or twice a week for a year
Stay healthy by eating healthy at least five times a week for the next three months
Save money to get a house by tracking your daily expenses for the next six months
These are all healthy short-term objectives. The great thing about making your plans short-term is that you can extend them further if you find them enjoyable. It’s easier to start a goal knowing you’re not committing to it for too long.
If, for example, at the end of six months, you decide the goal is not for you, you can easily stop without feeling like a failure. You’ll feel proud of yourself knowing you conquered the plan that you set out to accomplish. However, if you find that you enjoyed completing the goal, you can extend it to another 6 months.
Let’s take reading one book per month for six months as an example. Along the line, things might change, and you’ll realize, “This is not for me.” Maybe it’s your work becoming too hectic or the children needing more attention. Perhaps you’re not just a fast reader, and you’re getting stressed out, pushing yourself to finish that book in a month. Whatever the reason, finishing one book per month may just not be for you.
However, because it’s a goal of only six months – not forever – you can easily commit and complete it. After all, you are no quitter! You don’t want to stop halfway and feel like you’ve let yourself down. At the end of six months, you can then adjust your goal to “read one book every two months for six months.”
Now, imagine if you had set the goal to six years instead of six months! You’d end up feeling miserable trying to force yourself to finish one book per month. You might even quit reading altogether. Think of the feeling of disappointment/failure you’d have to deal with, knowing you couldn’t reach your goal. As you can see, it’d be easier to give it your all, knowing you only have to do it for just a couple of months.
The important thing to remember about short-term objectives is that they lead to long-term results. When a plan is short-term, it gives you the option to decide whether to stop or continue. You get to complete the goal as a winner and not a loser. When you accomplish your goal, you can decide if you want to extend the plan or just end it.
If you make a long-term commitment straight off the bat, you are getting yourself into an unknown future. It’s like placing yourself into an unfamiliar future laced with possible failure. On the other hand, short-term objecectives are like a swimmer testing the waters to know if it’s hot, cold, or just the right temperature. If the water is suited to your taste, you can dive right in and enjoy a swim. However, if it isn’t what you expected, you can either stop or make necessary adjustments. Setting short milestones is a great way of achieving positive results.
Short-Term Goals and Long-Term Vision
The thing about the future is that it can change without warning. You can be certain about your goals, but not so much about what the future might bring.
You might decide you want to cook a new dish every day for six months. You believe you can make this happen because either you’re living alone or you’re feeling adventurous. This is a worthy intention because you want to broaden your culinary skills and eat healthy at the same time. However, you might find yourself suddenly having a new roommate sharing a kitchen with you, thereby altering your plans. It might be the kids asking to eat a favorite old dish. You don’t know what could happen, and that’s precisely the problem with long-term goals.
Therefore, instead of setting long-term goals, you should set long-term visions for yourself. Long-term visions are more about an idea of where you’ll like to see yourself in a couple of years. This idea is not fixed or specific. Long-term visions put into consideration that life happens and therefore leaves room for variability.
Having this in mind, you can set your short-term objectives while looking at your long-term vision. This allows you to work towards your vision with a flexibility that lets you change your short-term objectives if necessary.
Long-Term Vision: Why It’s so Great!
Let’s say you set a long-term goal that within two years, you want to be running a successful restaurant making $20,000 per month. This is a great plan.
However, what happens if somewhere along the line, you realize the restaurant business is just not for you? This predicament leaves you in a tight spot. Either you scrap your long-term goals or you have to force yourself to keep doing something you don’t enjoy. Abandoning your plan and starting over will make you feel like a failure. On the other hand, forcing yourself to keep on with it will make you miserable.
Now, consider instead that you set a long-term vision to run a successful business. This is more flexible. In this scenario, you set a short-term objective to start running a restaurant within six months. Let’s say somewhere around the 5th month, and you realize, “This isn’t working!” You simply set a new short-term objective to run a successful food delivery service instead. You finally end up discovering you’re happier and better at this new business. Your short-term objectives have changed, but your long-term vision of owning a successful business is still in play.
You can keep pursuing your long-term vision without the feeling of failure or starting over. This is why short-term objectives within long-term visions are so great – they allow you to work towards your ideal life while offering you the flexibility to learn and change along the way.
It’s About Direct Influence
When setting short-term objectives, they should be things you can directly influence or control. Let’s say you set an intention to stay healthy (and perhaps lose some weight) by eating healthy five times a week for the next three months. Eating healthy is something you can control and directly influence.
However, if you go with the common goal of, say, losing 15 lbs. over the same period, this is not something you can control. Even if you work out every single day and eat healthy every day, you really have no control over the amount of weight your body can choose to lose. Our bodies are different—we deal with food and exercise differently.
After three months, you may look fantastic, but you will not see that because you haven’t lost as much weight as you planned. Instead, you look in the mirror and see someone weighing more than your set goal. You end up failing to see the fantastic progress that you’ve made. It’s important you set goals that you can directly control and not those outside your control. It’s also essential to track your time while making plans. Adequate time management plays a huge role in the successful execution of short-term objectives.
What Is Outside Your Control?
You can set an intention to read more than your colleagues each day. The problem with this is that you don’t have any control over how much they read per day. You can’t manage how fast they read, or the kind of books they read. They might not even read the same books as you. They might be reading novels while you’re reading non-fictional books. This is outside your control.
Instead, you can set an intention to finish one book per month for the next 6 months by reading 20 pages per day. This is entirely within your control. The truth is that setting and achieving goals can be a challenging venture. Therefore, you need to make sure that you have as much advantage in your corner as possible. Always set goals that are within what you can control and can directly influence.
Short-term objectives can work to your advantage in achieving those long-term visions. Use them properly, and don’t forget to manage your time adequately with the right tools. Setting short objectives beat the alternative of long-term goals that you may end up not achieving at all. Better to start little than not to start at all.