Long term goals may be more important to our sense of happiness and well-being than many people come to believe. They direct our actions. They provide us with a sense of purpose. They even shape our attitude towards objects, people and circumstances that surround us.
In the recent psychological study conducted by Alberta School of Business, researchers made a mind-blowing discovery – once we set a long term goal, our subconscious mind will never “erase” it. No matter where we live, what we do and how old we are, our subconscious will continue actively searching for ways to achieve our long term goals.
Once set in motion this mechanism can not be stopped. Not by multiple failures. Not by negative social conditioning. Not even by your conscious decision to stop trying.
Good news is that you have been programmed for success. Not-so-good news – you will still have to do the work to achieve it, but it is hardly the reason to get discouraged.
Having (and achieving) long term goals actually holds a myriad of life-long rewards.
Advantages of Setting Long Term Goals
1. Long Term Goals Give You Direction
As Yogi Berra has put it, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Having clear and specific long term goal keeps us headed in the right direction – somewhere we really want to end up, not just somewhere the circumstances might take us.
2. Sense of greater purpose
Long term objectives give meaning to most, otherwise, mundane tasks. We don’t wake up in the morning to go to work, spend 8 hours in the office to turn home and relax in front of TV for the rest of the evening. We have something great to look forward to. We have something that fires us up; something that has the potential to nourish our personal, professional and spiritual life.
3. Better understanding of possible roadblocks
Having a clear direction in life allows us to prepare much better for the trip, to anticipate and avoid possible setbacks, to build skills that are necessary for success and to gain support of people who can make our journey easier and more enjoyable.
4. Long term positive impact
While short term goals help us create momentum, the effect of accomplishing a short term goal is short-lived. They are only stepping-stones to the greater success. Long term goals may be harder to achieve, but their impact is more noticeable and lasts over time
5. Big picture
Having long term goals allows us to see beyond today’s work and keep our motivation high, especially when we are faced with tedious, but necessary everyday tasks.
What are Long Term Goals?
While life-long goals may vary greatly from person to person, there are still similar characteristics that we have to keep in mind before applying massive amount of action to achieve them:
Long term goals can not be achieved overnight. You can not build a successful home-based business, instill healthy habits in your children or obtain a college degree in a few months. Goals like these, take time. They may last anywhere from one year to a few decades.
Long term goals are more concrete than dreams or wishes. There is a big difference between saying “Someday I will be an accomplished surgeon” and “By 2019 I will get my Master’s Degree in Neurologic Surgery at Berkley University”. The first statement is a dream that has nothing to do with reality. The second statement is a long term goal that combines a dream to become an accomplished surgeon and a plan on how to get there. When setting long term goals, make sure that they are SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
Long term goals can be set for any area of life. Whether you’re trying to get out of debt, change your career, start a family or stick to a healthier diet, you can turn your wish into a long term goal and here is how…
How to set Long Term Goals?
1. Create a compelling vision
Before choosing a long term goal, take a moment to think what you want to look like in 5 years from now.
- Where do you want to be living?
- What kind of work do you want to be doing?
- How are you planning to spend your free time?
- Who do you want to spend it with?
Try this vision “on”. See what your intuition is telling you – is it something YOU truly want or is it something that would be cool having? Will you be happier after accomplishing it? What could be the possible downsides of living your life that way?
For example, if you imagined yourself being the head of marketing department and working for a big international company, one of the downsides of having this role could be a lack of free time. Another one is the necessity of dealing with interpersonal conflicts within your team.
Ask yourself – are you ready to work hard and make sacrifices to get where you want to go? You know that you are on the right track when you are willing to accept not only the “compelling” part of accomplishing your goal, but also the responsibility that comes with it.
2. Identify one long term goal
Usually there are many areas of our life that we would like to improve. To feel satisfied with our life it is not enough to have a stellar career, to find your love match or to have a great-looking body and good health. We have to find balance between professional, personal and spiritual life.
However, the problem is that switching between multiple long term goals is a sure way to leave all of them half-way. This is one of the reasons why self-help experts suggest that we pick just one long-term goal and concentrate all of our effort on it.
Take a moment to think which goal is most important to your future success? Which goals will have the biggest positive impact on your life 5 years from now?
Now think of how you can write this goal in a way that eliminates any confusion or ambiguity and leaves no room for interpretation.
For example, “I want to be fit” is hardly a goal. “By June 1st, 2013 I am size 6. I can easily jog 5 miles without running out of breath or feeling tired afterwards.” – is a well-defined, measurable target that has a clear deadline and allows you to monitor your progress.
3. Break your long term goal in smaller, do-able chunks
While long term goals are the most meaningful and gratifying, they are also far off in the future. As a result, it can be challenging to maintain a positive attitude and stay focused on reaching them. One of the great ways to prevent yourself from getting off track is to break your long-term goal into smaller objectives that take 3 to 12 months to complete. And then break those objectives into even smaller steps that could be completed in just a few days’ or a few weeks’ time.
When you do that, you will have what goal setting experts call an “Action plan”.
4. Take the first step
Choose one of the smaller tasks from your action plan and set a realistic deadline for it.
Then take the first step – a.k.a. get it done!
Then celebrate… then take the next step… and the next one…
You will be surprised at how fast the time flies by. In a few years from now you will be sitting at your desk thinking, “Wow! It seemed only yesterday I was writing down my long term goals, and look how far I’ve come…”