What are your long term goals?
There’s a reason that’s such a common question in job interviews, family dinners, and even first dates.
Long term goals say a lot about who you are, where you’re going, and what you value. They are the big dreams that give your life direction and purpose.
What exactly is a long term goal?
Long term goals are things you want to achieve further into the future, often on a timescale of months or years. Long term goals require a good deal of time and daily planning in order to ultimately reach them. They often require multiple steps, involving the completion of other, smaller goals along the way.
So if you have a goal, and you don’t know how you are going to achieve it, read on.
And if you’re still trying to figure out what you want out of life, this article will help you with that, too.
Defining Long Term Goals
Long term goals refer to accomplishments that will take significant time, effort, and planning to achieve. They are the delayed-gratification outcome of months or years of focus.
An example of a long term goal would be becoming an attorney. From studying for the LSAT, to getting into law school, to passing the bar exam, it’s a process that takes years to achieve.
They begin in the realm of heart dreams — dreams we hold in our hearts that can seem out of reach at first. But wishes, hopes, and dreams are always the beginning of any significant transformation that can change your life.
Life has many types of goals, big and complex enough to require planning, persistence, and accountability over a long period of time, from several months up to five years.
Long term goal types:
- Career goals: Changing careers, become a leader in your field, or starting a business. Even starting a new career at 40 can be a viable goal.
- Financial goals: Buying a house, saving for early retirement, or funding your children’s education.
- Personal goals: Travelling the world, finding a life partner, improving your focus, finding your purpose in life, or becoming a badass in something you love doing — like playing guitar, lifting weights, or making comics.
Long term goal examples:
- Get your dream job
- Find the right person for you
- Become independent
- Get a university degree
- Settle your life
- Secure funding for your family and children
- Become famous
The difference that makes a dream into a concrete goal is simple. It’s a plan.
By creating a series of short term goals that bring you closer to your destination, your dreams become actionable and achievable.
The Two Keys to Achieving Your Goals
As you pursue the direction of your heart’s calling, you can only reach your long term goal by consistently taking baby steps.
But it’s also important to keep an open mind toward self-discovery.
When it comes to long goals, most people talk about staying really focused on the objectives. While setting objectives is part of it, we also need to leave space for surprising opportunities and breakthroughs.
I call this approach the entrepreneurial two-step, but it’s not just for entrepreneurs. Any new venture can benefit from a combination of goal-setting and an open mind.
1. Setting Tangible Long & Short Term Goals
When pursuing a big dream, defining measurable outcomes makes all the difference. How do you define success?
Here’s how to set tangible, measurable goals:
- Break your long-term goal into baby steps: You need to know what specific steps to take each day, week, and month to achieve your goals.
- Establish metrics of success: KPIs (key performance indicators) will help you know when you’re on the right track.
Here’s how it played out in my life.
After 15 years of working in education, I decided to make a transition from an elementary school teacher and reinvent myself in the world of business.
I had a dream to go down a career track in which I could innovate more than I could while working in a public school system. I understood that much but didn’t necessarily have the clarity of what that end goal would look like.
So I set aspirations and intentions.
I dreamed of having a home office. I created a collage, with visuals and words, to depict that thing I was headed for. I kept the bigger vision as an aspiration to enter my heart and my soul.
Then I broke down my long term goal into tiny, bite-size pieces.
First, I needed to enroll in a coach training school. I actually created a calendar of what my schedule would look like. I determined how many classes I needed to take each month in order to graduate. I also picked up classes in project management.
2. Keeping an Open Mind
Throughout my transition, I found that if I stayed too attached to a specific outcome, I sometimes missed the bigger opportunity. And sometimes, the thing that actually gave me a breakthrough happened unexpectedly.
I’ve seen this in my own transitions, and with many of the clients in my coaching practice.
So when pursuing personal goals, I like to leave things open. I put aspirations out there and allow time, synchronicity, and circumstance to run its course.
I truly believe that a lot of the things that have given me satisfaction, that I would chalk up as successes, have come from:
- Having an aspiration,
- Heading in that direction
- Leaving things open
This process allows things that I couldn’t even imagine to show up. Opportunities meet me on my way.
Point your ship in the right direction without going down too many diversions. You can also see what’s coming up in the waves to see where opportunities arise.
It’s good to leave some openness and flexibility, rather than staying too rigid in your pursuit. This approach allows for growth and opportunity in the process of pursuing personal goals.
Besides helping you take advantage of new opportunities, flexibility gives you a chance to be creative. It’s a key part of staying motivated during a transition, particularly during, what I call the neutral zone.
The Neutral Zone: When Motivation Slows Down
Embarking on important personal goals, at first, you may have a burst of motivation driving you.
But long term goals take time.
Especially if you’re working on something major, like figuring out how to change careers in midlife.
In the course of working towards goal completion, your motivation will slow down. Sometimes, you don’t get the results you want as quickly as you expect. Other times, things just don’t pan out. Those factors can drag self motivation and stall your progress.
In his book, Managing Transitions, William Bridges explains the Transition Model. It’s a way to navigate these changes successfully, especially when motivation slows down.
At first, when embarking on a change, you face an ending. You feel the pain of loss for what you’re leaving behind, or the joy of getting unstuck.
As you move through the ending, you find yourself in “No Man’s Land,” or the neutral zone. You may feel:
Guess what? This is normal!
The neutral zone is a place of ambiguity. You haven’t quite ended all the ending. You haven’t quite begun all the beginning. In between, it takes time for the transition to occur.
Five Strategies to Navigate the Neutral Zone
Herminia Ibarra’s Working Identity explains ways to keep moving through the neutral zone:
- Keep learning: Stay in the mode of taking in new information and adjusting your knowledge base.
- Create: Keep the internal pathways fluid by continually having “juice in your veins.” With creativity, at any given moment, you are fueled for innovation.
- Have a mentor or sounding board (coach): Don’t go about things alone. Have someone on your team to provide perspective and balance.
- Have a willingness to take risks: In other words, be willing to step out of your comfort zone and into something that might not fly.
- Don’t give up: PERSIST! Persistence plays a crucial role during the neutral zone in actualizing long term goals. Keep trying, keep moving, and keep going. Don’t give in or give up.
With persistence, you will make it through the neutral zone and enter a new beginning.
Yes, you can feel a few twinges from the ending, and a little bit of the numbness from the neutral zone. However, you will start to experience the excitement of a new beginning, and your motivation will come roaring back to life.
Over time, the sadness of ending, and feelings of insecurity from the neutral zone will fade away.
Your new beginning has become your new normal. The goals are achieved. The change is complete!
Ready to begin pursuing your goals?
No matter what, you’ll benefit from having an intention and a goal in sight while ALSO leaving space open.
That means you don’t have to nail everything to a plan or a project map. Instead, you can allow discovery so the unexpected can occur. In that way, you’ll achieve long term goals in ways you could never imagine.