Why is that?
Well, it’s because there’s a big difference between having goals, and having the right goals.
We’ve talked a lot about achieving them, but now it’s time to take a step back and look at setting goals. After all, there’s no point having a good aim if you’re shooting for the wrong stars.
Like most things, goals come in different shapes and sizes. Some are so small as to be insignificant (no matter how many times I tick “have a shower” off my to-do list, it’s never going to make me feel like I’ve got my shit together), and some are so big that they feel unachievable (though, admittedly, “Ruler of the Universe” does have a nice ring to it).
That’s why, when setting goals, you should always have three types: short-term, medium-term, and long-term.
Short-terms goals give you quick wins. I would define these as anything that can be achieved within the next month or two. They keep the momentum and motivation going, and help you feel like you’re actually achieving something. Without them, it’s too easy to run out of steam. After all, nobody wants to slog away at something when the payday is too far into the future, and it’s too easy to get lost along the way if you can’t see your destination. You’ll start to feel downhearted and defeated and, eventually, you’ll give up.
So go ahead and reap as many benefits as you can as often as you can and keep the feel-good vibes flowing. They’ll see you through the bad times because, when your cup already runneth over, it’s easier to let a few splashes and spills go.
Having said all that, only setting goals in the short-term isn’t going to give you direction. Even though the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, you still need a map to know you’re going in the right direction. But you also don’t want to completely overwhelm yourself by seeing the big chasm you have to cross, because that’s a surefire way to quit before you even begin. That’s where your medium-term goals come into play.
In a nutshell, they’re the Goldilocks of goals — not too short and not too long. They’re far enough into the future that they feel challenging and like something that’s actually worth striving for, but not so far that you lose focus.
For me, these can take anywhere between three months to a year. The more motivation required, the shorter your timeframe should be. For example, getting to a certain fitness level requires a lot of motivation, so it’s best to set yourself a goal that isn’t too far into the future. Motivation is a fickle beast and will need as much positive reinforcement as possible to keep it coming back. On the other hand, something like completing your current course can be closer to the year mark because it’s usually easier to get yourself to class every day than it is to the gym.
Medium-term goals are also a great review point because, as we grow, we go through so many transitions. The things we want out of life change, and achieving a medium-term goal is a great reminder to stop and reassess if you’re still steering in the right direction or if it’s time to adjust the sails. There’s no shame in picking a new destination if you decide the old one isn’t worth seeing anymore.
And that leads me to long-term goals — the ones that take a year or more to achieve, but lead you a lot closer to the life you want for your future self. These can be the hardest to stick to because they’re so far removed from our present selves and the deadline is too far away to feel pressing.
So what’s the point in setting them? Quite simply, to give your life direction. If you don’t know where you want to end up, you won’t know which decisions to make in the here and now to get you closer to your destination.
For instance, for me, I want a quiet and calm life. I want freedom and financial independence. I want to make the world a better place. I keep that vision in mind when it comes to setting goals and making decisions on a daily basis. It’s why I took on the KonMari Method, why I’m striving towards a minimalist lifestyle, why I quit a legal career in favour of being an online content creator, why I meditate, why I reuse and recycle, why I donate, and why I try to inspire people and cheer them on.
In short, my long-term vision for my life dictates almost everything I do in the day-to-day. It’s what keeps me on track and helps me steer the good ship Hutchinson in the right direction.
Long-term goals are like the north star — they lead you home.
So there are “goals” and there are #GOALS. And, like everything in life, a good balance is what’s required. It can be too easy to get caught up in the daily targets — like keeping the house clean — and then lose all sense of direction in your life. But it’s also easy to blindly follow a big life goal like a job promotion and start neglecting the little things.
Take some time today and look at the way you’re setting goals. Do you have all three types or are you lacking in some area? Fill in the gaps so that you have regular small wins to keep you moving, medium-term goals to challenge you and help you grow, and a larger vision for your life to give you a sense of purpose and direction.
LET ME KNOW…
What’s one short-term, medium-term, and long-term goal you have for yourself?