Long and short-term goals: 4 ways to tell the difference


If you want to succeed, setting goals will help you achieve more. According to scientific research, under the right conditions, goal setting can be a very powerful technique.

Scientists Edward Locke and Gary Latham, who have been studying the theory of goal-setting since 1990, say goals help mobilise energy which leads to a higher effort overall. This higher effort results in an increase of persistent effort which then fuels success.

If you are looking at a project or plan and do not set goals you are less likely to achieve success. But goals come in two forms: long-term and short-term. They are pretty simple to understand but it is best to know which goal you’re setting or you risk becoming disillusioned.

What are short-term goals?

Whenever you have a vision or plan, setting short-term goals helps you take steps to a long-term goal. In Relationology Masterminds, we have helped more than 100 people reach short-term goals.

These goals must be achievable in 100 days, so our participants have to be realistic. It’s highly unlikely that you will be able to research a new market, prepare a marketing strategy and have a new product manufactured and on the shelf in 100 days!

Setting short-term goals that are unrealistic can result in you feeling deflated and less likely to reach your goal because you feel defeated before you start. And that’s why short-term goals should be achievable.

What are long-term goals?

If you have a goal that cannot be achieved in a week or even a few months, then this is a long-term goal. Experts define long-term goals as:

  • Requiring deliberate planning
  • Needing commitment
  • Requiring hard work
  • Likely to take a significant amount of time

Long-term goals should help you reach your full potential and often need to take into account several aspects of your life, such as your relationships, personal life and financial factors.

The need to set long-term goals is one of the reasons we are launching the Relationology Excelerator programme. Over a 12-month period, our experienced coaches will work together to help people who take part achieve long-term goals that they may have dreamed about but never had the opportunity to work on them.

Here are three specific differences between the two types of goals. These will help you understand the importance each has in its own way.

1. Strategy

Long-term goals shape the direction of your life and, as a result, are intrinsically strategic. They take a lot of planning and strategising in different areas of your life.

Short-term goals equally require a strategy but they are more a reflection on your current situation and performance. In Masterminds, the goals set tend to relate to present-day plans and projects.

Ask yourself where you are right now on your journey and what is required to achieve your goal. Think of it like running: if it’s a 5k then you need to set short-term goals; if it’s like a marathon then your goals need to be long-term as they require a more detailed strategy.

2. More than one goal

You can work on more than one short-term goal at a time. For example, you may have a professional goal but you can also be working on a personal one. Short-term goals do not necessarily have to be connected.

Long-term goals can run alongside but they tend to be interlinked in all areas of your life.

3. Time

This definition is definitely the most obvious! If something takes a long time to achieve it’s more likely to be a long-term goal. For example, paying off your mortgage in 10 years is long-term. Putting aside a percentage of your wages each month or reducing your coffee purchases to save towards your mortgage are short-term goals.

4. Commitment

Long-term goals require a longer commitment to motivation, which is difficult to achieve on your own. No matter how much drive you have, you will have days when life’s a struggle. So long-term goals can be more difficult to concentrate on. It’s during those times you need others to hold you to account and to encourage you.

One of the aspects our Mastermind participants enjoyed was interacting with others and building effective professional relationships with others who helped steer them towards their goals. They asked whether we could offer a similar coaching and support network for longer-term goals – and that is why we launched Relationology Excelerator.

If you have a goal that you struggle with that could change your life, then contact us today and let us explain how Excelerator can help you.

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