How Setting Short Term Goals Helped Me to Achieve My Long Term Goals

I have been setting my personal goals at the start of every new year since I was a teenager.

It started with only one item, which was to achieve straight A’s for my exams. Then, I wanted my abs to be visible. That became my second goal. As I progressed into my twenties, there were more and more goals I was trying to set and achieve; and soon, there were too many and it got difficult to manage.


This is partly because my goals were not specific, too broad and lacked substance. I wanted an expensive vacation, a designer handbag or indulge in fancy restaurant dinners etc.


But after some research, a bit of life experience and learning from my failures, I now live by these seven rules to long term goal setting.


1. Be Clear of Your “Why”

We all have desires, goals, and ambitions. It may not be clear to you at first as to why you want to achieve something.

It is your job to dig deep and ask yourself, why you want that promotion, why you want an expensive holiday, why you want to wake up at 5 a.m. every day, and why all these are important to you. This will help you define your goals and motivate you to work towards it.


For example, if your goal is to be physically healthy, ask yourself why that is important to you. Perhaps it could be because you want to improve your work performance by not taking sick leaves often. You can even dig deeper than that, like why is work performance important to you. Maybe because this is what will help you achieve financial freedom.

Knowing your why and the motivation behind the goals you want to achieve would act as a reminder for you to pull through.


2. Categorise Your Long-Term Goals

Life is demanding because there are several aspects that we need to work on to have a content and fulfilled life. Those aspects may cover areas such as physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, financial and intellectual etc.


Perhaps you can never do all at once, so it would be good if you can define and prioritize what matters to you most in the long run.


If it is very important for you to take care of your physical health, then you can start breaking down your goals and actions into short term ones and work towards it. For example, if you want to keep a healthy and active lifestyle, you may want to achieve 10,000 steps per day.


By categorising your goals according to the different priorities in your life, you will be able to feel more in control as to how it contributes to the bigger picture, and thus, making you define your Why better.


3. Set a Maximum of 3 Short Term Goals for Each Long-Term Goal

Remember, less is more when it comes to goal setting.

Before you set your short-term goals, evaluate yourself and ask what actions you need to take to achieve your long-term goals.

Smaller goals help you stay focus and track your progress along the way. Being able to climb 50 flights of stairs from the beginning is not going to be feasible. Set your short-term goal to do 10 flights of stairs in the first month, then 20 in the second month, and slowly move your way up to 50 as you progress.


By breaking it into short term goals, you are able to track your progress better, and this would give you the motivation to keep going, as compared to forcing yourself to achieve extreme results right when you start out. It may work for awhile, but you will burnout very quickly.


4. Be Specific with Outcome and Deadline

In order to successfully achieve your goals, both short- and long-term ones, your goals must be specific with details of the desired outcome, as well as when to achieve them.


If you are setting a yearly goal, ideally you want to achieve it by the end of the year. Yearly goals are often effective as it serves as a way to self-evaluate and reflect on what worked and what did not when you reach the year end.

To break it down to shorter termed goals, you can set quarterly, monthly or even weekly goals with set deadlines. It may sound overwhelming, but once you get used to a specific system, such as listing it down every Sunday night or setting your To-Do List for each day in your calendar, you will be able to progressively work towards your long-term goals.


With short term goals there to keep you in check, without you even realizing it, you would have achieved great progress towards your yearly goal by the end of the year.


5. Regular Check Ins Are Important

Sometimes we forget our goals even if we paste them in front of our work desk because we are too busy minding our daily lives or getting distracted by other mindless tasks.


A mid-year check-in with yourself can help evaluate how far off you are from your end goal.


At the same time, you are able to reflect and evaluate if the goals you set out at the start of the year is still something you want to pursue.


If your goals are still valid, take this time to make small changes to achieve them.

Sometimes, you may find your goals to no longer be in line with what you want, or even the priorities at that moment.


Don’t be too hard on yourself as this is very normal. Take this check-in to adjust your goals and plan accordingly to what you are looking to achieve.


6. Celebrate Small Wins

Breaking your long-term goals into short term goals are like solving a complex mathematical problems.


Start with a big equation and break them into smaller ones. You will feel less overwhelmed and more willing to power through.

Celebrate small wins along the way. Even if you were only managed to walk up a flight of stairs on the first day, pat yourself on the back because you started the journey. Through each milestone, give yourself small rewards so you will be encouraged to continue on and achieve your long-term goal progressively.

In Charles Duhigg’s Power of Habit, every action must come with a reward. A reward can be a feel-good factor. As such, rejoice and feel good for every small step forward.


7. Its Okay If You Need To Start Over.

Finally, as we move along in life we aim to become better versions of ourselves every day.


You may realised you have not achieved your long-term goal because you procrastinated, or were not disciplined enough, or got distracted along the way.


There could be many factors as to why this happen. Perhaps to begin with, your why was not strong enough ot the goals you set out for were unrealistic.

Don’t give up on yourself. Reflect to see if that goal is still important to you, or if its align to what you want in life. If your answer is yes, revisit your plan, work on a more realistic action plan based on your experience, and start over.

Remember, life is always a work in progress and you can always continue to work to better yourself.


The smallest of actions is always better than the noblest of intentions.” – Robin Sharma

Born and bred in Malaysia, Flossie loves to travel, practice yoga, and make art. She is currently focusing on her corporate gig and occasionally indulges in writing. Flossie gives back to the world by recycling, volunteering, and spreading kindness.

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