Short-Term Wins for Long-Term Goals
Long-term goals often feel great.
They are the big accomplishments in life.
Running the race.
Building the house.
Getting the degree.
These are the big things in our lives that excite us, that help us wake up in the morning, that we proudly share with our friends on social media.
But true to their name, these goals often take a long time. They require sustained effort. And as we move past the initial excitement of the goal, we can start to feel a bit stuck. We feel bored and restless. We start to question if the goal is really worth this much effort. If what you are doing that day will really make any difference. Doubt and distractions start to seep in slowly at first, but over time we often lose momentum.
If you’ve experienced this, I’m here to tell you this is completely normal and is not a sign that you should give up on your long-term goal.
What it does mean is that you need to balance your attention between your long-term goals and your short-term goals. It’s a paradox of life that what you achieve in the long-term comes 100% from what you do in the short-term. Short-term goals might not be as sexy as long-term goals, but they can help you move forward and make progress each day.
Here are a few ways to use short-term goals:
This is where you break down your long-term goal into smaller tangible units. You want to look for events where you can clearly mark the short-term goal off as accomplished. These could be very basic and simple events – for example, registering for a class online. Or they can be more complicated and meaningful – for example, if you were trying to grow a podcast it could be clicking publish on your first episode or your 100th episode.
The goal here is to consistently give yourself goals that you can check off as you move towards your long-term goal. Accomplishing things feels good and gives us the motivation to keep moving forward.
In addition, it helps to set short-term daily habits that support your long-term goal. For example, if you wanted to write a book, the short-term daily habit could be writing for 30 minutes every day. This gives you continuous, daily momentum that helps you move forward every day on your goal. If you feel overwhelmed by the bigger goal, you can remind yourself that all you have to do that day is meet the daily habit. It can help to start with the smallest baby habit each day and grow from there.
Sometimes when we do this, we can trick ourselves into thinking one day doesn’t really matter, so what’s the harm in skipping a day. While there is always room for some flexibility, it is true that what we do each day determines the course of our lives. So one day may not matter, but the collection of many days of progress leads to huge progress and result.
Short-term goals also give you a great opportunity to learn the art of the pivot. When we first set a long-term goal, we usually don’t know what we don’t know. You could map out a potential course of short-term goals in the hopes they will lead you to your long-term goal. But the truth is that not everything will go as you expect. Some things will be harder and take longer and other things you’ll learn are not even necessary.
Short-term goals and planning give you the chance to be adaptive and flexible in your approach. You set a short-term goal, take some action, and then review the results. Are things going as you expected? Do you need to make any adjustments to your strategy? Use your short-term planning and goalposts as a way to check-in and fluidly adapt as needed.
Why do Short-Term Goals Matter?
Short-term goals often get overshadowed by the flashier long-term goals. And going after long-term goals is absolutely a worthwhile pursuit and can bring substantial meaning into your life. But short- term goals are the road map to actually getting where you want to go. So learn to balance between the two, and you’ll be unstoppable.
Louisa helps people who are passionate about their careers manage their productivity and mindset in order to avoid burnout. Visit her at theactually.com for her free foundational guide to creating an organization system to get things done while keeping a peaceful mind. Louisa is also a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and the General Manager of a major regional theater.
Short-Term Wins for Long-Term Goals
July 9, 2020