Have you ever been asked about your short and long term goals at a job interview? Why do employers want to know that you’re thinking in these terms?
When you set goals, you show that you have ambition and can envision the bigger picture. Being able to break your objectives down into long term and short term goals demonstrates that you can organize your thinking, strategize complex processes and discipline yourself.
But what if you’re not looking for a new career? You should still be thinking in terms of short and long term goals.
Setting your sights high allows you to take advantage of your full potential. Creating steps to get there prevents you from getting distracted, lost or overwhelmed along the way.
That’s why it’s important to set short term goals to support your long term objectives. The short term goals serve as stepping stones to achieve your bigger dreams in manageable chunks.
Why Should You Set a Combination of Short and Long Term Goals?
It’s true that life’s events can feel like they’re out of your control. However, setting any types of goals can put the unpredictability of life back into your hands.
Some people avoid setting long term goals because they find it hard to look beyond the day-to-day and envision the big picture. If this describes you, then you might want to start by practicing setting short term goals.
Once you’ve gotten good at structuring your day with goals, you can expand the time frame to a week. Continue doing that, and you’ll be setting long term goals in no time.
If you have trouble setting long term goals, another suggestion is to reflect on your life for a while. Consider the following questions:
- What are your values?
- What do you want the most out of life?
- What are your priorities right now?
- What do you think your priorities will be in 10 years?
- What’s on your bucket list?
The answers to these questions can steer you toward developing your long term goals.
Other people have big dreams but don’t know how to accomplish them. Their long term objectives seem so far away that they don’t know how to work toward them. These individuals can benefit from breaking the larger vision into smaller pieces.
As you continue to do this, you’ll end up with action steps that can help you gain some momentum and stay motivated.
What are the Benefits of Setting Long Term Goals?
A long term goal may be accomplished 2 or 40 years from now. If it’s that far in the future, is it even worth setting?
Yes. Once we set a long term goal, our mind doesn’t forget about it. We will subconsciously look for ways to achieve it. Even if we fail over and over again, we will keep trying.
This is how our brains set us up for success.
Some of the benefits of long term goals include:
- They give you direction.
- They give you a sense of purpose.
- They allow you to see potential obstacles.
- They shape our interactions with our environment.
What Are the Benefits of Setting Short Term Goals?
The shortest goal is often a first step. When you’ve set some objectives for the future, you can ask yourself, “What can I do today to get closer to one of those goals?”
You can work from there to develop more short term goals to support your long term ones. You can also work backward from the long term objective.
Some of the benefits of setting short term goals are:
- They’re simple.
- They’re quick and easy to accomplish.
- They don’t require an extended commitment.
- They propel you toward the next step.
- They help you stay motivated.
- They allow you to celebrate your achievements frequently.
- They improve your confidence.
- They let you assess your goals as you go so that you can adjust them if necessary.
What Are Some Characteristics of Short and Long Term Goals?
It may seem obvious that long term goals are destined to happen sometime in the future and short term goals can be accomplished more quickly. But many people have questions when it comes to the difference between these types of goals.
Before you read further, you should know that the best goal setting process is the one that works best for you. If the labels that the experts give you aren’t working, adapt them for your life. There may be some overlap between short and long term goals. That’s ok.
In general, these are some characteristics of short term goals:
- They have precise time frames – It should be easy to slap a deadline on a short term goal.
- They can be accomplished within one year or less – In the financial industry, short term refers to 12 months or less. The same goes for short term goals.
- When you put more than one of them together, they help you achieve a long term goal – Short term goals should typically be set up to support your future objectives.
Some characteristics of long term goals include:
- They are specific
- They have measurable points for determining when they’re achieved
- Their deadline can be as little as one year or as long as a lifetime
- They’re tied to an outcome or feeling that you want to generate
There Are Different Types of Long Term Goals
According to Peak Performance Center, there are two types of long term goals:
Lifetime goals usually have deadlines that are at least 10 years into the future, depending on your age. Some examples of lifetime goals include:
- Working full time as an artist
- Becoming a doctor
- Having three children
- Traveling to every state in the country
- Retiring to Montana
Your lifetime goals should be your most meaningful. These are the things that you want to be able to look back on in your later years with pride and fulfillment.
These goals may be general at first. As you work toward them, they might become more specific.
For example, if you have a lifetime goal to work full time as an artist, you might refine it as you start working. After you graduate from college, you might realize that you want to work as an illustrator. Once you get a few jobs under your belt, you may notice that your favorite niche is designing album covers for bands.
Coming back to your goals and fine-tuning them helps you in a few ways:
- It keeps you focused on your priorities
- It makes your long term goals more achievable
- It helps you set up appropriate short term goals
Maybe you started out painting watercolor portraits of children. As you redefine your interests, you might realize that it’s not a lucrative path toward your ultimate goal. This will help you know when to say “yes” to the kind of work that will push you toward your objectives.
Sometimes, your lifetime goals are so overarching that you can’t achieve them without accomplishing other goals first. If you want to retire to Montana, you have to be able to retire and get ready for a move if you don’t already live there.
Capstone goals are the objectives that need to be in place so that you can get to the next level. These are usually part of your 5-year or 10-year plan.
Capstone goals for retirement would be:
- Invest X amount of money by the time you’re 30, 40 and 50.
- Get a job that allows you to save extra for retirement.
- Decide where in Montana you want to live.
There Are Different Types of Short Term Goals
There are several types of short term goals. Most of them should support your long term ones.
These short term goals can be accomplished within a year. They can be linked to a capstone or lifetime goal. For example, if you want to get a good job so that you can earn an income that will allow you to invest, you’ll probably need to go to college.
To get into a good university, you’ll need to get A’s and B’s in high school. Getting good grades could be a short term goal, but it’s not very specific. You can break that objective down into multiple targets, such as, “Do my homework before I watch TV.”
Foundational goals don’t have to be connected to another goal, though. You may want certain things out of life that don’t necessarily move you forward or help you achieve something greater.
For example, you may have your eye on a certain video game. Your short term foundational goal could be, “Save enough money to buy the video game in the next two months.”
On the other hand, you might set a foundational goal to buy a new guitar. If you want to be a musician, that purchase would be associated with a lifetime goal.
Enabling goals are always linked to a lifetime or larger goal. These are the rungs on the ladder that will help you achieve the next step.
Think of these as action strategies that you can use to move you closer to future goals. They can be as small as you need to make them achievable.
Provisional goals are similar to enabling goals. These are small action steps that you can accomplish in one month or less.
If provisional goals will get you closer to a larger vision, they can be considered enabling goals. However, they don’t have to work you toward a big dream.
Some examples of provisional goals might include:
- Do the laundry
- Paint the living room
- Redecorate the bedroom
- Finish a presentation for work
Steps to Setting Short and Long Term Goals
Your goal-setting strategy should end up looking like a flow chart. One lifetime goal may have two capstone goals. Each of those capstone goals may have two or three foundational goals. Each foundational goal might have several provisional goals.
So you can use that description to envision what your goal-setting roadmap will look like. But how do you start setting long and short term goals?
The steps below can help you get on your way.
1. Identify Your Goals
The first step is to define your goals. Many experts explain that you should work backward, setting your long term goals before the short term ones. But everyone’s mind doesn’t operate well that way.
Instead of worrying about whether you’re setting a distant or immediate goal, just start brainstorming. We gave you some questions in the first section of this article to get you started. Those questions help you get a sense of what’s important to you.
Ask yourself, “What do I want?” Then, start writing down the answers.
Your resulting list might be jumbled and disorganized. That’s ok. It should make you excited, especially if you didn’t hold back from exploring your full potential.
Now that you have that list, you can start to structure your goals.
2. Check Your Goals
This may be one of the most important steps for goal setting, so pay attention.
You need to evaluate whether you have control over achieving your goal.
Some examples of a goal that you can control include:
- I will exercise three times a week.
- I will practice guitar for 30 minutes a day.
- I will learn how to meditate.
- I will read one book this month.
- I will lead a project at work.
Some examples of goals that you can’t control are:
- I will lose 5 pounds this month.
- I will win a prize in the band competition.
- I will manifest $500 this week.
- I will get a book deal this month.
- I will get a promotion.
Don’t set goals that rely on other people. You can’t guarantee a win, but you can ensure that you will take the action that you say that you’ll take.
3. Set Deadlines
Before you freak out because we used the word “deadline” and you feel a lot of pressure, take a deep breath. This is your exercise, and it should not be the most stressful thing that you do today.
With that being said, you may feel a lot of internal resistance to goal setting at first. That’s just because it’s something new, and you’re burning new neural pathways. The process will become more comfortable over time.
Don’t let yourself block the possibilities because goal-setting distresses you. In the deadline-setting stage, all you’re doing is categorizing your goals by their immediacy.
You can separate your goals into any time periods that work for you. You might try something like:
- Bucket list goals
- 10-year goals
- 5-year goals
- 1-year goals
- Monthly goals
- Weekly goals
- Daily goals
Your 1-year goals and anything more immediate will fall in the short term category. If you want to come up with dates by which you can achieve each goal, go ahead.
But it’s not necessary to do that right now. If you struggle with specific deadlines, the general time periods listed above will suffice.
You should be able to refine the deadlines after you’ve taken the first step toward one of your goals.
4. Analyze Your Goals
Once you define your goals, make sure that you’re in charge of them and set some general time frames in which to complete them, take a harder look at yourself. Instead of starting by analyzing your goals, asses your current situation. You won’t know how far you have to go until you understand your present state.
As you look at each goal, ask yourself the following questions. To achieve your goals, do you need:
- To research something to achieve your goals?
- To learn a skill?
- To practice something?
- Help from someone or something?
List these. The steps that you’ll take to acquire these resources and information can make up some of your short term goals.
5. Write Down the Benefits
Now that you’ve done a little work on your goals, think about why you want to achieve those things. What are the benefits of reaching your goals? How will you feel when you accomplish them?
Keeping this in mind is crucial for keeping you on track. There will come a time when you have to navigate obstacles and jump over hurdles. It’s easy to quit when your goals start to feel impossible to achieve. Understanding the benefits of actualizing your goals can help you dig deep and access your full potential when you want to give up.
6. Consider the Obstacles
Speaking of obstacles, wouldn’t it be nice if you could decide how to deal with them before they arise? You can’t predict every complication, but you can probably forecast some of them if you think hard enough.
Take the time to contemplate what could go wrong. Don’t harp on these hypothetical problems; you don’t want to get discouraged before you begin. However, if you can foresee some of the difficulties that you’ll encounter, you can set goals to plow through them.
7. Put it on a Calendar
Now that you’ve done some of the work, you might be getting excited. You can really envision how your goals will come to fruition.
This is the time to pull out your calendar. Taking your long and short term goals into account as well as the time frames that you set in step 3, start plugging the steps into a calendar.
Take your time. You don’t need to do this all at once. Use an eraser, because your schedule may change.
Also, be realistic about the time that you need to accomplish each objective. If you usually bite off more than you can chew, consider doubling or tripling the time that you think a task will take so that you give yourself plenty of breathing room.
As you get more specific about making an appointment to carry out a particular step, consider whether it can be broken down further. No goal is too small. Accomplishing micro goals every day keeps your momentum high without leading to burnout.
Think of your micro goals as single actions. If a goal requires more than one step to finish, break it down until you’ve identified individual activities that you can put on a calendar.
8. Tell Someone
One way to hold yourself accountable is to tell someone about your goals. Accountability can increase the chances that you’ll reach your objectives by 95 percent.
You don’t need to bore your friends with every task, but letting them know your 1-year plan can get you even more excited. They’ll probably ask about it throughout the year if they’re interested in what you’re doing.
You can even ask your friends and family to hold you accountable. Better yet, start a mastermind group with other people who are diligently working toward their goals.
9. Act and Assess
You’ve done a lot of planning. Now it’s time to implement everything that you’ve thought about.
If you’re new to goal setting, this step should be a lot easier than it usually is. You don’t have to do much guesswork; you can throw yourself into the work.
You’ve already come up with the what, why, how, when and where. You’ve even looked at alternative possibilities and possible issues and come up with ways to handle them. Accomplishing your goals should be a breeze now.
As you move forward, don’t forget to look back. At this point, you’ll want to gauge whether your plan is working.
If it’s not, don’t fret. You can’t foresee the future, which means that your goals may change. So might the route that you take to achieve them. Now that you know the steps for setting your goals, you can easily adjust them as necessary.
Don’t forget to reward yourself for every goal that you accomplish. Even the smallest short term goal should be celebrated when you reach it.
Some ways to celebrate your success include:
- Share the news
- Take a deep breath
- Let out a “whoop!”
- Take a break from your goals for a day
- Thank those who assisted you
- Send out gratitude
- Share it on social media
Why You Need to Write Down Your Goals
Now that you know the steps for setting goals, you need to know one more vital factor. It’s imperative that you write down your goals.
In one study, Mark Murphy found that fewer than 20 percent of people always write their goals down vividly. Writing your goals down helps you store them where they can be easily accessed. Writing also encodes the information that our brain processes. The act of encoding our goals helps us remember them.
How to Craft the Most Effective Goals
When you’re writing down your goals, think about including these three elements:
- Start with an action verb – “I want to learn…”
- Write a specific, measurable result – “To play five songs on the guitar…”
- Specify a completion date – “Before the end of the year.”
It’s also important to describe your goals in detail when writing them. Creating vivid imagery surrounding your goals will improve your chances of accomplishing them.
How to Answer This Question in a Job Interview
We’ve talked about general short and long term goals for various areas in your life. But what if someone does ask you this question at your next job interview? You need to be able to frame the answer from the perspective of the company that is looking to hire you.
Why Do Employers Ask About Short and Long Term Goals?
When you verbalize your goals, you let your employer know whether you understand your potential role in the company. If your short term goals veer dramatically from the company goals, then you might not be the right fit. Variation here could also indicate that you just need more clarification about the job.
Employers also want to see that you’re being realistic. Even though your long-term life goals may be the same as your wildest dreams, you need to be more practical when answering this question in an interview.
Your interviewer also wants to know how long you plan to stay with them. There is no right answer to this question. Companies have different cultures and turnover rates.
How to Craft Your Answer
If someone asks you this question at a job interview, consider answering using the following format:
- Describe your current career situation – You may want to explain how you got there.
- Describe the goals – Make sure that your goals pull from some of the information in the job description.
- Explain how you plan to achieve your goals – You don’t have to go through your plan at length, but showing that you know how to take action is important.
- Talk about the outcomes – Show that you understand the importance of results in goal setting by describing what you hope the results of achieving your goals will be.
If you’re already practicing the techniques that we suggested in this article, you’ll do great if you have to answer a question about short and long term goals in a job interview. Implementing this strategy in your life can make a huge difference in your success.