Blog, Minimalism

How do long term goals differ from short term goals?

Most, if not all, of our lives are a set of goals. Whether small or large, we’re constantly taking steps to fulfil our wants, needs, and aspirations.

If your goal is to get a soda from the fridge, you have to take steps to do that (quite literally)—the same applies for if your goal is to become the president of the United States.

How do long term goals differ from short term goals?

Clearly defining your goals is an essential part of achieving them. You can’t pursue a goal that you don’t know that you have, right? Defining your goals includes specifying (1) what you intend to do, (2) why you’re doing it, and (3) how long you intend to take to do it.

The latter is what we’re here to sort out. Time is one of our most precious resources and it must be managed responsibly for a productive and healthy life. That’s why it’s important to define a time frame in which to get things done.

Having a deadline also motivates you to achieve them instead of continuing to put them off. The time it takes to achieve your goal frankly depends on what you plan to do. Bigger goals tend to take longer to complete, hence the term “long-term goals”.

Contrarily, smaller goals take less time and are referred to as “short-term goals”.

Long-Term Goals

Long-term goals are larger in scale and number of steps it takes to complete. They generally take years to accomplish, and have a bigger impact on your life. Common long-term goals pertain to acquiring a desired job, or securing a dream home or car.

However, they could just as well be hobbies or recreational goals such as completing a very large painting or learning a new language.

Either way, it’ll take some planning. Long-term goals are best executed under a plan of action that outlines the most efficient way to do it. It’s a great idea to write these steps down somewhere, as so much time will pass that it might be hard to keep track of where you’re going.

Anything that you foresee taking longer than a year to execute is a long-term goal.

Short-Term Goals

Short-term goals aren’t nearly as cumbersome (or, they can be extremely cumbersome if you’re trying to squeeze a long-term sized goal into a short-term goal time frame).

Short term goals are relatively smaller goals that are projected to take no more than a year to accomplish. This can mean that the task could only take as little as a few hours.

Most goals will fall under the short-term goals category which usually include relationship goals, health goals, school goals, and any immediate changes that you want to make to your life. 

To-Do lists and planners are usually filled with short-term goals. A short-term goal might consist of finding a better job or establishing a gym routine. Or even just finishing a three-page paper by next Wednesday.

Short-term goals can include the stepping stones that you set on the way to a long-term goal. 

What’s the Difference?

The primary difference between a long-term goal and a short-term goal is the amount of time it takes to complete each.

This distinction also implies differences in the amount of patience, discipline, and resources you’ll need to accomplish them. This fact lessens the likelihood that we’ll see long-term goals through, especially if you don’t approach it methodically. 

You’re bound to exhaust more effort in the pursuit of a long-term goal but with greater reward. Short-term goals come with smaller successes, but you’re bound to have more of them. You’ll have a lot more short-term goals than you will long-term goals. 

Tips to Stick to Goals

Long- or short-term, goals are aspirations that require at least a little bit of effort and discipline to accomplish. Think back on all New Year’s resolutions you dropped or didn’t even start (don’t get red-faced, we’re all guilty of it!).

It could’ve been because you didn’t have the time, you didn’t stick with it, or that you or someone else talked you out of it—a myriad of reasons. The mistake a lot of people make is skipping the planning step.

If you just dive into your goals and try to tackle them with no method, they’ll be harder to stick with. Besides practicing some discipline, here are some ways to make approaching your goals a lot more manageable. 

Visualize your goals

Adding a visual to your goal keeps you focused and puts you in the mental place of having it. You can imagine what it would be like to have it (we all do) but you being able to see it adds a new level of depth to your desire.

And the more you want it, the more likely you’ll go after it. Vision boards are a popular and powerful way to put yourself in the mental place of having what you want. For people who practice manifestation, vision boards are a commonly-used tool to attract what we want into our lives and transition our minds into a state of abundance.

Write out your obstacles

When you’re mapping out the plan to your goals, write out your list of possible obstacles as well.

Of course, we don’t want to think about what might get in the way of our goals. But if you take these things into account before starting, you can take actions to circumvent these obstacles. They’re not to fear, they’re simply to be aware of and prepare for.

Address limiting beliefs 

On the topic of getting all the bad stuff out the way, you should address any limiting beliefs you have about your goal(s).

Self-doubt is the reason we don’t go through with the grand majority of our goals, and the reason we don’t bother to set goals that we deem “too high” for ourselves. Examine each goal you have—do you actually think you can do it? Get to the root of your self-doubts.

If you don’t actually believe you can do it, the first step is to be honest with yourself. Then, you can figure out why, and lastly, you begin to chisel away at those doubts. Why don’t you feel that you can do it?

All limiting beliefs have some connection to the past: maybe something demeaning someone said to you, an embarrassing incident that made you scared to try something again, or a past failure.

Take your time thinking and, again, you won’t make any constructive progress if you’re not honest with yourself. 

Optimize your environment

Keep your home in a state that is aligned with your aspirations. If you want to lose weight, be diligent in keeping your kitchen uncluttered.

Make sure all snacks and food are put away and out of sight. If you want to be more productive, turn your unused dry-erase board into a large calendar. When you walk past all your obligations—in large, loud font—everyday, it’s pretty hard for you to overlook anything.

If you’re learning a new language, use Post-It notes to label the items in your home with their foreign translations. Get creative!


Write a letter or journal entry from the point of view of the You that already has what you’re aspiring for.

Describe, in detail, how it feels now that your goal is achieved. How is your daily life now that your goal has been met and what’s changed in your life since?

Get as detailed as you possibly can in your letter, especially when you’re describing the feelings of elation and gratitude you experience now that you’ve succeeded. Whether you keep the letter or throw it away isn’t important.

Visualizing and experiencing the feelings as you write them, really putting yourself in that space, is the vital part. If you’d like, keep it to refer back to and relive those feelings, or throw it away and write another one that expands on your feelings and visualizations even more.

This is a practice you can do regularly, though you should make sure that all your letters generally align and don’t convey conflicting ideas or events. This comes naturally with being secure in your aspirations.

Live in alignment with your goals

Another great way to put your mind in the positive place of abundance is to make changes to your physical life that reflect where you want to be. Act the way you would if your goals were already achieved.

Walk like it, talk like it, dress like it, design your house like it. Steadily sculpt yourself into your best Self, down to the minutest details you can think of. 

Adjust, don’t stop

Reaching a goal is a process. If there’s an aspect of your journey that you’re really not happy about or if you start to question the direction you’re going in, don’t give up! Reflect on it and pinpoint exactly what doesn’t feel right about where you are on your path.

Then adjust your trajectory to circumvent or address those things and keep moving forward! Don’t let bumps stop you. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, so if you feel like things aren’t going your way you won’t suffer from modifying your plan as long as it’s still aimed at your intention – this is where intentional living comes in.

Wrap Up

Goals guide where we want to be and what we want to do. One could argue that our everyday lives are a profusion of small goals.

However, aside from our everyday goals, long-term goals are important to keep to make sure we’re generally on the path to somewhere constructive. Short-term goals make sure that you’re performing well on the way to your long-term goal. Sometimes your short-term goals will just be the stepping stones to your long-term goal. 

The best way to go about conquering any goal, long- or short- term, is to reduce the amount of friction that you experience. This includes making it difficult or less appealing to procrastinate, being proactive in preventing obstacles, and addressing those limiting beliefs that hold so many people back from aiming for the stars.

And the most important thing: be kind to yourself. Don’t turn yourself off from doing it by putting yourself down when it gets hard or when you make a mistake. Slip-ups are just a notification that an adjustment might be in order.

Celebrate yourself and your smallest successes, and know that as long as you don’t stop moving forward then you’re doing an amazing job!