How to Set Long-Term Goals: 5 Helpful Steps for Success

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 28, 2022 | Published July 26, 2021

Updated November 28, 2022

Published July 26, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Setting long-term goals serves as a viable solution to achieving challenging endeavours or major life events. Long-term objectives require extensive preparation to ensure that you can complete them accurately and by the timeline that's set. Learning how to create and follow through with your goals can help you better focus your efforts on successfully accomplishing them. In this article, we discuss what long-term goals are, why they are important, and explore five steps on how to set these goals, with examples.

Related: SMART Goals: Objectives for Your Career

What are long-term goals?

A long-term goal is a set of steps that someone completes in order to accomplish a goal in the future. These goals can take a great deal of time and effort to achieve, so it's important that a person who sets a long-term aim stays committed to seeing it to completion. Although the measure of this type of goal is relative, most long-term objectives can take several years to finish. Lengthy goals are especially important for a career because many roles have extensive requirements to complete prior to being able to work in that specific career field.

Related: How to Create a 5-year Plan

Why is it important to set long-term goals?

Long-term aims are important to set because they help you stay on track. Setting effective long-term objectives can make it easier for you to define what steps are necessary to complete the goal. They might also provide you with a sense of purpose and give you something to work towards over an extended period. This sense of purpose can serve as motivation and help you set a vision of what you want for yourself later on in life.

There are some additional reasons setting goals in the long term is important, such as:

  • Providing you with clarity and direction for future

  • Helping you to make more strategic plans

  • Making your goals easier to measure over time

  • Possibly providing you with a really beneficial outcome

  • Giving you a lot of time to work on them and make changes as you go

Related: Setting Goals to Improve Your Career

How to set long-term goals in 5 steps

Follow these five steps to help you set long-term ambitions:

1. Identify what you want to accomplish

The first step to setting an effective long-term objective is to identify what you want to accomplish in the future. You may have academic aspirations that you want to finish, or a career path you want to pursue. Long-term targets do not always relate to academics or your career. You can create a long-term objective for a variety of things, like writing and finishing a fantasy novel, or buying your first home. Make certain that your goal is specific and realistic for you to achieve.

You may have multiple goals for the long term that you want to accomplish. In these cases, you can divide your time and efforts in order to work on them at the same time. If you don't have as much flexibility, consider prioritizing the most important long-term aims.

Related: Personal Development Goals For Career Success

2. Determine how long it will take to complete

After you have determined what you want to accomplish, it's important that you identify how long it might take to complete them. While there may not be a definitive time for how long it takes to complete a goal, you can make some general estimations depending on your personal circumstances and the specific goal itself. For example, if you currently work as a financial auditor but want to switch professions to become a registered nurse, then it's important to account for all the time it will take for you to get the necessary nursing degree, certifications, and work experience.

However, setting a realistic timeline for yourself can help you better follow a set path and achieve your goal more quickly. It's important to remember that sometimes unforeseen and outside factors can affect how long it takes to accomplish a goal, so being able to work around those interruptions can help you stay focused and learn how to solve problems. Account for some possible delays when estimating how long it will take to reach your goal.

3. Write an action plan

An important aspect of setting long-term intentions is creating an action plan, which is a checklist that details all the steps and tasks that are necessary to complete before you can achieve a specific goal. The action plan serves as a timeline of each step and can help you estimate when you'll reach your goal. An action plan normally comprises a description of the specific goal, the steps to reach the goal, the person responsible for each step, applicable deadlines for each step, the resources needed to complete the steps, and some measures for tracking the progress.

4. Track your progress

Tracking the progress of your steps is important because it allows you to monitor if you're making positive improvements towards your ultimate end goal. How you track your progress may vary depending on the amount of people involved in completing the goal and what the actual goal is.

For example, if you want to build a barn in your backyard, then you might create a digital prototype of the barn and then track it electronically by comparing the progress of the barn to periodic photos you take. If you wanted to write a novel, then you could track your progress by setting a daily word count for yourself and then comparing how many words you write each day to your set quota.

Related: How to Achieve Your Goals in 6 Steps (With Benefits)

5. Make adjustments as needed

Sometimes circumstances can occur and alter the progress of your goals. If there are any alterations to your goals, you can make adjustments to accommodate the new circumstances. For example, if you've been working on opening up a bakery in a few years, but discover that your primary vendor is no longer available to provide you with the goods that you both originally agreed upon, then you need to find a new vendor.

Examples of long-term goals

Here are some examples of what long-term goals might look like:

Buying your first house

If you want to buy a house for the first time, then creating an action plan can help you to do that. This action plan might describe what your price range is and the kind of mortgage you can afford to pay every month. You might then identify the cities, provinces, or territories that you are most interested in living in. Some areas may be more expensive than others, so this is something to consider when setting your goal as well. Once you've determined those details, you can detail a specific time that you want to move and begin saving up money to reach your goal.

Changing careers

You may be in a situation when you want to make a complete career change from your current profession. If it's a career that requires thorough preparation, then you might begin by researching universities and searching for degree programs that fit your career goals. You would include this information in your action plan and also add in details like what certifications, licences, or examinations are necessary to complete prior to starting this new career.

You might also find it beneficial to create a budget for your academic pursuits and set a routine to help you complete all of your schoolwork in a timely manner.

Learning a new language

To learn a new language, you need to first decide which language you want to learn, and how fluent you'd like to become. Then you would research some of the best methods for learning that new language. If you cannot immerse yourself within the culture of the language's origin, then you would set a deadline for when you want to be fluent in the language and create a schedule of how you will study, how often you will practice, and how you plan to track your progress every week, month, or year.

Getting a job promotion

If you want to get a job promotion, then you may create an action plan to help you accomplish that goal. You might begin by forming a deeper work relationship with your manager or supervisor. Then you could volunteer for more leadership projects and duties, which helps to showcase that you are someone who is reliable, driven, and a good leader. You may eventually decide to pursue a university degree or certification if it is a role that requires these qualifications. Requesting a periodic performance evaluation could also benefit you, as it helps to quantify your work ethic and productivity.

Now that we've reviewed long-term goals examples, and explore five steps on how to set these goals, you'll be better prepared to make your own.

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