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12 Tips for Setting Long-Term Goals That You’ll Actually Keep

Setting long-term goals allows you to take control of your life’s direction and provides a benchmark for determining whether you are actually succeeding.  What each of us defines as success depends on our life vision and dreams. So, if you want to make progress in your life, you need to set goals.

Without long-term goals, most of us will lack focus and direction.

While all goals require commitment and dedication, long-term goals are unique. They can help you stay inspired and focused on what’s ahead by giving direction. Yet, they require dedication over several months or even years, so it’s easy to lose motivation and let your goal slip away.

To avoid losing sight of your long-term goals, it’s important to break them down into short-term goals and actionable steps that will keep you accountable. Follow these tips to increase your chances of successfully following your plans to the finish line.

1. Ask yourself the right questions

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Sometimes, you may not even realize your true life vision and goals until you dig deeper.

Developing a long-term goal requires thinking about the future and what you want from it. To start, ask yourself where you’d like to be in the next five years. Think about what kind of work you’d be interested in, where you’d like to live, what your health looks like, whether you’d like a family, and any other questions that might be important to you. 

When you have concrete answers to all of these questions, you’ll have a clearer picture of what your ideal future will look like. Then, you can begin formulating goals to help you reach that future. (You will most likely end up with career, health, and relationship goals at the forefront.)

2. Write them down

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Writing your goals down on paper helps to make the ideas in your brain more concrete. This makes it easier for you to review them periodically so that you can track your progress and adjust them as needed.

Then, put a copy of your plan somewhere you can see it often, such as on your bedroom mirror, refrigerator door, or planner (if you actually use it consistently). A continual reminder will help you keep your goals at the forefront of your mind and stay focused.

3. Make your goals SMART

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You are more likely to commit to your goals when they are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely (SMART). Setting smart goals means adding details that make them easier to track and attain.

Examples include adding a timeline and specifying what you must do to be “successful,” all while being realistically achievable.

If goals are vague and don’t include these details, it is easier to give up when there is no clear path toward success.

4. Set goals that motivate you

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When you set goals for yourself, it is important that they motivate you. It may seem obvious, but people often miss this step, making it hard for them to stay on track.

This means ensuring that your goals are truly important to you and that there is value in achieving them. If you have little interest in the outcome (because it’s what’s expected of you), or they are irrelevant given the larger picture, then the chances of you putting in the work to make them happen are slim. Motivation is key to achieving goals.

The biggest way to ensure motivation is to make sure your goals align with your “why.” Whether your inspiration is based on your friends, family, health, business, finances, or anything else of particular importance to you, it will give your goals a whole new level of meaning.

5. Break your goals down into short-term steps

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Once you have your long-term goals set, you can work backward to figure out what short-term goals and actionable steps you need to take to achieve them. This ensures that what you do on a regular basis actually moves you closer to your goals. It is a great way to keep yourself from feeling stuck because your short- and long-term goals don’t align.

For example, you may have a long-term goal of preventing chronic illness. Thus, one of your smaller goals is to lose weight in the next few months. You may also want to earn a certain dollar amount with your business, so you set short-term goals for how many clients or employees you need to hire.

6. Break your short-term goals down into daily tasks

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Achieving a long-term goal, and even short-term goals, can seem overwhelming when you look at them as a whole. However, goals become much more manageable when you break them into several smaller tasks. That way, you can focus on less daunting tasks while working towards your overall goal. The more you can break down your goals into daily tasks, the better.

If you want to lose 5 pounds this month, what do you need to do daily to achieve that? Take very specific steps, such as having a consistent bedtime, eating certain foods, or getting in a certain amount of exercise each week. These are what will start to move the needle.

7. Make an action plan

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This is the step that most people forget to implement. The best way to do this is to take time to block your schedule.

If you know what daily tasks must be done to achieve your goals, schedule the time you need. This helps you plan better, utilize good time management, and keep your goals a top priority. Keep in mind that you can adjust your time blocks to fit your schedule, whether it’s ten minutes per day or one hour three times per week. Do what works for you. Don’t forget to schedule time each week to time block your priorities, too.

Penciling in your daily routine and action steps will help you to prioritize what needs to be done continually.

8. Reward yourself

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Working toward your goals is hard work. Think of small rewards to give yourself when you accomplish something big or small. These bonuses will help you stay motivated.

Make sure your reward aligns with your goal. For example, if your goal is to eat better, you might reward yourself with a new blender to make smoothies rather than binging on donuts and cookies.

9. Have an accountability partner

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Setting goals and staying on track with them is easier with help and support. Find one or two people (or a whole group) who will help you stick to your plan. This can be a friend, a coach, or an online community.

A good accountability partner will remind you of deadlines, check in, and encourage you when you face setbacks. If they are working toward a similar goal as you, or you can also provide accountability for them, this is a great way to maximize the effects of partner support.

10. Make your goals a habit

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Developing habits that aid in accomplishing your goal is the key to making them stick and feel easy. The goal is to have a lot of daily activities you want to do on autopilot. You no longer need much effort to get up and start tackling those goals.

To truly be successful, the actions required to reach your long-term goals must become habits. For example, if you have a goal to exercise every day, the day that you automatically pack your gym bag and drive there without even thinking about it is the day you have reached full automation.

11. Prioritize and focus on one goal at a time

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Goals can be overwhelming. Thanks to the ten steps above, you are well on your way to achieving anything you want. However, it’s important to remember that our brains have trouble focusing on more than one big change at a time.

When our goals start to feel too big, our natural reaction will be to shy away. Thus, break it down and make the steps to your goal a habit, focusing on ONE goal at a time. Once the goal is achieved or at least on “auto-pilot,” you can add more steps and goals to the equation.

12. Set yourself up for success

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Goal setting is much more than simply saying you want something to happen and hoping it will happen eventually. Unless you clearly define exactly what you want and understand why you want it in the first place, your odds of success are considerably reduced.

By following these tips, you can set goals confidently and enjoy the satisfaction that comes with knowing you achieved what you set out to do.

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