Long Term Goals Vs. Short Term Goals [The Pros and Cons]

Long Term Goals Vs. Short Term Goals [The Pros and Cons]

When we get our minds made up to set new goals and set out to accomplish new things a few initial things typically cause us to be hesitant and worried to pull the trigger.  Sometimes this could be if we have enough free time to allocate towards new goals or new endeavors and some of it could just be analysis paralysis. We tend to over analyze things and get frozen in our own minds.

Sometimes, it can be something as simple as figuring out what the actual goal should be and what it needs to entail.  Is this going to be a long-term goal that takes years or even decades to complete or is it something you can put the gas down on and get accomplished quickly?  Both kinds of goals have pros and cons.  In this post, we are going to cover the pros and cons of long term and short-term goals and goal setting and how to effectively manage the foundation and execution of these goals.

Let’s cover some examples of short term and long-term goals so we can get a clear idea of the main differences of the two and what to look for going down this path toward accomplishment.

Long Term Goals Vs. Short Term Goals- An Overview

For starters some of you may be curious what the difference between short terms goals and long-term goals is.  Here’s an easy answer.  Short term goals are something you can achieve quickly.  A short-term goal is 12 months or less but sometimes even shorter durations such as a day, week or even month.

Long term goals are the opposite.  Long term goals require (if executed properly) many short-term goals to stack up and to be accomplished along the way to reaching long term goals. You can consider short term goals your stepping stones to reaching the long-term goals. Long term goals could take 3,5,10 years or even longer.

A short-term goal could be the following example

  • Pay Off Credit Card Debt
  • Lose 5 pounds
  • Run 3 Miles in Under 30 Minutes

These goals could be stacking up and creating the success toward the long-term goals which could look more like the following example.

  • Pay Off Debt to Save Toward Retirement or My Childs College
  • Lose 40 Pounds in 18 Months
  • Run My First Marathon

You see, the key thing to remember as we mention in all posts, is that it’s extremely difficult to reach the long-term goals without being wise enough to set the short-term goals along the way. So, we can see that the main emphasis thus far is using short term goals for climbing to the long-term goals but let’s clarify some other key differences.

What’s the Key Differences Between Long Term and Short-Term Goals

An important item to keep in mind when distinguishing long term vs short term goals is the realistic chances of success.  Both should be achievable.  However, short term goals should be built to build confidence and gain knowledge and steam in the correct direction.  Long term goals you can also refer to as “stretch goals”.  This term is loosely thrown around often in sales careers.

Let me explain.  Let’s assume you are an outbound insurance salesman.  A short-term goal is something you want that’s clearly within reach.  However, it shouldn’t necessarily be a walk in the park.  A short-term goal could be to make 1500 outbound calls this week.  It’s achievable, you don’t need a crazy amount of skill early on to accomplish it and it builds that revving motor up.

Picture the short-term goal like this and further break it down.  Make 300 calls a day Monday through Friday.  Notice how no results have been listed for this goal?  That’s on purpose. Just make the calls for the time being.

Breaking It Down Further

Now with the long-term goal, you could set it to look something like making 100,000 for the year.  In addition, you could have a stretch goal of making 125,000.00 for the year.  Your stretch goal is always just barely out of reach and designed to push you that much harder.  Your long-term goal should be something that’s achievable when you reverse engineer the product of 300 calls daily.

This is how it all ties together and how they differ.  The short term builds to the long term goal and with proper execution and a goal slightly out of reach you give yourself the chance to achieve something even greater along the way.

What Are Mid Term Goals?

Everyone that you find on the internet has different definitions of the time duration of short term goals, long term goals and midterm goals.

Many of you may even be wondering what midterm goals are? Mid-term goals are goals designed to bridge the gap between short term goals and long-term goals.  If your long-term goal consists of a 10-year plan, mid-term goals may be a milestone and accomplishment you want completed within 5 years. If your long-term goal was a shorter duration, you would adjust your mid-term goals accordingly.

Let’s assume your long-term goal that you have set is to expand to 50 employees in 5 years.  A good example of a mid-term goal could be to have 25 employees hired under you in the next 30 months or 2.5 years.  To keep things simple, they are great purely to keep you on track and to maintain focus toward your long-term visions.

How Do You Achieve Long Term Goals?

Achieving the long-term goals is the name of the game.  But some are probably wondering how and what to do to achieve long term goals. First and most importantly. Stick to one long term goal at a time. When you get to cluttered with goals it becomes tough to maintain focus.  In addition, don’t neglect those short term and midterm goals we discussed previously.

In addition, learn yourself. Inside and Out. Do some self-reflection. What’s holding you back? Where can you be more disciplined? Learning your flaws and doubling down on strengths is a key to getting things done. In addition, just like we always say, find your “reason why”. Make the reason why powerful and something that can keep you motivated along the way.

Lack of discipline, consistency, no reason why and no stepping stones is a sure-fire way for a long-term goal to fade away quickly.

Now let’s cover some of the major pros and cons of long term goals and see what potential issues we may encounter along the way.

Pros and Cons of Long Term Goals?

An important key to this entire equation is that although long term and short-term goals may have pros and cons, they should work together.  It shouldn’t be a pick one or the other. That doesn’t mean that both don’t have some upside and downside involved. Let’s look at the cons of long term goals first.

The Cons of Long Term Goals

Con #1- Long Term Goals Take Longer to Achieve

It’s no secret that long term goals take time. Lots of time.  This is a con for long term goals.  They simply require patience and discipline to reach. Even with these two traits backing you up, long term goals still take time to come to come to fruition.

How to Deal with It- Remain Patient and Diligent

The key here is to understand from the beginning that you are battling patience and the clock will continue to tick.  Remain patient and focused along the way. Don’t let the other obligations in life get so overwhelming that you are derailed completely.

Prioritize time, find ways to get just a small amount done each and every day until it becomes muscle memory and common habit to continue pushing forward toward your end goal.

Con #2-It’s Tough to Maintain Vision with Long Term Goals

We all have lives outside of professional career and our goals.  Things get in the way. A major con of long term goals is they tend to get lost in our mind much easier.  Our kids, spouses, outside obligations can quickly diminish the time we have to think and advance toward long term goals.

How to Deal with It- Keep Reminding Yourself

The key is to find clever ways to remind yourself that you have something important you are chasing.  Don’t neglect the other areas of life but don’t forget what you truly want either.

Con #3-  Diligent Planning and Short-Term Goals Are Necessary

Long term goals require extreme focus to remain locked in.  Obviously, we all lose this ability time to time, so it naturally landed on our con list. Not many people have this ability sadly so sometimes long-term goals get knocked into this category of being extremely difficult to obtain.

How to Deal With it- Don’t Only Track Goals but Track the Small Wins

Have any of you ever set out to achieve a goal and had that feeling of the smallest victory? Maybe it’s someone responding to a cold email? Maybe it’s stepping on the scale and seeing that first 1lb lost? The point is, it doesn’t matter what the small win is but for those of us that do have the ability to lock in, sometimes we forget to track and remind ourselves of the accomplishments we have made along the way.

This goes a long way toward keeping motivation high, confidence boosted and maintains discipline to finish the long-term goals much stronger. Remind yourself of the good as well. Not just the bad.

Now let’s flip the script and discuss the positives of long term goals.

Pros of Long Term Goals

Pro #1- Long Term Goals- The Biggest Reward Awaits

Hard work, does work! However, hard work over a sustained period is exhausting, mentally challenging and can wear us down fast. However, when breaking your back to reach a long-term goal, the victory is the largest and the sweetest of them all. This is a major motivator to keep pushing forward and reminding yourself of the desired outcome you are looking for.

Pro #2- Long Term Goals- They Are Crucial for Self-Development and Growth

This is another major upside to long term goals.  They are needed.  They help you self-develop and realize potential you didn’t know you had.  Sure, short term goals and be great for boosting confidence along the way but when you finally push through a tough long-term goal, you slowly shift to unstoppable.

Pro #3- Long Term Goals- The Process is Repeatable

So, you have packed away one long term goal and accomplished it. Now you have a taste for success.  The beauty behind long term goals and achieving them is that it’s easy to replicate the process. I’m sure you had many failed attempts and projects along the way.

Hopefully you took notes and learned from them. Achieving a long-term goal once is the gateway to keep repeating this process until you have built your own personal empire you set out create in the first place.

Now we need to move on and cover the ups and downs of short term goals. Let’s break down the cons of short term goals first.

Cons of Short Term Goals

Con #1 of Short Term Goals- Smaller Results

Although results can be seen faster with short term goals, the rewards are typically much smaller. Yes, they are fantastic for building confidence and pushing forward but compared to long term goals, they just don’t bring the same gratification.

How to Deal with It? – Build Off Every Victory

The best way to counter this downfall of short term goals is to understand that this is the situation right out of the gates.  Use these as motivational blocks of success and move on. This will keep the wins coming in bunches and your progress bar towards a long-term goal filling up.

Con #2- Short Term Goals- To Results Driven- Not Enough Self Reflection Involved

This is another major downfall if you ask me. Short term goals always seem to be way too results driven. It’s either I lose a pound this week or I don’t.  This can deflate you quickly if you don’t hit the benchmark. Long term goals carry more weight and meaning so it’s easier to bounce back from minor setbacks. Short term goals, on the other hand, tend to be an all or nothing right now scenario that can get us way off- track in a short amount of time.

How to Deal with It?  Analyze More than You’re Results- Document the Process

A way to counter this issue to simply care more about the process then the final documented results and numbers.  How many mistakes did you make this month? Where did you lack discipline? What can be improved on the next time around?

You see, with short term goals, people tend to see that final product and that’s the end of the show. They don’t usually go through a self-evaluation period where they find the problems and solutions. Doing this can make short term goals much more effective and ultimately lead to achieved long term goals. Care more about the process and growing than you do the result of a short-term goal.

Con #3- Short Term Goals- You Never Leave Your Comfort Zone or Rarely Do

Getting outside your comfort zone is so important that it will land itself another blog post here soon. It’s huge.  Short term goals typically don’t stretch us this far that we must exit what we know and are used to do something that scares the hell out us. Long term goals typically do but not short-term goals. Short term goals tend to limit the mind compared to long term goals.

How to Deal with It? – Stretch Yourself Thinner- Set Tougher Short-Term Goals

A good way to counter back against this con is to simply set a tougher goal.  Get outside the comfort zone. If you don’t you never truly grow in any fashion. Instead of always making it something that you know 100% that you can achieve, stretch a tad further.  The beautiful part to this strategy is that when you fall short, you still most likely experience incredible results and made great strides toward something bigger. Don’t be scared to get outside of your bubble with short term goal setting.

Alright Enough with bashing the short-term goals, let’s discuss the positives that come with short term goals.

The Pros of Short Term Goals

Pro #1- Short Term Goals- The Results Are Here Before You Know It!

This is something short term goals are fantastic for.  Results are here and are visible in no time. Assuming you had some discipline to achieve them.  Trying to lose 40 pounds sounds incredibly difficult. Trust me.  On the other hand, setting a goal to lose 3 pounds this month gives you the chance to taste victory that much sooner and gets you pumped for challenge #2.

Pro #2- Short Term Goals- They Are Simple and Not to Overwhelming

Long term goals can be overwhelming at times and much more complex.  Short term goals tend to be simple in nature and not as difficult to evaluate and achieve.  In addition, short term goals tend to be even more simple to replicate or increase the results in short time spans. Short term goals are as easy as 1,2,3 compared to long term goals.

Pro #3- Short Term Goals- They Can Be A Long-Term Goal Broken Down into Bite Size Chunks

Another huge upside with short term goals is that they can easily be stripped down and turned into bite size obtainable goals.  Long term goals, it’s tough to do this with.  They are much more drawn out and ultimately take more discipline, consistency and focus to achieve on a grand scale.

Other Related Frequently Asked Questions with Long and Short Term Goals

How Do You Stay Motivated in A Long-Term Goal?

We all know this can be tough.  We all lose the spark from time to time.  Here’s some easy things you can do to regain motivation or stay motivated from the get go. Some are repeats of items discussed previously but I believe it’s important to pound in the main points as often as often possible.

How to Stay Motivated

  • Be Held Accountable- By Someone, Anyone. Spouse, Best Friend, Child. Stay Accountable.
  • Re-Configure Your Goals into Obtainable Smaller Goals
  • Reward Yourself- When You Accomplish a Small Task- Give Yourself a Reward
  • Take a Mental Break- Every Now and then we Just Need to Step Back for A Moment
  • Don’t Just Analyze the Good- Find Common Practices and Habits Holding You Back

What If the Long-Term Goal Is Too Difficult? Than What?

If you find yourself inside a mental battle of giving up with a long-term goal due to difficulty, there is a few active steps you can take to try and regain that motivation and grit to push through. Here’s a few options and tips.

Re-Configure the Original Long-Term Goal- Don’t Necessarily Make It Easy but Re-Adjust Toward Strengths and finding the small victories

Extend the Original Timeline- Often, the clock is our biggest enemy, but it doesn’t mean we are failing at our long-term goals. Re- evaluate the original goals and timeline and find a way to make it manageable and achievable without stressing to heavily.

Double Down on StrengthsDon’t stress and obsess over weak areas in the beginning. Find what you are crushing at currently and double down.  All of us have weaknesses but the ones that find the strength and put those eggs in the one basket tend to excel quickly in any given area.

Are Short Term Goals Better Than Long Term Goals?

I think being this far into the discussion we can all agree that both short and long-term goals have pros and cons.  It’s learning to let them work together and build of each other that makes long and short-term goals a dynamic duo with proper planning and execution.


How Can I Focus More Clearly on My Goals?

Focusing clearly on goals comes down to eliminating the outside distractions. This doesn’t necessarily mean to give up other things that you love or devote 100% attention to a long-term goal. It does however mean that it’s time to prioritize and get down to business immediately.

Once you can remove the other time sucking activities from your schedule and get the negative individuals out of the way, it becomes much easier to lock in and get moving in the right direction.

How Does Setting Goals Lead to Success?

Settings goals by itself doesn’t necessarily lead to success but beginning the habits and mindset of goal setting surely does.  Success takes planning, execution, and discipline.  Not to mention being diligent and having a clear plan of action. When your goal is set, you see what you’re after and begin the hunt. Without goal setting your simply chasing your own tail down endless rabbit holes.


What is a Lifetime Goal? What’s Some Examples?

Lifetime goals are essentially what they sound like they are. They are goals you want to achieve over the course of a lifetime. Lifetime goals carry more weight than other goals.  A lifetime goal may even start as something that seems smaller in the beginning or present itself as a long term goal in the beginning.

Here’s a way you could view a lifetime goal and a way to view the progression throughout the process.

  • Goal Begins- Become A Police Officer
  • Goal Lengthens and Becomes More Defined- Become a Police Sergeant
  • Goal Lengthens and Defines Down Further- Retire a LT. With a 30 Years of Service Shield (Lifetime Goal)

What Are the Goals in Your Life? Are You Sticking to Short Term or Long Term or Both?

Again, to reemphasize, the entire point of illustrating the differences, pros, and cons of short and long-term goals is to get the point across that they are both necessary to reach peak and mighty levels.  They all intertwine and create a recipe for success.  Learning how to blend and build off each form of goals can be game changing in your careers, relationships and all other aspects of your life.

What goals are you currently working toward achieving? Are you working at long or short-term goals and what tips and advice would you suggest to the readers to begin crushing both long and short term goals? Leave a comment below.

About the author

Joshua Martin