For many people, day-to-day existence is enough. With no particular goals or aspirations, they’re somewhat adrift in the world, waiting for life to happen to them.

Other people are overachievers for whom a life without goals and accomplishments is hardly worth living. They are the Oprahs and Elons of the world.

Somewhere between these two extremes are those who have some great ideas about what they want, but they just can’t seem to get there. They are like shoppers who set off to the store for a loaf of bread and get so distracted on their journey they come home with nothing.

These individuals may mean well, but they usually feel a lack of purpose or the sense that something is missing. If this sounds like you, one possibility is that you haven’t set any long or short-term goals to get what you want in the future.

“The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.” — Bill Copeland.

If you feel as though you’re spinning your wheels—working hard but not really getting anywhere in life, it’s time to take control. And one way to do that is with goal setting. 

What Do You Want?

Although you might desire a better handle on your future, you may not know what that future looks like just yet. It is not surprising that when people are asked what they want out of life, most respond with “I don’t know.”

On the other hand, almost everyone has no difficulty coming up with a list of things they don’t like or want. For example:

“I hate taking the bus to work.”

“I’m sick of being late to class.”

“I hate my job. It’s so boring!”

“This crappy apartment totally sucks!”

“My student loan debt is crushing me!”

The problem is, it’s hard to set goals based on things you don’t like. And if you can’t come up with any plans based on what you want, you’re kind of stuck. 

“All successful people have a goal. No one can get anywhere unless he knows where he wants to go and what he wants to be or do.”–Norman Vincent Peale

Use Your Dislikes to Create Your Preferences

One solution to the problem of not knowing what you want is to take the list of things you are unhappy with and convert it to a list of things you would rather have or achieve.

In other words, you don’t need to start with lofty or passionate aspirations. Simply get going by changing things you don’t like to stuff you would prefer. Using this method, you would switch things up something like this:

“I hate taking the bus to work,” becomes:

“I prefer driving to work in my own vehicle.”

“I’m sick of being late to class,” becomes:

“I prefer being early to all my classes.”

“I hate my job. It’s so boring,” becomes:

“I would prefer to be self-employed at home.”

“This crappy apartment totally sucks,” becomes:

“I would prefer a more updated apartment in a better part of town.”

“My student loan debt is crushing me,” becomes:

“I prefer to pay off my student-loans and be debt-free”

Try this now, if you want. We’re sure you can quickly come up with a couple of things about your life that you don’t like and replace them with statements about what you would prefer instead. 

Don’t try to do this all at once. In fact, starting with just one or two of your preference statements can keep you from getting overwhelmed. Your preference statements are what you will use to set your long and short-term goals. But first, let’s look at what makes long and short-term goals different.

The Difference Between Long-Term Goals and Short-Term Goals

The main difference between long and short-term goals is time. But even that is subjective, depending on the goal and the individual. Here’s a quick comparison chart to look at what sets each of them apart:

Comparison Chart

Short-Term Goals Long-Term Goals
May take hours, days or weeks to accomplish May take months, years, or decades to reach
One part of an overall plan The primary part of an overall plan
Requires less effort and resources Requires more effort and resources

So really, short-term goals are like the stepping stones to something more important; the small rewards on the way to the bigger prize. But that doesn’t mean they are less vital. In fact, without short-term goals, it would be nearly impossible to accomplish anything at all.

How To Set Your Personal Goals

setting-goals

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”–Tony Robbins.

So you’ve made a list of things that are satisfactory to you, and you’ve changed your dislike statements into preference statements. Now it’s time to use those preferences to set a goal. 

Let’s start with a long-term goal and use an easy example from earlier:

“I’m sick of being late to class,” becomes:

“I prefer being early to all my classes.”

Here, we’ve established that you don’t like being late. Perhaps it’s embarrassing to be seen entering the classroom after everyone else has arrived. Maybe it hurts your grades when you aren’t present for attendance. Whatever your pain point is, you’re fed up with it and ready to do something about it.

But your goal is not going to be “stop being late to class” because people don’t work that way. You need to give yourself a positive, actionable, and specific goal, such as, “I will be on time for class for the remainder of the semester.” That’s your long-term goal. Now, what about your short-term goals?

Let’s suppose it’s Friday night, and you have the whole weekend to prepare to get to class on time Monday morning. You’ve set a long-term goal to be on time for the rest of the semester. But that’s not enough. Telling yourself that you hate to be late hasn’t worked. And while vowing to be on time is excellent, it’s not going to happen by itself. That’s why you need short-term goals, too.

Here’s an example of four short-term goals you could use to accomplish your long-term goal of getting to class on time:

Short-term goal #1

“On Saturday, I will go to the mall and purchase an alarm clock.”

Short-term goal #2

“I will unbox the alarm clock and read the instructions on Sunday afternoon, so I know how to use it.”

Short-term goal #3

“On Sunday evening, I will set the alarm for six am, so I have plenty of time to wake up and get to class.”

Short-term goal#4

“I will go to bed an hour earlier every night next week so that waking up for class will be easier.”

That’s it. As long as you follow the step-by-step plan you’ve created with your short-term goals, your long-term goal of being on time all semester will take care of itself!

Goal Setting is Powerful

When you set goals, you’re creating a plan to control your own destiny. You are choosing what you want out of life instead of blindly accepting what comes along. Essentially, you’re saying to the universe, “I’m going to live my life my way!” 

Every successful person is a goal setter. From professional athletes to celebrities to wealthy entrepreneurs, each person started with a goal to get where they are now. By learning to set clearly defined long and short-term goals for yourself, you can achieve things you never thought possible, starting with being on time.