Remember Your Why: The 3 Timeframes of Goal-Setting

You earned your diploma. You scored a job. Does that mark the end of your major professional goals? Of course not! As your career unfolds, accomplishments go far beyond earning a paycheck. As you support your company’s objectives, there’s plenty of room for additional goals of your own. Cultivating your dreams keeps you engaged in your work every day, adding to your overall happiness. You could call it “remembering your why.”

As you know from previous achievements, a single goal like getting a college degree is actually made up of many small goals, conquered one at a time. Turn the abstract into the actionable with these three timeframes of goal-setting.

  1. Long-term goals

“Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years?” That classic interview question has become a cliché for a reason. Employers look for candidates with a clear sense of purpose. After all, no one has ever accidentally climbed Mt. Everest.

Knowing your career direction will keep you on track, whether your goal is highly specific (I want to manage this division), or slightly more flexible (Someday, I’ll start my own business).

Long-term goals are reached by breaking down big actions into small pieces. A mountain climber takes many steps before arriving at base camp. Here’s an important point to consider: What if that climber waited to feel successful until reaching the summit? That approach would mean missing out on countless opportunities to enjoy and reinforce all the efforts along the way.

The importance of celebrating the small wins is backed up by research. Behavioral scientists at the Stanford Graduate School of Business discovered people who viewed reaching a goal as a journey, rather than a destination, later continued the “good” behaviors that led to their success.

Setting hard-to-reach goals gives you direction. Enjoying the process gives you satisfaction and the chance to learn.

  1. Short-term goals

Here’s where the journey really happens, giving you the chance to celebrate success as you “remember your why” with every challenge and achievement.

Short-term goals are neither so far out that they feel abstract, nor so close that they get blurred in the tangle of daily details. Putting thought into these goals will empower you to earn results and feel engaged in creating your own future. Consider these guidelines for short-term goals:

Be realistic. Setting a goal that can’t be reached in the hopes that you’ll push yourself as hard as possible could seem like a good idea, but you’re guaranteeing failure. Don’t do that to yourself! There’s nothing wrong with high standards. Just make sure your goal has the chance to do its job – driving you toward victory.

Make it measurable. Some goals are made to be measured. You’ll know when you achieve a new certification or receive a promotion. Other worthwhile objectives may be a little harder to track. How can you tell if you’ve improved your people skills? Find ways to measure your success, from earning higher ratings in a review to creating smoother interactions with a prickly co-worker.

Get personal. Striving to please your boss or your spouse doesn’t create the true commitment that comes from pursuing goals that matter to you personally. In order to push through challenges and reach your greatest achievements, you’ll want to reach for a milestone that has meaning to you.

  1. Now-term goals

The events of 2020 have taught us the value of taking each day as it comes. Plans made past today can be altered in one news conference.

The Washington Post recently interviewed Lucille Ellson, a 102-year-old woman born during the Spanish flu. She grew up during the Depression and postponed her wedding when her fiancé was drafted to fight in WWII. Years ago, to cope with living in uncertain times, she started making a daily to-do list, a habit she never gave up. “It was the only thing I could control, and I stuck to it, you hear me?”

Those micro-moments add up to long-term success as you create your future day by day. Through now-term goals, you’ll make progress in the only way it’s possible – in the present moment, one step at a time. A good list includes daily “must-dos” along with at least one achievable “like-to-do” that supports a short-term goal, which supports a long-term goal. (See how it all comes together?)

Do you plan to earn an additional degree through online classes?  Jot down, “research college enrollment requirements.” Have you challenged yourself to develop more empathetic communication skills? Think of a teammate who seemed quiet in your last meeting and add, “check in on Rachel” to your list.

As you achieve goals big or small, congratulate yourself on reaching a new milestone on your journey. Before you keep climbing, take in the unique view from right where you stand at this moment. You’ve earned it!

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