A Guide to Setting Long-Term Goals in Life

A while back I wrote an article about grit. Grit is defined as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals,” and it’s a common trait amongst great people. Read their biographies and you will see that they all have grit.

From the definition, you can see that an essential component of grit is having long-term goals. Why? Because you must have something to strive towards. You must have something that you want to achieve. Without long-term goals, there is no grit.

Why You Should Have Long-Term Goals

Here are the benefits of having long-term goals:

1. Your life will be exciting.

Can you imagine playing basketball without the basket? It would be boring, right? Similarly, your life would be boring if you didn’t have something to strive towards. Goals make your life exciting.

2. You can make decisions more easily.

Since you know where you are going, it will be easier for you to decide whether something is worth doing or not. You will have clarity when making decisions.

3. You can achieve something great.

Achieving something great takes time. Building momentum might take years. Without long-term goals, you will only have infrequent, sporadic effort.

How to Set Long-term Goals

Now that we have seen the benefits of having long-term goals, let’s see how to set them. Here are a few guidelines to follow:

1. Realize that it’s a process.

Setting goals – especially long-term ones – takes time. It’s not something you can accomplish in one day. So take your time. There is no need to rush.

2. Match the goals with your strengths.

It’s important that you match your goals with your strengths. Your goals must be within your circle of competence. Taking multiple intelligence tests can help you find your strengths.

3. Set audacious goals.

Don’t waste your time with small goals. Your life is too precious for that. Instead, set the so-called Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Your goals should be realistic, but they should also be challenging.

Rick Warren said that many people overestimate what they can do in one year, but underestimate what they can do in ten. The lesson? Go big with your long-term goals.

4. Have a strong “why”.

You have to overcome many obstacles in the pursuit of your goals. That’s why you must have a strong “why”.

Have a mission you believe in. It will sustain you through difficult times.

5. Start with a draft.

You don’t need to be perfect the first time, but you still need to start with something. So set some goals to start with. Find something in the intersection between your strengths, passions, and aspirations.

6. Adjust over time.

When you use a camera, the picture might seem blurry at first. But – as you adjust the focus – it will become sharp and in focus.

Similarly, your goals might seem blurry in the beginning, but as you keep moving in that direction – they will get sharper and sharper. You will have better clarity over what you want to achieve, as well as when and how.

A practice I find useful is to write down all the ideas I get along the way. That helps me adjust my direction.


I hope you find the guidelines above useful.

How do you set long-term goals in life? Comments here.


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Photo by Daniel Weinand


  1. Great post. You must set goal and in particular have a long term goal. Short term goals are also very important as you use them as measuring tools or markers to make sure you are on track to reach those longer term goals. Short term goals are also very helpful in that they are easier to modify as you aspire to achieve those longer term goals.
    It is so unfortunate because as you stated in your post too many of us expect to attain our goals over night and are prepared to abandon our passion and goals because we cannot wait around and work hard and long enough for them to come to fruition.
    Thanks again for another great post.

  2. And make sure that the goals are for something you care about and not someone else’s idea of what you should be doing…

  3. Your post reminds me of the process of earning my Ph.D. It was a very long term goal with many intermediate and short-term goals. One interesting response to finally achieving that goal is to feel joy momentarily and then a let down. It’s quite a common phenomenon. I solved mine with establishing new goals because I do believe we have to be present and enjoy the now but also have something to anticipate and work towards.

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