If you are a motivated person, long-term goals are probably your reason for living. If you have generally been unmotivated or find yourself unable to go forward in life, establishing some long-term goals might be the solution. You cannot develop any short-term goals without first knowing what your long-term goal is. Do not just dream big; really go over with yourself specifically what that big dream is – try to put it into words. Many of us have very general long-term goals (be a good person; be healthy; make enough money; etc.), but to establish doable short-term goals, you really need to be clear about what you mean. Otherwise, you might work hard but end up disappointed – without knowing why. However, you may find that when you reflect on long-term goals, examples abound of people who just happened upon something far better than what they expected.
You might worry that you will over-plan and miss out on the power of serendipity. However, the scientist Louis Pasteur – the inventor of pasteurization and the developer of the first anthrax and rabies vaccines – is quoted: “Chance favors only the prepared mind.” In other words, preparation can actually help you discover and invent.
Big Dreams: Avoiding Danger, Embracing Design
Dreamers have an unfortunate reputation for being unrealistic; perfectionistic; hard to work with; and, ultimately, tragic. This is only because many big dreamers do not manage to make any of their dreams come true; their beautiful dreams become little more than an intoxicating drug. Ultimately, realizing this makes us all a little more cynical; it almost makes it look as though dreaming is dangerous.
However, big dreams can come true if they are translated into specific goals. As mentioned above, sometimes the problem is just that you have not outlined the long-term goal specifically, so there is no way to know where you are in the process or how to continue. If you have stated the goal specifically, then the problem might be that you need to split your very big goal into smaller long-term goals or short-term goals.
Another problem you might encounter is that conditions change and degree of insight changes – this may be either good or bad, but ultimately, it could make previous goals grow obsolete. One solution is to keep a journal to hold your descriptions of long-term goals over time. If you need to communicate with anyone about your ideas, this is a great way to be sure that you are clear and consistent.
For yourself, this helps you track where you might need to make changes as new information, insights, challenges, or resources come your way. For many, this is also a great motivational tool; you can read past entries to see how far you have come, and regular time with your journal can keep you from getting off track.
General Steps to Manage Long-Term Goals
The best way to make long-term goals a reality is to develop a task management system. This includes time management, optimized space utilization, and mental focus. Even if you think of yourself as a free spirit, some scheduling and focusing will likely free you up to be more creative. You are also less likely to waste energy trying to multitask or trying to cram in more work than you can possibly do at the last minute. Even if you are someone who likes to run on adrenaline, planning milestones that lead to a bigger goal can keep you from creating an inferior finished product.
Even if you do not believe in Feng shui, it turns out that the placement of items in your work environment can make a difference in both efficiency and creativity. As with time management, environmental order can create simplicity to free up the mind; so, do not assume that organizing your space will kill your ideas or crush your psychological breathing room. If you are working with others, organization makes you a better partner or team member – your coworker(s) can actually make sense of your system and find a file or borrow a piece of equipment if they need to.
The ultimate objective of time management and organization of environment is to allow you to focus as you plan and work. The modern life often pushes us to multitask or, at least, to go from task to task without thinking. A good system of work allows you to know what you need to be thinking about at a particular time; if you find yourself worrying about something else while you are working, then there should be a time to think about or work on that issue.
As mentioned above, journaling and personal record keeping are great ways to quickly put an idea or other piece of information in its place – freeing you from having to fret about it over and over or write multiple disparate sticky notes that you have to pull together later. Good task management should reduce stress and leave you with more energy.
Specific Steps You Can Take Towards Long-Term Goals
If you are just starting in adult life, your long-term goal is probably quite simply to have a career. The best first step towards having a career is to master career essentials, especially resume writing and communication skills. Then, you may also want to consider more specific skills such as leadership and dealing with job reviews.
Once you are in the workforce, you will likely find other, much more specific, skills you would like to gain. LinkedIn Learning offers on-point, career-enhancing courses: some are general self-improvement courses and others cover common in-demand job skills. LinkedIn gives you a strong start towards your goals; also, if you have not identified your long-term goals, examples are likely to become apparent as you look at LinkedIn’s course offerings.
For general life improvement, you can go ahead and start with ”Time Management Fundamentals.” This course – taught by a self-professed disorganized person by nature – covers every area of time management: how to increase focus and reduce chaos, how to reduce multitasking, and how to process emails and other correspondence more efficiently. This course is also an excellent way to get an entire team to be more efficient and to work together more easily.
”Design Thinking: Understanding the Process” is the perfect beginner-to-intermediate course for app developers and other innovators. The course emphasizes how important planning is to creativity, especially when working as a team. It is essentially a course on how to be an innovative organization. While this course would provide great insight for an entire team, the content would probably be most relevant to the team leader.
If you are an individual aiming to enhance your career, your goals might be more specific. For a course that is a game-changer for the computer scientist, consider ”Ethical Hacking: System Hacking.” This beginner-to-intermediate course teaches how to hack and also the various ways that networks can be vulnerable to hackers. The course is, as its name suggests, completely ethical and ultimately intended to teach how to protect a computer system rather than attack it.
It covers hacking topics such as keylogging (tracking a computer user’s keystrokes), privilege escalation (using a system’s infrastructure against itself in order to gain unintended access), and spyware (software that, often covertly, collects desired information from a network). This course is one of a series that prepares you to pass the Certified Ethical Hacker exam. This course is an excellent stepping stone towards the larger goal of being a cybersecurity expert.
LinkedIn has courses that are suitable for reaching many other long-term goals. Examples in business include becoming a customer service expert (to be a manager or leader), becoming an effective salesperson, or becoming a consultant (an independent expert who can provide advice to organizations). In creative fields, examples are creating a successful podcast, becoming a music producer, or becoming a graphic designer. In technology, examples are becoming a mobile app developer, a systems expert, or a data analyst. These are all things that take years to truly master; however, strong first steps could pay off quickly and propel you forward.
Realistic Long-Term Goals Are Powerful
Following through on goals is often the hardest part, even when the goal is well-considered and the working environment is ideal. Self-doubt is a common culprit – whether it is doubt about one’s planning abilities or doubt about having the energy or intelligence to do something. Self-doubt can be especially severe when you are breaking out of your comfort zone or doing something that breaks the mold.
Some self-doubt might be healthy – it means you are open to the possibility that you are wrong, so it keeps you open-minded. However, if you have followed a good planning process and have checked periodically to see whether your plans need an update, then there is little good in doubting what you are doing.
In addition, sometimes flawed action is the ideal way to find the right path. So, if you are committing yourself to decisive action after thorough consideration, things still may not go perfectly, but you can rest assured you have done everything you can to achieve your goal.