How to Set Realistic Short Term Goals for a Successful Life


Change begins with the hope of what’s possible in your life, as hope leads to a sense of expectancy. Combine this with setting short-term goals, and the likelihood of being happier and more successful moves from possibility to reality.

Short-term goals, when created with well-formed criteria, offer incremental steps towards successfully achieving your bigger goals.

In this step-by-step guide, you’ll discover the secret to creating short-term goals that will set you up for success and help you sail past challenges of staying motivated easily.

What Is a Short-Term Goal?

Short-term goals are “short,” meaning the time frame can be as short as 10 minutes or a day, or as long as a week, or even 12 months. Well-formed short-term goals begin with the end in mind and can be further connected to long-term goals.

Quick tip:

Write down the specific result you want to achieve and the date when it should happen. Then, work backward from this date, describing what you’ll notice yourself doing (and achieving) until you take the first step.

A short-term goal is the smallest step you need to reach a bigger goal centered around achieving something you passionately desire.

Passionate desire” is the key.

As Tony Robbins says,

People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals—that is, goals that do not inspire them.

Having passion when setting goals means getting your mind and body activated to fuel your energy and focus. Each time you achieve a short-term goal, your body celebrates by producing and releasing chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins (feel-good neurotransmitters).

Ian Robertson, a cognitive neuroscientist and author of The Winner Effect: The Neuroscience of Success and Failure, says,

Success and failure shape us more powerfully than genetics and drugs.

The regular release of the body’s natural chemicals supports brain change at a neural level, building your confidence, and renewing your goal-oriented focus.

Here are some short term goal examples related to your career goals to give you an idea of where to start:

The Benefits of Setting Short-Term Personal Goals

Regardless of the area in your life where you set your short-term goals, it will have a ripple effect across every area of your life. Here are just some of the benefits of great goal setting:

  • Improve your career prospects and your sense of identity.
  • Improve your energy in a way that’s noticeable at work and home.
  • Improve your mindset and your attitude around how you engage with others.
  • Improve your health and your desire for self-improvement.

4 Steps to Success With Short-Term Goals

Setting short-term goals will lead you closer to a happier and more successful life, but how do you set short-term goals that are genuinely achievable?

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Complete the following steps, and you will start achieving your dreams:

Step 1: Know Your Best Hopes

Try this process yourself by thinking of an area in your life that you’d like to improve.

For example, what are your best hopes for your finances/relationship/career/health?

This process involves “chunking up” your ideas to imagine the results more clearly. In this process, you try to achieve not only the goal and the outcome it gives you, but also the changes in your behavior and mindset as a result of achieving your goal.

Step 2: Notice What’s Different

The next question to ask yourself is: “What would you notice that was different from the way you usually did things?”

Noticing helps you build a vision of what could be possible. The richer the description you can build around the tiny details, the more real your preferred future becomes.

To complete this step, you may want to utilize some visualization techniques as you seek to create your short-term goals.

Step 3: Answer the Question “What Else?”

Most of us know there’s a hidden reason or a long-buried hope beneath why we want something.

Often, our ego gets a little defensive and protective of it, but if we dig and resurface the truth, then a weight can be lifted, allowing you the freedom to move forward.

Define your “why” in order to discover what else you may be searching for in life.

Step 4: Think About Who Will Notice the Difference

Relationships with family, friends, colleagues, and your partner are important. By imagining the change they’ll notice, you can add another perspective to your vision.

Imagine what they will notice about you that would let them know something changed about you as a result of achieving these short-term goals.

Once you’ve completed these four steps, check out Lifehack’s Fast-Track Class: Activate Your Motivation. It was designed to help you find the boost you need to act on your short and long-term goals.

How to Track Your Short-Term Goals

When you set short-term goals, establish a measurement system to track your progress:

1. Create a Running Tally

One of the best devices to keep your short-term goal setting on track is to keep a running record or tally of the number of days in a row that you’ve sustained your goal.

For example, if improving your health is important to you and you plan to reduce your weight by 5 pounds by not eating any foods containing sugar, then set up a simple chart and track how many days in a row you can do this. Aim for 5 days, then 10, then 20 days in a row. If you have a small diversion and eat sugar one day, simply start again.

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Once you feel confident that you can continue with this step, add another, such as taking 5,000 steps per day. Again, set up a simple tally chart, either in your diary or somewhere visible, and enjoy marking up one more day that you’ve achieved your short-term goal.

2. Keep a Journal

Maintaining a journal will help you focus on identifying the things that are different because you’ve set well-formed short-term goals.

Aim to complete the journal at the end of each day and recall in detail the things that you’re noticing. This helps keep you connected with your desired outcome and the transformation you’re experiencing in both your behavior and mindset.

Take a look at this guide if you’re starting out journaling: Writing Journal for a Better and More Productive Self (The How-To Guide).

3. Share Your Progress With a Trusted Friend or Coach

By voicing the change and expressing how far you’re noticing yourself moving towards your goal, you’re reinforcing the power of change you’re experiencing.

For example, sharing that you hope to get out of credit card debt in the next six months or move toward a specific career path by taking some courses next month will increase your motivation and help you feel more dedicated to those short-term objectives since you don’t want to let anyone down.

You’ll also be activating the feel-good neurotransmitters that are so important for bringing the confidence, motivation, and positive changes you need to succeed.

4. Visualize Your Progress

Before you go to sleep in the evening, visualize your tomorrow. See yourself continuing to do the things that support your change and the movement toward your short-term goals.

Walk yourself through the tiny details that add up to the changes you want to see yourself doing, including the time you’ll wake up. In the morning, re-activate the visualization, and then step into your day.

5. Establish Triggers for Your Daily Habits

Twyla Tharp (born 1941), legendary dancer and choreographer, maintains an exacting routine designed to trick her mind into a daily exercise habit:

I begin each day of my life with a ritual; I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st street and First Avenue, where I work out for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual.

It’s a simple act, but doing it the same way each morning makes it repeatable and easy to do. It reduces the chance that I would skip it or do it differently. It is one more item in my arsenal of routines, and one less thing to think about.

To do this list, create a trigger point—the smallest step you’ll do that will catapult you into taking action as Twyla Tharp did. What will be your “cab” as you work toward your short-term goals?

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6. Talk About the Future

Melanie Perkins, CEO of Canva, a thriving design and publishing solution, is known for “frequently talking about the future.”

Orienting your thoughts towards a future-focus reinforces how important your vision and goals are to you. Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “You are what you think.”

  • Make it a habit to read your goals daily.
  • Think about what you’ll notice that will be different in your life when you achieve them.
  • Express your goals to someone important in your life.

Future-focused conversations (both with yourself and others) establish a pattern of expectancy, which continues fueling not only your desire, but also the expectation of achieving your short-term goals.

7. Manage Mental Resistance

When you begin with hope, you activate a sense of expectancy—a belief that what you want is not only possible but within reach. Hope and expectancy are two powerful motivators in propelling you forward to a successful life.

When you’re moving forward with hope, you’re orienting yourself towards your desired future. When moving away from something you perceive as painful, you’re activating fear, which can also be a strong motivator to help you avoid pain; for example, losing your job if your quarterly performance scores don’t improve.

Summing It up

Change is possible, and short-term goals that build upon each other are the stepping stones to achieving your best hopes.

Using your creative imagination by noticing the small differences occurring daily offers a positive way to create practical change in an easy and doable way.

Above all, make sure your goal is powered by passionate desire so you achieve your desired outcomes.

More Tips About Goal Setting

Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com


View more information: https://www.lifehack.org/762937/how-to-set-short-term-goals

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