Why we need to set long-term goals

At a cookout recently, I mentioned my long-term goals in a conversation: Pursue an MFA in creative non-fiction writing and work toward a career as a professor.

The people I was talking to seemed to find it strange that I was thinking so far ahead, especially at age 22. “Wow, that’s pretty far off,” they said.

Even my therapist advised me to focus on the now and not worry so much about the future when I brought up my long-term goals (good advice, but it still helps prove my point).

With all these comments lately, I can’t help but wonder why my long-term goals aren’t viewed as admirable ambitions, as I believe they should be.

When I posed that thought to my husband, he said it’s because people don’t think that far ahead. “Most people don’t know what they’re having for dinner, let alone what they’re going to do with their lives.”

He’s right, and I think it’s because everything we want today is at the tip of our fingers. Because of the ease and speed in which we now live our lives, we tend to focus on the now and getting what we want as soon as possible. This means we often forget about the future, or put it off until it arrives.

While worrying and fretting over what’s to come is not a good habit, thinking long-term, and setting long-term goals, should be a lifelong practice. Long-term goals inspire us to be better, learn more and push ourselves further. Working toward long-term goals teaches us patience and discipline, traits people today so often lack. They also give us something to look forward to and strive to achieve.

I believe we should all have long-term goals, be they professional or personal, because we should be constantly thinking of how we can better ourselves and do more in our lives.

Long-term goals don’t need to be lofty or impressive to others. Rather, they should be based on our interests and excite us as we work toward them. I know that going to graduate school and starting a career as a professor may seem lofty and impressive, but these goals stem from my passion for writing and desire for lifelong learning.

Luckily, formulating my long-term goals didn’t require me to think too deeply. My long-term goals were naturally conceived as my adult life and career started to take shape, and as I’ve learned more about who I am. But I know that setting long-term goals may not be as easy for others. Not everyone has a certain passion that drives them, and few people intimately know who they are (whether or not they think they do).

For those of you who have no idea where to begin setting a long-term goal, think about what you’d like to do with your life and how you’d like to grow. Think about your interests and that one childhood dream that now, as an adult, seems impossible to pursue.

Your goals should be highly meaningful to you, not anyone else. And they should line up with the SMART Goal acronym, meaning they should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-limited.


Setting short-term goals is a great way to begin working to your long-term goals. They also help you stay motivated and track your progress along the way.

Once you meet one long-term goal, set another — I don’t think there’s any person in this world who couldn’t stand to better themselves just a little bit more!






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