When we think about balancing our budget, planning a vacation, or buying a home, these are really some short term goals. Yes, these goals are futuristic but if we are to be good at planning for the future, we need to think long term. When we were younger, my husband and I for some reason were always concerned about retirement. Ok, mostly my husband, and I say this because I would think to myself “why is he so interested in retirement” when we are still in our twenties!
Fast forward 24 years, we are now nearing close to retirement, and I will tell you, buying our first home seems like just yesterday! One of the reasons time seem to fly by for me is having children keeps you busy for twenty or so years, and then one day you find yourself sitting on the sofa wondering what am I going to do with the rest of my life now that I have all the time I usually spend washing clothes, making lunches, and balancing the budget for next weeks grocery list.
Life is more than making plans or goals for the next week, tomorrow, or even next year. The idea that the choices we make today can effect us later in life is true. We may not think the choices we make today will make all that much difference when we are older, but I am here to tell you they do.
Long term goals are goals we spend time researching, pondering about, and maybe even experimenting for a good fit (i.e., taking a class or volunteering). Maybe you are familiar with the question “what do you see yourself doing five years from now”? Long term goals keep you focused on staying in touch with who you are today and who you want to be or what you want to do with your life 5, 10, or 20 years in the future.
If you feel that thinking that far ahead about life is not important because we do not know what the future holds, you have to be realistic and think that “if the future arrives, you need to be ready.” I am amazed at how thinking about long term goals can influence the decisions we make today. For example, you may not know what you should study in college, and you cannot afford to pay your rent on time each month. How do you feel about not being able to pay your rent on time each month?
Does this bother you or does it not matter that much as long as the rent is paid? What is the housing market going to be like 5 years from now after you graduate? Is it better to make a down payment? How much does that require on average? You may wonder where I am going with this line of thought and why it matters. The fact is you will need a place to live after you graduate. More than likely, you do not want to struggle making your rent on time for the rest of your life so you will need to be able to get a decent job after you graduate. So, the decisions you make today will have an impact on the quality of life you live in the next five years and longer.
Long term goals cause us to expand our mind and get into touch with what truly makes us happy day after day. Spending our life chasing extrinsic goals—more on this in another post— will not make us happy. If you make decisions and live life day by day, you will find most of your decisions will not bring you happiness. The thing to do is make decisions today that fit within long term goals you set for yourself. You may not have the answers to planning your long term goals right away. This is alright, as long as you are focusing on some long term goals; you will do fine.
Some important questions to ask yourself about setting long term goals may include: where you want to live, what type of work you want to do, should you get married, or start a family right away. At least when you have some long term goals and life happens, you have some structure to making decisions instead of living life on a whim.
Take a moment to listen to Bryan Tracy, an expert on goal setting.