why you need different types of goals

I’ve done a lot of work on goal setting lately. And I’ve discovered there are a few different types of goals. And the type of goal can be broken down to make sure your goals are a success.

So, there are a few different ways to classify goals. And I like to break them into two main categories, then break those down further based on a timeframe. The first goal types are bucket list goals and habit goals. The second type is long-term goals and short-term goals.

Bucket List vs. Habit Goals

Bucket list goals are the ones that you want to check off to be able to say yep, I’ve done that. Not always travel-related, but things you want to achieve nonetheless.

Habit style goals are the habits that you are trying to develop. But you might be struggling to make any progress.

Bucket List Goals

Most people associate a bucket list with travel destinations. But that’s not always the case.

Bucket list goals are once-off style life goals that vanish from your list once it has been accomplished. Think more along the lines of completing something challenging or improving a skill to a certain point.

Some non-travel bucket list goals you might have are:

  • complete your degree
  • get a promotion
  • pay off your student loans
  • perfect a recipe or find a signature recipe
  • learn new skills like basic sign language
  • run a marathon
  • read a classic (Jane Austin, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter)
  • take a new class
  • pay for the person behind you at the coffee shop or drive-thru
  • get a pixie cut
  • register to be an organ donor (AustraliaUSAUK)
  • fly first class

All of the above goals can be broken down further, depending on the duration you set yourself to complete them. But you’ll find out more about that later.

Habit Goals

Habit goals are specific types of goals that, when pursued consistently, set you on the right track to forming lasting habits.

One of my personal goals for August was to drink 1L of water a day. But this wasn’t a goal; it was a habit I was trying to build. However, I had to write it down as a goal and track it each day, in the same way as a goal so that I could see my progress. More than a year later I don’t have to track it anymore, it has become a habit.

With habits, we don’t make decisions, we don’t use self-control, we just do the thing we want ourselves to do—or that we don’t want to do.
― Gretchen Rubin, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives

Some habit goal examples:

  • walk 2km every day
  • drink 2L of water every day
  • go to the gym three times a week
  • quit smoking
  • getting out of bed the first time your alarm goes off
  • bringing your lunch to work every day
  • taking a multi-vitamin
  • journalling or meditating
  • clearing off the kitchen bench at the end of the night

Some of these habits are bigger goals that make a difference long term but start as great examples of short-term goals.

the different types of goals you need

Long-Term vs. Short-Term Goals

Long-term and short-term goals can mean different things to different people. Some may think one year is a long-term goal, while others may consider it to be a short-term goal. But breaking your goals down even further by a period can give you some clarity.

Long Term Goals

Long-term goals can be challenging for some people. I know I have trouble ‘seeing’ the big picture if it’s more than a year into the future. So making a five-year or even 10-year goal is quite daunting for me. But by the same token, I do think it’s essential to think about where you’d like to be in five or ten years. So you can make decisions today that will help guide you towards a future where you are closer to those larger goals.

Take flying first class, for example. That is probably not something you aren’t going to be able to achieve in the next 12 months. It will take a lot of saving and some planning. It might even involve the strategic use of a frequent flyer program.

Examples of long-term goals:

Career goals are often long-term. From climbing the career ladder to becoming the go-to person on a subject, or even switching careers.

Family goals often take a while too. If you’re hoping to have two kids, that’s (almost always) 18 months, minimum. Add at least one more year if you need IVF.

Working on your physical health or mental health can take time. 

Financial goals like making or saving a certain amount of money or being able to start your own business take time to plan and execute.

Sometimes, you need to set some smaller short-term goals that serve as a stepping stone towards one of your long-term goals.

Short Term Goals

For me, a short-term goal is anything that is aimed to be achieved in a year or less. But even then, a year can seem like a long time. Maybe they are considered medium-term goals? So you break those main goals down even further, right down to stepping stone goals and what you can do each day to make progress.

Yearly goals

The best example of a yearly goal is a word of the year or even 19 in 2019.

Other yearly goals could be:

  • complete a course
  • cleaning out your entire house

Running a marathon normally takes more than 12 months of preparation, but you can train for a marathon in one year.

Quarterly goals

Quarterly goals are a great way to condense a more significant goal into less time. Brian Moran, the author of the 12 Week Year, says we overestimate what we can get done in a year and underestimate what we can get done daily, weekly, monthly and even quarterly. And his book is all about, you guessed it, 12-week goals.

Things you can get done in 12 weeks:

  • a fitness challenge
  • renovate a bathroom
  • set up a blog or complete a blog blitz
  • complete a couch to 5k program

Many short courses for professional development can be done in 12 weeks or less.

Monthly goals

Monthly goals can pack quite a punch when it comes to moving forward or changing your habits. They can provide a quick win in a relatively short period. And I know I need a quick win now and then to keep me motivated.

Some monthly goals you might set for yourself are:

  • read one book per month
  • complete a 30-day challenge
  • give up alcohol, coffee or soft drink

And who knows? One of these monthly goals might form a new habit or change the way you live your personal life.

Weekly goals

Working on your goals each week is a great way to keep them front and centre of your mind. And breaking down some of those broader goals, like quarterly and monthly, can help you see real progress.

Some weekly goals you might consider:

  • exercise a certain number of times a week
  • break down a monthly or quarterly goal into smaller actionable steps

Daily goals

Sometimes daily goals can get forgotten, but they are still essential stepping stones to help you move towards your goals. Daily goals are great for forming new habits, especially things for things you want to do every day.
Some daily goals you might have are:

  • walk 2km every day
  • drink 2L of water every day
  • journalling or meditating every day
  • clearing off the kitchen bench at the end of the night
Types of goals

Need inspiration?

These goal categories can help you decide where you want to focus your efforts:

  • educational goals like finishing medical school or getting your high school diploma
  • spiritual goals like reading the bible or starting a meditation practice
  • fitness goals like lifting weights or running a marathon
  • business goals like hiring a new salesperson or making a set amount of money in a time frame
  • relationship goals like meeting ‘the one’ or making new friends
  • health goals like drinking more water or getting enough sleep

Whether you’ve got habit-forming goals or bucket list goals, they each play a distinct role in your personal growth journey. And there are plenty of goal-setting tools available to help you achieve them, whether they are long or short-term. And by setting smart goals, you can improve different areas of your life at the same time.


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