Long-Term Goal Setting Revisited

Many people have difficulty achieving long-term goals.  I think the reason is because they get distracted by urgent, “must do” activities.  While it’s great to have something like a bucket list, your average person won’t take action on these items because they don’t have a strategic plan for achieving them.

I’ve learned the best way to achieve long-term goals is to focus on the next 6 to 12 months instead of a vague, distant future.  The reason is simple.  Life has a way of getting in the way of long-term goals.  You really can’t plan for a far off future because you just don’t know what your life will be like at that point.

For instance, last November I signed a year-long lease for a new apartment.  Within three months I broke this lease; chucked everything I owned into storage and started traveling the world.  This was something I always wanted to do, but it happened after only two months of planning.  For me, life changed that quickly.

Having, Doing, Being

When it comes to 6 to 12 month goals, I prefer Tim Ferriss’s concept of “Dreamlining” that he discusses in his book, The 4-Hour Work Week.  He encourages people to take items from your someday list and turn them into an action plan you’ll achieve within the next year.  Dreamlining focuses on three major areas:

  1. Having (What items do you wish to possess?)
  2. Doing (What do you want to experience or accomplish?)
  3. Being (What skills do you wish to develop?)

In his book, Ferriss recommends putting five items on each list.  I don’t agree with this because this list is about what you really want to do.  You shouldn’t set a goal just because you’re trying to get to the magical number of five.  So put as many (or as little) as you want in each section.  The important thing is to feel excited about these goals.

My “Having, Doing, Being” List

To illustrate this concept, let me show what’s on my “having, doing, being” list for the next six months:


1) Have an apartment that’s an inspirational place to work and live
2) Have a quality car that’s dependable (Yeah, I know…not very exciting)


1) Create the first information product for “Steve Scott Site”
2) Redesign the blog theme of “Steve Scott Site”
3) Complete the Boston Marathon
4) Help my brother create a successful online business
5) Take a month long trip through the southern and western part of the United States


1) Become a proficient public speaker
2) Become a master of time management where I eliminate wasteful activities
3) Become a major factor in the lives on my friends, family, and loved ones

As you can see, this list is full of actionable items.  They’re not some pie-in-the-sky lofty dream.  When I look at each item, I get that excited feeling where I can’t wait to get started.

What’s on YOUR “Having, Doing, Being” List?

I know you have a mental (or written) list of what you’d like to do someday.  Now is the time to make things happen!  Pick the items from this list that fit best with your present situation and make a commitment to do them within the next year.  I can’t promise it’ll be easy, but you’ll be smiling as you cross a major goal off your list.


Take Action. Get Results.

22 thoughts on “Long-Term Goal Setting Revisited”

  1. I agree with you on having short term goals that you are working on, life definitely gets in the way sometimes! I do have a bucket list, but I try to work on a couple of my long term goals off of my list each year, even if it is just working towards them.

    For example, one of my long term goals is to watch all of the best picture winners. This year I have a goal of completing half of them. I only have eight to go to complete it, so then I will be halfway to finishing one of my bucket list items!

    I also subscribe to the idea of breaking them down to having, doing, being, I think it helps people define their short term goals.

    If you make it to Dallas on you southern swing let me know!

    • Of course with your best picture item, they make it harder by adding a new one every year!

      When events conspired to give an opportunity to finish off long term “bucket list” items it should be jumped at. Those goals should be attacked whenever possible. Knocking off a few a year sounds pretty reasonable.

      No firm plans yet, but will let you know if I swing by Dallas. It is certainly possible. Two likely stops are Mississippi/Louisiana coast to visit friends and San Diego to visit my brother. Dallas is “sort of” in between. Still a while out as I am not even back yet, and getting a little tired of traveling at the moment.

  2. Hi Steve:

    What is my “having Doing And Being” list is big and because everyday comes with a difference challenge stays where it is.

    You are right. I better move myself in the right directions or I will be left behind. I am behind as it is. Thanks for the reminder.

    A great post Steve. You are a great mentor, and if your pursue it as a career or as an information product, it will work good for you.

    Enjoy the day

    Fran Aslam

  3. Fran,

    The “having Doing And Being” list can be as big or as little as you want it to be IMO. Just as long as the ideas on it excite you and make you desire to accomplish them.

    Of course you are right, it is needed to take positive action to help “make” them happen rather than just wishing on them. But I think having them written down this way as more immediate goals helps that.

    Have a wonderful day!

  4. Hey Steve,

    I’ve been thinking about this all today because I’m so fed up with my job but I have to stick it out just a bit longer. I was assessing what I do and in comparison to my big goals it seems like insanity.

    I know this will equally sound insane but despite all of my hard work now, later in life I want to just be a hippie. I want to earn a living that gives me the freedom to go to any music festival I want anywhere in the world. Noble? Idk but I don’t want much and any extra I pass on to people around me.

    Btw, if you’re swinging around Florida swing by for a beer 🙂

    • I actually feel ya. I have no real desire to be “rich” I am selfish enough to want to be “comfortable”.

      Money is a nice tool, and it really sucks to not have enough of it, but earning enough to do whatever the hell you want makes a hell of a lot of sense to me.

  5. As I say when I’m speaking in schools Steve, have a plan for life (things to have, do and be) is awesome but to get to those things you have to create what I call stepping stones.

    These are short or medium term goals that help you move toward that massive dream. There might end up being 100 stepping stones but the important thing is that each one moves you that little bit closer.

  6. Hi Steve,

    Focusing on 6 months – 1 year goals is a good idea Steve. It is a good idea to have a long term plan, but by focusing on short term goals (6months–1 year), we will reach our long term goals. Right now, I’m working on my second information product and I have some other goals that I have to do to grow my business. Thanks for sharing my friend

  7. Having is something I’m not so eager about, I enjoy little things and currently I am pleased with my possessions, maybe a better office with a new computer, but I really can live with out it at the moment.

    As for doing, I have plenty on my list, but I try to focus on two three priorities at a time. So far it’s working.

    And being, well, I would like to be a person with more patience and understanding. As far as my business goes, I’m on top of my game and “being” is where I want to eb and what I want to be at the moment.

  8. Thanks Steve, great insight.

    However, I find that sometimes we still need to have in mind the long term goals we once set for ourselves, because this helps us deal with short term frustrations and disappointments.

    • Good point!

      It is fine to highlight mid and short term goal but you are right that keeping a mind on long term goals is also important. One way to do this is to break long term goals to bite sized chunks and make sure that these chunks are included piece by piece into this plan. That was you are slowly marching toward the long term desire

  9. Hey Steve

    Now you’ve made uncomfortable because I have to actually think about where I want to be in 12 months 🙂
    This is a great post, I have a bucket list but it just sits here in the hope that one day ill get to some of the things on it. I didn’t really think about working it into my long term strategies, kinda silly right!
    I am working on my own first product now, it’s exciting and I can’t wait to be finished to share it with people.
    Looking forward to seeing your product, you know now that you’ve put it out there, we will all be waiting for it 🙂

    • Nat,

      Just ease a few in. If you can’t find a way to fit one goal for yourself in a six month period something is wrong. They don’t even have to be major. You can work up to those. 😛
      It is nice to hear that you are working on your product! I am looking forward to hearing more. I WILL be doing my project but it is still a bit off. I won’t really start on it til mid-Nov So maybe A fresh “new year” product. Hmmmm maybe I could even work 2011 guide to blah blah into the title. Who knows!!

  10. Steve, I too like the concept of dreamlining, but I think your plan here works well.

    I think if you can be more specific about your goals then you’ll stand a much better chance of achieving them. For example ‘Have a quality car that’s dependable (Yeah, I know…not very exciting)’ what sort of car, how old, what model, what colour?

    Make it as real as possible and you’ll get big results quickly. If you can see it in your minds eye, then you’ll be more motivated to achieve it.

    Good luck, Matthew

    • Good points. But the thing is to me none of that matters for my dream. If I desired a BMW Coupe then It would be important. I will research and define my goal over time more based on things like safety, efficiency, gas milage etc. But ultimatley none of those thing matter so I don’t include them. My requirements in a car are pretty simple. Something that I will not have to worry about maintenance wise for a while and is gets me around. I am flexible on just about everything else.

      I do agree though it helps to visualize a specific thing, like the BMW coupe or whatever. Specifics really do help. It just so happens my specific desire is generic.

  11. That’s it! I am WRITING down my goals To-Day!
    And bravo on the proficient public speaker goal – that one will have many dividends for you and be a great journey to boot. Best of luck Steve!

  12. Great article steve. Long term goal setting with short-term action plans work best for me. I like to focue on what I can TODAY that will move me closer to my longer term goals. But the best part of goal setting is that the benefit of achieving your goal is not quite as exciting as what you become while achieving your goals.

  13. wow we have almost the same goals! Question: I feel like I need someone or even a few people to help me with the achievement of my goals. I always help othes but dont feel i get the same in return. What are ur thoughts. It really upsets me that I feel I have to do most things on my own.

  14. Hi Steve!
    I like your idea about the bucket list!
    I think that’s what I need this time. But i have a little problem of becoming a proficient public speaker. I am not really good on it so I hope I could an alternative for that!

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