Navigating professional, personal, and career development in a life post-military is difficult and comes with all sorts of unexpected challenges.

While in the military, for the most part, you have your career course outlined for you. As long as you contribute what is necessary to the larger system, you remain on the same track.

The same cannot be said, however, for life after the military.

Goals and ambition are necessary to orient yourself in the direction necessary to achieve the things you would like to achieve.

Now, we are not dismissing the military as teaching how to set long-term goals.

We’d simply like to teach simple method to expand those capabilities and apply them specifically to civilian life.

With the nearly limitless list of possibilities for life after military service, you might be wondering where to being in setting long term goals.

Why is it Important to Set Long Term Goals?

Long terms goals are important for a number of reasons.

It’s important to have long terms goals both for personal success so you can better express yourself to future employers, friends, and family.

Goals are important for direction, both on the macro and micro level.

When you wake up in the morning, you probably recognize at least some tasks that must be accomplished – no matter how informal those tasks are. It could even be as simple as getting up, brushing your teeth, and turning on the TV to watch the news. Those are small tasks, but they are “goals” in the sense that they guide your actions.

In the same fashion, long term goals allow you to make progress towards accomplishing the tasks you’d like to. The best part about long term goals, however, is that it skyrockets your potential.

When you set a goal to be accomplished a year or more from now, you can dream much bigger than you could if you were just setting a goal to be accomplished within the next 24 hours.

Time is such a valuable resource. When we set long term goals, we are taking the most advantage of that resource.

Goals Aren’t Enough On Their Own – You Must Remember and Act on Them

We want to share some methods with you to set goals that will better prepare you to actually eventually achieve those goals.

Having goals is important, but if you forget your goals, they become worthless.

One method that many employ to remember their long term goals is writing them down.

On a blank piece of paper, write down several of your long term goals, no matter how lofty they may seem. On that same piece of paper, estimate a timeline you’ll need to complete said goals. You may anticipate it being a year-long goal, or maybe it’s a twenty-year goal.

Regardless, set an estimated end date.

This estimated end date helps you better manage your performance as it relates to your long term goals. If you know you have five years to get where you’d like to be, break your goal up into five, year-long segments. That way, you have a checkpoint to show you that you’re making real progress towards achieving your goals.

These “micro-goals” within the larger scheme of your long term goals can be very helpful. Sometimes our dreams are intimidating – these make everything more reasonable.

Set SMART Goals

defining SMART goals

Another method for setting long term goals that directly correlates to the “macro-goal” method is starting at the end and working backwards. You may have heard the saying, “begin with the end in mind.” If you know what your eventual goal is, you can start there and evaluate everything you need to accomplish to get there.

This method is less-time based than the initial method we mentioned but it is great for less-formal goal setting. It’s easy to track your progress towards eventually completing your goals if you have a checklist of necessary accomplishments to get there.

One of our favorite methods for long term goal setting is called the SMART method. SMART is an acronym that stands for

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • check
  • check

This is a great system of guidelines for setting long term goals.

Let’s break down what each aspect of setting SMART goals really means.

Specific and Measurable Goals

First, you want to set goals that are specific. This is almost a no-brainer, but as you being setting goals you might begin to see why it’s included. It’s easy for us to set goals like, “I’d like to be successful,” or, “I’d like to be rich.” Those goals, however, are difficult if not impossible to achieve because there are no specifics.

A specific goal outlines the: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of your goals.

On the same note, your goals should be measurable. Specific and measurable may seem to imply the same thing, but they are actually different.

Whereas a specific goal answers who, what, when, where, why and how, a measurable goal is more about answering the questions:

  • How much?
  • How many?
  • How will I know I’ve accomplished my goal?

A goal that answers these questions is a goal that is easily trackable and, by nature, easier to stick to.

Achievable Goals

The next aspect of setting a SMART goal for achieving long terms goal can be a reality check for many. Goals set within the parameter of a SMART goal must be achievable. This doesn’t mean you can’t dream, it simply asks you to be realistic.

This parameter largely relates to factors outside of your control like financial constraints or bureaucratic limitations.

To determine the feasibility of a goal, ask yourself questions like, “How can I got about achieving this goal,” and, “Is this goal achievable given all factors?”

Trust us when we say that setting an achievable goal actually enables you to set loftier goals for the future. While your ultimate long term goal may not be achievable today, if you stay dedicated to your goals that are, it will be within your reach one day.

An important tip on the topic of setting achievable long term goals is to ensure that you aren’t setting goals that are dependent upon action by someone else. Your goals should not be reliant on the actions of others because you can really only control your own actions.

For example, if your goal is to get a promotion, try shifting your goal to developing the skills necessary for said promotion. That way, if the hiring manger makes the wrong choice, your goal was not shattered in the hands of someone else.

You are in control of your own destiny.

Relevant Goals

Next on the list, long term goals must be relevant to fall within the confines of a SMART goal. This parameter is essential for eliminating temporary “whimsy” that many of us experience.

Ask yourself if your goal is actually something you’d like to achieve, if it fits in with your life, and whether or not it actually matters to you.

Some great example questions for this parameter are:

  • Is this worthwhile?
  • Is now a good time?
  • Does this align with other plans?
  • check
    Is it applicable given all current factors (finances, physical location, time of year, etc.)


Lastly, to consider your long term goals as a SMART goal, they must be time-bound. This is one of the most important factors to consider. As we mentioned earlier, every long term goal needs a target date. There is not motivating factor to expedite the goal without this.

It’s quite easy to let day-to-day tasks become all that you complete. This toxic life cycle leads to stagnancy. Instead, take time to prioritize your time-bound, long term goals over your day-to-day needs. Maybe skip lunch to work on your business plan one day a week or take some time in the mornings before your partner is awake to do reading on a topic relevant to your goal.

Most Importantly, Don’t Let Your Long Term Goals Just Be Goals

Whatever you do, don’t let your goals and dreams be just that.

You have the power within yourself to make positive strides whether it be in your personal life, social life, or in your professional career.

Writing goals down, making a vision board, sharing your plans on social media, or whatever you do to officially “state your goals” is all well and good. And we believe you should be doing those things.

However, applying the goals to your day to day life means doing whatever you can throughout the day to contribute to your future.

If you never take specific actions, you’ll never achieve your goals. Don’t let any opportunities, to make your dreams a reality, pass you by – no matter how big or small.

Every action matters.

Life after the military offers many beautiful experiences, including the opportunity to explore dreams and visions you might not have been able to during your time in the military.

To help you better achieve those dreams, follow this guide to make your goals more actionable and achievable.

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