Difference between Short Term and Long Term goals

Updated on July 17, 2015

A goal is a destination. So if the goal is not clear, it is difficult to get to that destination. In order to plan properly, a clear distinction between short term and long term goals is essential.  To help differentiate between these two terms, we look at their differences.


A goal is an aspiration or something one works toward. Encyclopedia.com defines a goal as the excepted measurable or observable outcome of a certain plan of action.

Short Term Goals

In this regard, a short term goal is that expected outcome in the immediate period, while a long term goal would be the expected outcome in the projected future. Wikipedia defines a short term goal as an expected accomplishment in a limited time period and a long term goal as a relation of that short term goal.

An example of an individual long term goal is becoming a professional photographer. In this case, a short term goal would be to take a course to that effect or to buy a professional camera. In this example, the short term goal is depicted as an enhancement or support to the long term goal. For a firm, a short term goal could involve outsourcing a particular function, whilst a long term goal could require committing substantial funds to acquire the missing components for handling that function internally, such as relevant equipment and manpower.

Comparison chart

Short term goalsLong term goals
Require a short period of time to be accomplished, usually days or weeks.Require a long period of time to be accomplished, usually months or years.
Can be a support or enhancement in accomplishing a long term goal.Often takes several short term goals to be achieved.
Takes fewer resources.Requires more resources.

Short Term Goals vs. Long Term Goals

What is the difference between short term and long term goals, then? The difference can be demonstrated using the time and interdependency of these two categories of goals.

  • Basically, the difference between a short term goal and long term goal is the time it takes to accomplish each. Whilst a short term goal can take days or weeks to accomplish, a long term goal can take months or even years. The time here is relative. For instance, a company that has a long term plan of doubling its sales revenue will start a short term goal of intensifying its marketing strategy. The marketing campaign process might take several months and it might take years to accomplish the double revenue goal. Therefore, the short term goal period is relative to the duration of the long term goal.
  • A short term goal is often a stepping stone that contributes to achieving a long term goal.

This, therefore, means that a short term goal requires less time and fewer resources to accomplish and that a number of short term goals sometimes need to be reached in order to achieve a long term goal.


Refer to this video for more explanation about how to set goals.

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