Long-term goals represent our biggest dreams and our boldest values: graduating from college, earning a rewarding job, getting physically fit, starting a family, buying a home… fill in what matters to you. But for each long-term goal, several short-term goals can be set along the way. These short-term goals provide concrete steps that lead to the achievement of the bigger goal, and thereby make the process of achieving those broader goals more manageable.

If you’d like to encourage students to set some of these short-term goals that lead to long-term achievement, or if you have students who are motivated to do so, suggest that they create a chart like the one illustrated below. The chart, which is featured as a student activity for Gwenn Wilson, MA’s 100% Student Success, Third Edition, helps students create actionable and achievable goals that align with their values and dreams.

If you wish to complete this activity in class, you may wish to follow some of the tips offered in Instructor’s Resource 1-B for 100% Student Success. We’ve provided these in the form of a checklist; as students write their goals, they can review these points and ensure that their goals will be attainable, concrete… and also a healthy challenge:

  • Is each goal truly important to me, personally? (You will be more motivated to achieve the goal if you value the goal and its ultimate outcome.)
  • Does this goal complement the other goals I have established?
  • Do my goals represent a balanced life (i.e. professional, physical, social, emotional, and spiritual needs)?
  • Have I worded each long-term and short-term goal in specific, detailed, and positive terms, which describe what I want to achieve, how I will achieve it, and when I will complete the goal? (For example: if a long-term goal revolves around physical fitness, a short-term goal might be “I will walk around the neighborhood for thirty minutes, five evenings a week, throughout the summer and fall.”
  • Is each goal challenging, but still achievable? (If it’s too hard, you’ll feel defeated from the get-go; if it’s too easy, it won’t truly be motivating.)

Wilson also advises instructors to stress the value of writing goals down—these written goals will serve as a reminder, an inspiration, and a guide. To emphasize the value of accountability, you can also encourage students to tell others about their goals; you could have them partner with other students in your class, or you could encourage them to tell their friends or family about their goals. (Wilson, Instructor’s Resource 1-B, 1)

Sample Student Worksheet for Setting Long-Term and Short-Term Goals

Sample goal-setting worksheet


Wilson, Gwenn. 2015. Instructor’s Resource 1-B for 100% Student Success, 3rd ed. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.

—Student Resource 1-2 for 100% Student Success, 3rd ed. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.

© 2015 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved.