The subject of goals and goal setting is broad. You have to set goals, make them SMART goals, track goals, document goals and a whole lot more. It is not my intention to make the subject more complicated but rather to add something that will help you achieve more of your goals. There are different types of goals and we need to understand this. Firstly it will help us with our approach to the goals. Secondly, it will also help us understand how other things are connected to the goal. The ultimate result is clarity in our goals. We will categorise goals on a time basis to identify 5 different types of goals.

Stepping stone goals

Stepping stone goals are not goals in and of themself. We can think of stepping stone goals as derivative goals. These are goals that you take on as a means to an end. So if your goal is to start a food business, acquiring a food safety certification would be a stepping stone goal towards your ultimate goal. Stepping stone goals are usual finite in terms of time and have a clearly defined end. With goals like this, you will achieve a certain thing and be done with it. They usually come with deadlines built in so you won’t have to set a deadline for yourself. In some cases, stepping-stone goals are pre-requisite goals to something you want to do. This gets complicated because they can be hidden.

Short term

Short term goals are just as they sound, things you want to achieve that will take you less than 12 months to achieve, at least in your plans. They differ in size and grandeur but the common thread we will consider here is the duration to achievement. The key with short term goals is the degree of detail in which we look at them. If you’re a long term planner your goals may be generalised in the very long term (more than 5 years), year by year between 2 and 5 years, month by month between 1 and 2 years and weekly for anything that is expected in the next 12 months. The degree of detail allows you to focus on the achievement of the goal. Because the goals are expected to be achieved in a short time and they may be stepping stone goals to other goals, you want to give yourself the best chance to achieve them and looking at them in great detail helps with this.

Long term

By now you’ve figured out that long term goals are those with a completion outlook longer than 12 months. There is of course great variation in these goals because we are talking about very long periods. If it is a goal that you are working on presently then the most important thing is the ability to break the goal down into its simple steps. So breaking the goal down into achievable bite-sized pieces that you can manage as you go daily until the goal is achieved. Sometimes we meet a problem where because of their long term nature it is not easy to be clear of the goals. Setting aside the monetary issues in Zimbabwe a goal like having enough money for retirement is very difficult to quantify for a 30-year-old who is at least 35 years from retirement age. What will the cost of living be in 35 years? With your long term goals, you may have to allow for flexibility as things can change over the years.

Habit goals

Habit goals are goals concerned with developing a habit or quality in yourself that you intend to continue practising. These goals do not have a defined end. They do take on the shape of stepping stone goals at times. Think about a person who wants to lose 5kg. While losing 5kg is a short term defined goal, the habit of exercising 3 times a week for 30 minutes would be the stepping stone goal. Our stepping stone goal here is also a habit goal. You have to treat these differently because they do not have a defined end in themself. In our example, the exercise habit goal may be discarded after losing the target 5kg or it may continue. Either way, the decision to continue has nothing to do with the goal. Habit goals are the goals we can achieve but never complete. When dealing with these types of goals my top tips are firstly remember that you’re building a habit and secondly don’t skip 2 incidences. The real goal here is to become consistent with what you’re doing.


Finally, lifetime goals can take on all the elements of the aforementioned types of goals but have one distinguishing feature. These are goals that are not bound by time, what is important is that at some point in your life you want to achieve them. Usually, we will have long term goals which become short term goals that are supported by habit or stepping stone goals. Lifetime goals do not obey these rules of time.

Knowing what kind of goal you’re dealing with will help set you in the right direction.  Goal setting and achievement is at the very centre of life and something we must all strive to get better at. If you have any goal setting and achievement questions I would love to see them in the comments section and to address them.