Are Longterm Goals Getting in the Way of Your Life?

You know that question you get during job interviews or performance reviews: “What are some of your longterm goals?” or “Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?” Personally, I’ve always had trouble answering that question, but I’ve always at least had a vague idea of where I saw myself at 30.

I don’t know why, but to me 30 has always been the age that I’ve pictured having everything pretty much figured out in my life. I’d be a homeowner, I’d be married, and I’d be on the right career path in a managerial position.

The thing is, it’s great having longterm goals, but lately I’ve been thinking that they can sometimes do more harm than good. For instance, why am I so fixated on becoming a manager by 30? Well, besides seeing myself in a leadership role eventually, the main reason is I want to be as far away from an entry-level position as possible.

I’ve been in assistant and coordinator jobs for over 4 years now and although I’ve enjoyed lots of these roles, I know I’m just too driven (and possibly impatient) to be in those same types of roles for another 3 years. To me, becoming a manager was the next step up, but lately I’ve been questioning my logic.

For instance, now that I’m studying digital marketing, I’m finding out about all types of new roles that are mid-level but not manager positions. I could become a digital strategist or a social media specialist, but since I’ve had it in my head that I should reach a manager’s position by 30, I’m almost too afraid to deter from that path. I hate not achieving goals, but I think I need to learn to let some go in order to make ones that better suit the future I want and my overall happiness.

Thinking further on that idea, longterm goals, especially when talking about finances and saving for retirement, are definitely better than no goals at all. But there’s something to be said for taking life by the reigns, saying YOLO in a completely non-sarcastic tone, and doing something spontaneous.

That’s what my HB and I did a year ago when we decided to go to Thailand for a month, then move to Toronto after we got married a few months later. Those were two of the best decisions we’ve made together, but I’m afraid we wouldn’t have done either of them if we were too focused on some of our longterm goals of saving up for a downpayment or getting that promotion at work.

What do you think? Have you ever experienced missing out on opportunities or having regrets because you were too focused on your longterm goals?

By signing up you are giving your consent to receive email communications from Jessica Moorhouse. Powered by ConvertKit

You May Also Like...

Showing 29 comments
  • Alicia @ Financial Diffraction
    Reply

    This is something I am currently struggling with.. I am new to my career, but started in the middle (missed the entry-level position because if my education). I have a game plan for the next five years, and I definitely think I can get where I want to go, but at the same time I want to take the opportunities that present themselves. That is how my forward motion has worked until now – say yes to opportunities that come my way. So I’m working hard, and padding my resume with lots of great things that isn’t required,… but I feel like it is getting in the way of enjoying a lot of the day to day stuff.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      It’s so hard to find a balance. It’s good to have goals to get focused but sometimes (and most times really) things never happen how we plan them so we need to be flexible too.

  • Rob
    Reply

    I can only relate, based on personal past experience, have worked for 45 years before I retired. Being in management (of which I was for a few years) takes a special breed of person, one who is prepared to work hard for long hours, one who grasps concepts quickly, is well organized, who works well with others and can motivate others to work well for you, one who is able to handle a fair level of stress as well as office politics, one who has a lot of stamina and has ambition and drive. I was that type of person and, due to my work ethics and skills, was promoted into management early in my career. For a few years I enjoyed that lifestyle and the monetary perks that went with it but later on, grew tired of the “office drama scene”, switched employers and decided that I would more enjoy working as a senior consultant, still employing my skills but not having to rely on others as much nor have to deal with the stress that managers must routinely face. It is a personal thing. One must clearly know one’s limitations when one sets out to achieve their long term goals. For further information, google “The Peter Principle”. Here is one link that basically explains things pretty well – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Principle

    So, in summing up, I don’t believe that I lost out on any “opportunities”. I tried out the management game, enjoyed it for awhile, but then growing tired of it I made a course correction in my career and continued on after that in doing what I really loved to do for a living, while still maintaining an optimum balance in my work / personal life. As I said, everyone’s life is unique. Our daughter has been a senior management professional for years now and thrives on it while our son enjoys being a senior computer techie consultant. Both are happy and are successful.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      Thanks for the great comment Rob! I’ll definitely check out that Peter Principle, this is the first I’ve ever heard of it.

  • Melanie@Dear Debt
    Reply

    I feel like I was on a certain path of success, then life threw me a curveball. Now I’m in a different field, in a lower position than I previously had. It sometimes feels bad to be in a lower position now that I am closer to the 30, than I was at 25, but i can’t say worse. I was also a lot more stressed out and was never “off”. I think you should have goals in mind, but also be flexible as things might come your way, just not the way you thought.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      Totally agree. What I’ve found is when I’m too focused on a goal, it just gets me stressed or down. What I should really be doing is constantly re-evaluating what I want and molding my goals to fit that better.

  • Leslie Beslie
    Reply

    Live goes on and things change. It’s good to have a path and a focus but you need to stay flexible! Re-asses your plan every year. Instead of new resolutions, look over your 5-year goals and see if that still applies to your life. Is that still what you want? Just because it was a goal three years ago doesn’t mean it’s something you still value. You live and learn. You learn about new opportunities and can change your goals appropriately.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      So true. My values have definitely changed, especially since we’ve moved to Toronto. I think I might still have some old goal lists laying around somewhere, I should take a look and where I am now compared to 5 years ago.

  • NZ Muse
    Reply

    Definitely not. I’m very much go with the flow – I think A LOT about my career path but am aware it’s a rapidly changing industry and long term plans are not really the way to go.

    Funny – my boss was just asking me about where I want to be in five years. I honestly don’t know. I don’t think that impressed him, but it’s just the reality of modern media.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      I think it should be ok to not know! I could have never guessed I’d be where I am 5 years ago but at the end of the day, I’m fine with that.

  • Anneli @thefrugalweds
    Reply

    Very interesting question!
    I have to say that I’m more of a long-term thinker. That being said, I think I’ve learned along the way that I should be open to roll with the punches.

    Especially in my career, change has been good. Sometimes opportunities have come my way when I didn’t think I was ready for it, but I just needed to really challenge myself so that I can grow to my potential.
    Sometimes I’m also guilty of putting blinders on because I know that there’s a long-term goal in my path but my husband is actually very good at helping me to stop and smell the roses sometimes. The journey you take isn’t always in a straight path. It’s great to also take a deep breathe and trust the path uncharted 🙂
    Thanks for the food for thought!

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      So similar to me! I definitely have blinders on a lot of the time, but my HB is always there to take them off so I can chill a bit and live in the moment more.

  • Meghan
    Reply

    My goal from 15-on was to make a six figures by 30. I missed it but only by one year and two months. I think that long-term goals are good! I hate that I didn’t hit my target but the motivation was already there so finishing the race was easy.

    I had a 4 bedroom house but now I live in a moldy apartment. I moved for work. My next task is to move to an apartment that isn’t going to make me sick. I am not in a relationship either and I am not in the best shape of my life. Nor am I hitting my goal of fulling funding my retirement account. I’m dependent on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program for student loans because even with my income, paying my loans off within 10 years would take almost an entire check. I can’t do that. I went for a cheap $1585 a month apartment in the DC area and got mice and mold. I’d have to pay more than that to take care of the student loans before they’re forgiven. My POINT is, I may make the big bucks but success is not linear and it is not always across all areas of life. If you set a goal, just set one and give yourself a little slack. And realize that life won’t be perfect, even if you do hit your target!

    Great post!

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      Great comment! You’re apartment sounds like mine. I’m so sure we have mold in our walls, which may explain how I’ve been sick 4 times in less than a year!

  • Reply

    I wrote a post on why I don’t set long term goals. Life changes so quickly. I mean I had goals for this year and they have already drastically changed! I think I do better when I focus on the present, but with good decisions in mind so I can keep my future (retirement) on my radar.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      I think that’s a really smart way to live. It’s crazy to see how fast things can change, and if you’re still focusing on your old goals, it might hurt you more than help you.

  • Kathy
    Reply

    My husband and I agreed on 3 long term goals, namely, son’s college fully funded, pay off mortgage early, and retire at his age 55. We plowed huge amounts of money toward these goals and yes, it did impact other aspects of our life. Vacations were rare as was eating out, new furniture, etc. And it made it very difficult to deal with an unexpected expense because we were devoting such a huge amount of our income into places we couldn’t get it back out of easily. (No emergency fund back then). In looking back, however, I don’t regret it, but at the time I would have rested easier if our cash flow had been eased just a bit.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      Those are really great longterm goals, and I know once me and my HB have kids we’ll be changing ours similar to yours too. Thanks for the comment!

  • Reply

    I had similar long term goals for my career and while I reached them much faster than I thought I would, it turned out I didn’t feel the satisfaction I thought I would. Life changes so quickly that what I wanted 5 years ago and even last year is different from what I want today.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      Totally! 5 years ago I wanted to be a filmmaker, and now I want to be a digital marketer. A lot can change.

  • Cait Flanders
    Reply

    I honestly don’t know that I have many long-term goals… there are things I’d love to do, but none that I’m necessarily focused on. I want to be able to move, if I ever need to, know what I mean? Kidding. Kinda 😉

  • Taylor
    Reply

    Great piece! I’m in relatively the same position as you except backwards. I started out in management right out of college and my plan was to climb the upper management ladder. I realized it just wasn’t for me really quickly. I had a pretty tough quarter-life crisis after that.

    You’re right about YOLO, you have to do what works for you. There are plenty of positions that pay well in your field without the title. Our society is so STUCK on titles these days it’s crazy.

    It seems like you’re already a champ at adapting though. Thailand? JEALOUS!

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      It’s so true, and I don’t know why a lot of people (like me) get stuck on titles. Most of the time the title doesn’t accurately reflect the work you do anyways.

  • Martha Gonzales
    Reply

    I more or less agree with you Jessica as I had same sorts of problems too. But lately I have sorted out. The best thing I learned in my life is to Let Something Go to find another meaning of Life. Believe Me!
    Earlier I made plans like – I have to achieve ‘This’ within this ‘Year’. In fact, I was adamant of achieving that thing. When I didn’t achieve the set goal, I used to become a sort of wreck. That’s when I decided to take things in stride. I told myself even if I don’t get something, that’s fine. That’s part of life. Even if that was too dear, let it go. That’s when I started doing work without thinking about the fruit of success. When I just started doing it as I had to do it, I found out that I was happy even if I don’t get the desired result.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      That’s a great attitude. I never really thought of letting anything go to let something else in. Great idea!

      • Martha Gonzales
        Reply

        That’s so nice of you. I appreciate that you liked my way of looking at things. Yes, this really helped me in my real life. 🙂

  • MightyTravels
    Reply

    Very good contrarian view! I believe too many goals will make you loose the flexibility you need to get ahead! Great summary of your trip! Great inspiration!

    Just followed you on Twitter as well – Looking forward to connect! Torsten

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Start typing and press Enter to search

Share4
Tweet
Pin
Share
Email
4 Shares