In his book the 4-hour Work Week Tim Ferriss recommends that you should only have short-term goals. Apparently he never sets himself goals that take more than three months to reach. The reasoning is that this way you’re really going to work towards the goals and not just waste time sitting on your backside.
There might be some truth to that. I’m one of those people who work best when the deadlines are tight. When I was a kid, my usual method of study for an exam was by doing nothing for a week and then studying for hours the previous night. I never flunked a test, so that strategy worked well enough then.
It’s a growing trend that people are not willing to work for years to reach their goals. Everything should happen immediately, or at least a.s.a.p. People forget that some things quite simply take time, and it is so much better to arrive somewhere in five or ten years than not to arrive at all.
Tim Ferriss might be the sort of person who can start a career out of nothing and work up to a six-figure income within a few months. I believe he could do it. He doesn’t seem to have any ability to doubt himself, or if he has, he’s become very good at ignoring it. I believe it is possible to reach incredible goals in a short time if you have constant, unwavering faith in yourself and if you work extremely hard.
But most people are not like Tim Ferriss. Most people have days, or weeks, or months, when they are plagued by tiredness, uncertainty, or even anxiety or depression. Most people have families and hobbies that they don’t want to sacrifice. So this short-term approach doesn’t wash it with people who have other commitments than their careers. Neither does it work with people who have psychological issues that hold them back. Some people need more time to achieve their goals than others, and there is nothing wrong with that. Just because you can’t achieve everything immediately, doesn’t mean you never will.
The way I see it, you need both long and short-term goals. You need long-term goals because you’re (probably) not as manic and driven as Tim Ferriss. (And whatever he’s taken, he’s not divulging the formula.) Long-term goals will keep the dream alive when life throws you around.
You need short-term goals because otherwise you’re just going to sit on your backside and do nothing, just like Tim said. You need little steps that will take you a long way before you even notice. And you shouldn’t feel bad that the steps you take may not always be massive strides forward. The smallest nudges in the right direction are important. Sometimes even moving backwards is necessary to move forwards again.
As long as you keep moving, you’ll get there in the end. But I’m sorry, Tim, for most people it’s going to take somewhat longer than three months.