3 Proven Ways to Set 20 Year Goals


Short-term goals: They stack up over time

Medium-term goals: They give you something to reach for

Long-term goals: They set the direction of your life


When was the last time you thought about your future? Not like what you’re doing today or what’s going on next week. I’m talking about the distant future.

How do you see yourself? Are you the same person as today? Is it a completely different you?

Everyone has the power to become who they want to be. And it starts with knowing where you want to go. That is the power of setting goals for the long term. Then working backwards to today to achieve them.


Begin with the End in Mind

This perspective is also referred to as beginning with the end in mind. The idea is simple. If you were to run a race, your preparation should begin at the finish line. That is the result you want to achieve. In order to achieve it, you must work backwards from there, creating the plans necessary to achieve your intended target. This perspective can seem daunting but it is actually freeing and it is the perspective you need to set 20 year goals.


A Long-Term Vision Creates a Holistic Approach to Goal Setting

Not only will you be required to accomplish certain steps to reach your 20 year goals, but you will also invariably be required to become a different person. For the result to match the vision, the person you are will have to match the ideal you have for yourself. This puts a focus on more than just the tasks you need to accomplish, but also on who you are and who you have to become to get there.

An example of this comes in the form of physical and mental health. The majority of successful people have some sort of exercise and health routine. In the short-term, it can seem painful and sore to wake up early to workout, a chore to eat well and a waste of time to meditate. However, these small actions compound in the long-run to allow you to have the energy and the longevity to accomplish your long-term goals. Long-term planning is, therefore, a perspective shifter.


A Long-Term Vision Removes Fear from Goal Setting

Some opinions say that lofty and ambitious goals might scare people from taking action because they are so large and difficult to attain. I would definitely agree with them there. Without a concrete plan and something tangible, none of your wildest dreams will ever get off the ground because they will seem so unattainable.

But if we were to stop there, people would do only as they have always done. Instead, I believe that a long-term plan can actually bring a sense of hope, purpose, and passion. Setting goals with longer time frames will actually remove the limitations we have in the short term, such as doubts and fears. The future is always brighter. Long-term goal setting takes advantage of this.


A Long-Term Vision Allows you to Pivot

The fundamentals of goal setting are to create a plan and stick with it until its achievement. But setting goals can become intimidating when you are not achieving the goal. I think an often overlooked part of goal setting is the humility to try reaching a goal in a different way than was originally intended and having the patience to pivot.

Often times, people quit after their first failures. Referencing my post on perfectionism, a failure to you may not even be a complete failure – it may just be the failure to reach the lofty standards you have for yourself. Regardless, people are getting stuck because they are not seeing results early.

By focussing on an ideal, there is more room to make mistakes, pivot and change plans. If your main plan isn’t working, there’s more room to navigate it and adjust. This way, even 1 month of failure towards your goal can be easily harnessed and redirected in a better-suited direction.

Plus, you have way more time this way. It takes the pressure off when you know that there is still time, even if the plan didn’t go as originally intended.

20 year goals


How to Create your Long-Term Vision

It is now time to realize your full potential.

To become the ideal person you envision yourself being in the future.

To live a life completely designed by you.

It is very attainable to do this – starting today with practical steps. I provide the following exercises below that you can use to put these ideas into perspective. Use these as signposts  – the ultimate idea being to start from the end and creating long-term plans.


Blue Sky Thinking

I believe desire is such an important character trait to have. However, you can have all the desire in the world, but if you don’t have a plan for how to get there, you will get lost.

Imagine a perfectly blue sky. Let’s use this as a metaphor for your mind. When you idealize your perfect future, you are taking your imaginations to a blue sky where there are no limitations, There are also no compromises or excuses that you have in the now.

A life without boundaries means you are the one making the decisions and calling the shots. It’s not all going to be peaches and rainbows, but regardless of the outcome, you know you are still in charge of your emotional and mental state. Also, no failures are big enough to knock you down because every step of life is a learning experience and a chance to grow.

With this in mind, idealize your life in a blue sky future and you will be filled with the understanding of the things you want to accomplish and the person you want to be. This comes without the doubts of actually achieving them or any limits that you place on yourself today. When you come from this frame, a 20 year goal opens up the door to possibilities that your limits once locked you out from.

Personal Mission Statement

20 year goals and a long-term vision are ways to focus on the things that matter to you most. Not what’s trending. Not what you feel like you should do today. But instead, what matters to you most and what aligns most deeply with your values.

A mission statement can give you this clarity.

This is what Stephen Covey has to say about Mission Statements:

“A mission statement is not something you write overnight but fundamentally, your mission statement becomes your constitution, the solid expression of your vision and values. It becomes the criterion by which you measure everything else in your life.”

Mission Statements are not one and done. They are adaptive. As a millennial today, my beliefs focus on using my time effectively to build the foundations for my future. In 15 years, however, I will hopefully have that successful foundation in place, and my beliefs about how I value my time will be updated. For every season of life, you will have different goals, commitments, and beliefs.

That is why a long-term vision is essential. A 20 year plan can, therefore, help you understand those seasons. You will then hopefully be able to navigate around those difficulties, such as debt or regret, because you already have a plan in place to prevent them.

One of the most tried and tested personal development books of our time has to be ‘Think and Grow Rich’. I recommend visiting Chapter 2 for an outline on creating a definite purpose/mission statement for your life. There are 6 steps to this method.

20 year goals


Backward Resume Approach

The purpose of a typical resume is to provide a snapshot of the accomplishments of your career up until today. What if instead of a list of current accomplishments, you were to outline the accomplishments you desire to achieve in the future? What a ‘backwards resume’ is designed to do is allow you to idealize what you would accomplish in the future. Let’s call it 20 years.

If you were to accomplish A, B and C in 20 years, what would need to be true today, as well as in 5, 10 and 15 years, for those goals to become a reality?

I mention 5, 10, and 15 years because those are the steps needed to realize your long-term vision. This is a concept called ‘small-chunking’ that is equally essential to long-term planning because this is the work that is required, and the action that it takes to fulfill any future plan. There is value in looking at your situation from a top-down perspective, as well as a ground-up perspective.


Call to Action

I believe the idea of long-term thinking is summarized perfectly by the author of ‘Think and Grow Rich’, Napoleon Hill:

“Successful people move on their own initiative, but they know where they are going before they start.”

Setting your 20 year goals will go a long way in helping you to understand who you are and what you want. Furthermore, it can help you stay patient by focusing on the big picture. With this approach, adjustments to your plans will seem like opportunities for improvement rather than failures. Finally, a long-term vision can help you overcome the ‘analysis by paralysis’ by approaching your goals holistically.

Some practical advice for setting your long-term goals include Blue Sky Thinking, writing yourself a personal Mission Statement, and the Backward Resume approach.

Where do you want to be in 20 years?