Why Everyone Needs A Five-Year Plan and How to Set Up Yours
Because “que será, será” doesn’t always work out for the best
“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
When asked this question, people often find themselves scrambling, coming up with an answer right on the spot. Do they mention moving up the ranks at work? Does this vision include independent living or investing in a new home? Is there a vision, even? There most likely is one, of course, but perhaps not a clear one. And this uncertainty about what to say and where to start is what separates those who take life one day at a time, one goal then another, from those with a laser-precise focus on their personal growth.
This is not to say that it’s wrong to take things slow or that goal setting isn’t enough. The idea is that the good you have can be made better: distractions swept to the side, a chance to dig deep, to pinpoint what’s important to your purpose and scrap all else that isn’t. More importantly, this is an opportunity to hold yourself accountable for your goals.
Why are you here? What do you stand for? Where are you going next and how are you getting there? Are there timestamps on the stops you intend to make en route to your final destination? The last one is a crucial question.
This is where the five-year plan comes in. It’s the eyes-on-the-prize game plan that ties the five previously asked questions together, wraps them into a neat, easy-to-understand overview that won’t make the next five years look like a mysterious void, or worse, like the exact same routine you’ve already been shackled to for the last five years.
The five-year plan goes beyond daily to-do lists and calendar events that achieve the short-term. For one, five years is a timespan long enough to reflect effective, but realistic change within yourself and, on the outside, considerable growth in your work and personal life. Is it possible to save impressive sums of money in this timeframe? It is. Is it possible to undergo a fitness transformation at a healthy pace here, too? It is. So give yourself room to shoot for the moon a little, but see to it that day in and day out, step by step, years one through five, you commit to your goals. Your personal five-year plan awaits to help make that happen. Here’s how you can get started on setting yours up:
#1: Be clear about the principles you align yourself with. Write them down.
These principles are the unshakeable, non-negotiable things at your core. They are essential to your purpose. No matter what life throws your way in the five years, should you have to reroute to Plan B, C, D or even E along the way, your principles should remain. They’re the compass with which you navigate your every day. A compass that constantly points you in different directions won’t get you far.
#2: Brainstorm to find your Ikigai.
Ikigai, which means a reason for being in Japanese, is a concept tied to a fully-realized purpose and ultimately, the true definition of happiness. What do you get up in the morning for? To unpack this loaded question, hold a little one-man workshop and start jotting down the things that fall under the four major circles in the Ikigai diagram below.
What do you love doing? What does the world need? What can you do that you can be paid for? What do you do well? These intersecting circles ultimately tell you what you have figured out and what the missing puzzle pieces in your life are. Take this deep-dive kind of exercise to get to know yourself, so you can know what worthwhile things you need to focus on or add to your cup in the five years to come. If your answer to “where do you see yourself in five years” now suddenly becomes “to find your ikigai,” you’re already off to a great start.
#3: Identify your roles and then list your goals for each one.
We all wear many hats. Someone, for example, can be a manager, sister, friend, martial arts enthusiast and aspiring graphic artist all at once. That’s what this step clears up: it lets you dissect the “who” you identify with before exploring the “what’s next.” Ultimately, each role should have a place in the five-year plan.
Listing down roles first allows you to see which ones you’ve been investing in the most. Have you been all work and no play? Have you been neglecting your relationship (romantic or otherwise)? Let’s never forget, too, your relationship with yourself. What do you want to achieve to better what is undoubtedly the most important relationship you have? What skill have you always wanted to sharpen? Get everything in writing.
#4: Chop up the goals into smaller markers for growth that you can put timestamps on.
A goal to commit to fitness is vague, but a decision to go boxing twice a week, meet with a gym trainer once a week and cut out sugar from your diet makes this tangible, achievable and measurable. How long will you be doing this for? Will you be mixing up your workouts after a certain month? This is the part where you can whip out your calendar and start plotting dates relevant to your goals.
Goals may be general, but the tasks that let you achieve them have to be specific and time-bound.
Because personal development requires a strategy and purpose that can be made attainable with a timetable. So have you gotten to work on a personal five-year plan yet?