It's no secret that we believe in tracking goals, habits and finances. There's no better way of knowing what works and what doesn't than by keeping track with a resolution chart, app or accountability partner. A five-year plan is the granddaddy of them all and sets you up to reach your important long-term life goals and move towards them with purpose and precision. Sadly, it has gone the way of many great classics — forgotten and dusty in a corner.
But neglecting to make one is neglecting the big picture of your life. If you're great at setting short-term goals and plans, you can make and benefit from a five-year plan.
Why Five Years?
Five years is long, but not too long. It's far enough in the future that you have time to lay down tracks that will take you to significant milestones and achievements, but not so far that you can procrastinate on them. It's easy to get caught up in short-term goals that feel urgent or have a quicker payoff. Taking a long view can be more challenging and also more rewarding. You have to tap into your imagination and be bold enough to envision and commit to the life you want and set out a detailed plan to make that life a reality. This can be challenging, but it's worth it. Without envisioning what you want, you may stumble there inadvertently, but you probably won't.
Commitment is Proportional to Success
Perhaps right now you live in a one-bedroom apartment with three roommates or have been putting in overtime every weekend for the last eight months. You keep telling yourself this is only momentary, but humans tend to dig into the ruts of complacency. It's rare for people to make significant moves to change their lives until things reach a crisis point (a fight with a roommate or a blow up with the boss, for example), if at all.
By creating a five-year plan you dramatically increase your chances of success in reaching your goals and living the life you want. People who write down goals are 33 per cent more likely to achieve them. According to a study by Dave Kohl, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech, people who regularly write down their goals earn nine times as much over their lifetimes as people who don't (not too shabby).
Without purposeful direction we move about aimlessly. By detailing what you want your life to look like in five years, you commit yourself to that vision and create a concrete plan that maps out how you will get there through small actionable steps that build upon each other and take you where you want to go.
The Nitty Gritty and the Transcendent
A five-year plan is a balance of overarching goals and dreams and nitty gritty details. One of your lifetime goals may be to have wealth; your five-year goal is to buy a house. Both are important in developing a plan.
First, think about your life as a whole.
- What do you want it to look like? Think in broad lifetime ideals, such as having wealth, adventure, peace and experiences you don't want to miss in your lifetime, such as owning your own business or having a family.
- How can you live these goals in the next five years? Some examples could be: start a business, travel to three different countries or decrease stress.
- What do you wish was different about your life now?
- What do you want to be different in five years?
- What goals/milestones do you want to reach?
- What experiences do you want to have?
Once you have your overarching idea goals (wealth, adventure, peace) and your concrete five-year goals (start a business, travel to three different countries, decrease stress) break them down further. If you want to visit three different countries in the next five years, what will you need to do to make that happen? Save money, learn a new language, accumulate enough annual leave? Break each of those down even further and set deadlines. Create action items that will help you reach each of these goals. For example:
Overarching Goal: Adventure 5-year Goal: Visit Three Countries What I Need To Make That Happen:
- Money. Estimate how much money you will need, how will you save this amount and by when you will save this amount.
- Knowledge. Research countries you're interested in visiting, sign up for a language course.
- Annual Leave. Research leave policies at work.
Do this for each of the overarching goals that are important to you and their corresponding five-year goals. The more detailed your plan is the more likely you are to see it to completion. Take your five-year goals and break them down into year by year steps and deadlines. Then break year one down into monthly goals starting with the current or next month. If you're having a hard time, mindtools.com can walk you through the process step by step.
Revisit Your Plan Often
The most crucial aspect of using a tool is remembering to use it often. Revisit your five-year plan at regularly scheduled times to see if your plan is working, if your goals have changed and to remind yourself what you're working towards. Five-year plans are not rigid nor as helpful when they are. As you grow and change, your plan will do so as well, while helping you stay focused on your long-term goals. The endgame here is progress and growth. A five-year plan enables you to build the life you really want with aim and focus, while being flexible enough to adapt to who you are growing into along the way.
Liz Rivera is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. Since earning her BA in English from Pacific Union College, she has written and edited for LA Weekly, Creative Screenwriting Magazine, HauteLook, T3, The Beauty Industry Report, Spectrum, The Recorder, Adventist Today and InkTip Magazine. She can be reached at [email protected]