Creating a five-year plan can seem like a daunting task when most of us don't even know what we'll be doing next week. It's easy to get caught up in the short term with tasks that have a much faster payoff, rather than dedicate ourselves to achieving things in the distant future.
However, if you reframe your thinking, five years provides a significant amount of time to achieve some substantial life milestones whether it be personal, financial or professional.
As challenging as long-term goal setting can be, a five-year plan will be your best friend if you let it.
Here are some steps to help you get there.
Step 1: Work out what you want
The first and possibly most important step in creating a five-year plan is to work out your goals and fully commit to them. To work out what you want, you need to know what matters most to you, so set aside an hour or so to ask yourself some hard questions and think about what your ideal future would look like five years from now.
Maybe you want to land your dream job, or perhaps you want to start a family, or get healthy enough to do something that currently seems impossible, like climb a mountain. Everyone has unique aspirations and desires for their path in life, and while circumstances won't always be ideal and setbacks are natural, having an end goal to work towards can ensure you don't stray too far off the path from what it is you truly want.
While setting goals, try working to the SMART framework - that is, setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Setting your goals this way brings structure and purpose to your desired outcomes and means you have a clearer vision of what success will look like. For example, it's much more realistic to say you would like to save $3,000 to pay for your holiday before the end of the year than it is to say that you would like to "go on holiday soon".
Step 2: Work out how to get there
Make your #onechange
Put aside one hour this weekend to set out at least one long-term SMART goal.
Five years is a long time, and success isn't black and white, so the next step is to set some milestones on the journey to your overall goal. Not only does this give you a verifiable trajectory to help catapault you towards your objective, it also provides checkpoints so you can celebrate the small wins along the way.
For example, if you want to advance your career, you can look at the skills needed to step up to the next level and develop these in both formal and non-formal settings. If your dream job requires you to be a good presenter, schedule in some situations where you can work on this skill, like smaller internal presentations or leading team meetings.
Or, if your goal is to complete a challenging, multi-day hike, you can set smaller goals like increasing your daily step count and scheduling longer weekend hikes every few months.
Step 3: Share your goals
A great way to really commit to something is to tell someone else.
We can't always keep ourselves on track, but by sharing personal plans or goals with a trusted friend or family member you'll feel more responsible for the future success of those plans. It also helps to have someone hold you accountable.
Finding a mentor who you look up to and who has the knowledge to point you in the right direction can also be helpful. Try reaching out to someone who is further along on the journey than you are. For example, if your plan involves starting a family, try connecting with someone who has recently become a parent so they can support you along the way.
If your five-year plan is personal and you'd rather not share it, write it down and keep it somewhere safe, like inside your wallet. This way you can revisit it often to stay motivated.