Sometimes achieving your goals can seem like a lovely daydream – but nothing more than that. This is where a five-year plan succeeds. By creating a five-year plan, you can transform your daydreams into something practical and achievable.
A path can often feel scarier than it is because we don’t know what it looks like. A five-year plan is a great way to understand the path before you begin your journey – making your ability to reach your hoped-for destination much more likely.
Five-year plans go beyond the notion of “new year’s resolutions” to create a much more concrete vision of what you want to achieve in your life – and how you are going to achieve it.
They enable you to organize your future with a set of achievable objectives.
A five-year plan should, ideally, cover all aspects of your life. Just as you live your life holistically, so should your plan take into account the myriad factors that may help or hinder you in reaching your goals.
Objectives could relate to professional, career, health, fitness, family, relationship, hobby or any other type of goal.
Be honest with yourself about where you would like to be in five years’ time. Try to eliminate other people’s expectations from your considerations and picture yourself at a point in your life which makes you happy.
What does that point look like?
Now, work back: what do you need to achieve to get there?
Once you’ve established your destination, you can begin to plot out the points and way-markers on your journey. Likely, this will require some research. For example, into the professional qualifications or skills required to meet the different elements of your professional dreams.
It might help to plot the different achievements and activities onto a Gantt chart, so that you can see the likely timescales and dependencies clearly. Try to go into as much detail as possible about what’s required to achieve each stage and how long it will take.
Be realistic about what you can achieve. If your dream of becoming a wildlife photographer in Brazil requires you to study Portuguese and photography at night school whilst also holding down a full-time job, how will this affect your family, fitness, or relationship goals?
Having mapped out a broad view of your five-year plan, it’s next important to establish clear milestones by which you can measure your progress. That’s a key part of ensuring your goals are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
As well as defining the process, you will also need to define the success metrics by which each stage will be judged. When doing this, think about how each stage will bring you closer to your ultimate five-year dream.
While measuring your progress is an important motivator as you progress along your five-year plan, do allow yourself the space to be flexible about what you want to achieve.
Life isn’t always linear – and some opportunities might arise that you hadn’t originally allowed for or factored into your plans. Don’t turn your back on a great opportunity just because it isn’t in your plan. Be open to adapt and adjust as opportunities arise.
Similarly, just because you don’t get your promotion within the two years you set yourself, you don’t need to junk your plan altogether. Adapt to thrive.
Remember: it’s up to you to decide what makes you “successful”.