If you look back to five years ago and what you wanted to achieve, are you where you wanted to be? Do you know what you’d like to accomplish in the next five years?
Most of us have goals we want to achieve, but doing so can be tricky without a plan. While it can feel daunting to plan too far into the future (if the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that life is unpredictable!), breaking down long-term goals into manageable steps can help you stay on track.
So, if you’d like to turn your dreams into reality, you might want to think about making a five-year plan. After all, as the saying goes: a goal without a plan is just a wish!
What is a five-year plan?
So what actually is a five-year plan? It’s exactly what it sounds like: a plan for everything you want to achieve in the next five years, both professionally and personally.
Rather than simply outlining what you want your life to look like in five years, the plan breaks down larger, long-term goals into short-term steps that keep you inspired and move you in the right direction. The plan also acts as a timeline, setting benchmarks for your goals to keep you on track.
A five-year plan is structured but not rigid, and depending on the way life goes, it allows you to make changes and course corrections while still keeping the long-term goalposts in sight. A timeline that’s long enough for major changes to happen and short enough to imagine holds real strategic value.
The trick is to break your long-term life objectives into smaller, actionable goals. So, for example, if a long-term objective is to buy a house, a smaller goal could be to save a certain amount of money each month.
The benefits of a five-year plan
There are a lot of powerful benefits to creating a five-year plan. The main, obvious benefit is that it helps you achieve your goals rather than just dreaming about them – but there are other ways it can have a profound impact on your whole life.
It can help you think about your values
In our busy world, it’s easy for life to rush past us, or to feel you don’t have the time to really think about the direction your life is going in.
However, creating a five-year plan forces you to examine your life and think about what’s most important to you – and then, following that plan allows you to align your life with your values.
When your life is out of sync with your values it can feel unfulfilling and draining – and feeling as though your dreams and opportunities are slipping can be disappointing. But when you take time to think about your values, who you are and what you want – and then create a path to achieving it, life can feel more rewarding.
It can clarify your goals
Knowing what your values are and what you want out of life is one thing, but to actually achieve your objectives, you need to set goals.
You might know that you’ve always dreamed of writing a book, for example – though if you only have a vague picture of what that book is, it’ll be difficult to follow through.
Making a five-year plan creates a starting point for your goals, and helps you figure out the steps you need to take to achieve them. Once you clarify your goals, they’ll feel more real and actionable.
It can remind you of what you’re working towards
As we deal with the daily grind of life, it’s easy to lose focus or feel unmotivated. Life is full of peaks and troughs, and sometimes it’s all we can do to get through the day. But having a five-year plan is a constant reminder of what you’re working towards and what you need to do to achieve it.
Having a plan of action allows you to focus on your priorities and say no to the things that don’t help or advance you in any way. It works as a powerful motivator, and even on days when you feel de-energised or uninspired, having a roadmap for the next five years can keep the fire burning.
It can show you where changes might need to be made
Once you’ve got a five-year plan drawn up, it won’t only help you keep track of whether you’re on course, but it can also show you where you might need to make changes to your life.
Achieving some goals might require further education, taking a course at home, or changing your own thoughts and behaviour – and if that’s the case, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, or like you won’t be able to achieve it all.
But having a plan will show you what needs to be done and when. It can influence your decision-making in a positive way and give you a sense of control over your life.
What should your five-year plan focus on?
If you’re interested in drawing up your own five-year plan, you might be wondering what to focus on. That will depend entirely on you and what you want from life.
A five-year plan can be used in all areas of life – from careers and finances to relationships and health – and while they’re mostly used for career advancement, they’re excellent ways to improve every area of your life.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways a five-year plan can have different categories…
Career and business
For this part of your five-year plan, you should think about your career goals. You might have already retired, but that doesn’t mean you should necessarily skip this part. You might still have business or other career-related aspirations that don’t come with the same commitments as full-time work.
Perhaps you’ve always wanted to run your own business or start a blog. You might have always wanted to travel and become a digital nomad. You might love baking and want to sell your products online. Think about what interests you and what type of impact you want to make.
While business and finances are often linked, your money goals may not be directly related to your professional life. You might be interested in paying off debt, saving for a nicer home, or putting money aside for a big trip.
Since money is material, this part of your five-year plan is more about willpower and sticking to your objectives rather than anything more introspective. Think about what your financial goals are and calculate how you can achieve them.
Love and relationships
Because relationships involve more than one person, it can be tricky to make concrete goals and plan them out. But drawing up a five-year plan can help you figure out what you actually want from your relationships, and how you’d like them to look.
If you’re single and would like to meet someone, you might not be able to guarantee you’ll be in a committed relationship in five years. However, you can make sure you’re doing everything you can to make that happen – whether that’s trying online dating or taking steps to move past previous relationships.
If you’re already in a partnership, you can think about what you’d like your relationship to look like in five years. Perhaps you’d like to travel more together or to learn a new skill together, like dance or a foreign language. You might just want to spend more quality time with one another. Think about what you’d like to achieve as a couple.
Of course, relationships aren’t only romantic, and this section of your five-year plan can also focus on friendships and familial relationships. If you’re lonely and would like to make more friends, try to think of different ways you can meet more like-minded people.
As we get older, taking care of our health becomes increasingly more important – and your five-year plan is a great way to work towards improving your health and fitness. Whether you’ve recently had a sobering doctor’s checkup or you have a specific goal you want to work towards, think about how you’d like to look and feel in five years’ time.
If you want to lose weight, think about how you’ll track your weight loss and which foods you’re going to prioritise eating more of. Perhaps you’d like to take up running or pilates – how will you begin? Maybe you’re interested in going vegan or vegetarian – where do you start?
Remember to think about mental health as well as physical and nutritional. If you’re struggling with your mental health, think about whether you’d like to have regular therapy, or try beneficial practices like mindfulness and yoga.
This part of your five-year plan can also focus on the spiritual side of mental health, too. You might be struggling to find purpose and meaning in your life. Or, maybe you feel as though you don’t have a sense of belonging.
It might require a bit of soul searching, but taking time to really think about how you’d like to feel in five years can be extremely rewarding in the long-term.
The final main category of a five-year plan is personal development. Think about the ways in which you’d like to grow and evolve as a person.
Perhaps you’d like to learn a language or another new skill. You might want to take your first solo trip abroad or become a more confident public speaker. Maybe you want to start volunteering? You might just want to inject more fun into your life and find enjoyable new hobbies!
While some things in the personal development section might seem frivolous, especially if they’re based on doing things for fun, these goals are still important. Having fun and being able to relax is essential for feeling happy, achieving balance, and staying healthy.
How to create a five-year plan
So, now we know the benefits of a five-year plan and how it can be applied to pretty much all areas of life, how do we go about drawing one up?
1. Identify the focus of your plan
The first step to creating your five-year plan is to identify its focus. You might decide to focus on just one or two areas, like finances and personal development, or you might want to make a holistic five-year plan that covers all areas of your life.
If you focus on several different areas, it’s best to treat each topic as a separate project. That way it’ll be much easier to structure your plan and plot out the steps necessary to achieve your goals.
2. Be specific about your goals
Once you’ve decided what you’re going to focus on, the next step is to clearly define what you want to achieve. It’s important to be as specific here as possible. In order to set achievable, tangible goals, you need to be clear about exactly what you want to accomplish.
So, if you’re focused on personal development, rather than writing ‘become a better person’, write what that actually looks like to you – whether it’s learning a new skill, meditating more, or becoming more patient with people.
If you’re focusing on your health, instead of just writing ‘get healthy’, focus on the ways you want to do that – whether it’s being more active, losing weight, or eating a cleaner, more nutritious diet (or all three). That way you’re able to set a clear roadmap of precisely how you’re going to achieve all your goals over the next five years.
It’s a good idea to ensure your goals are SMART goals. SMART goals are objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Having SMART goals means they’re not only easier to achieve, but it’s also easier to track your progress.
3. Research your goals
The next stage is researching your long-term goals and understanding how you can actually accomplish them. You’ll need to research how long it usually takes people to achieve this goal, how much money you’ll need, and what skills you should have.
If your long-term plan is to move to South America and start teaching English as a foreign language, for example, you’ll need to look into how long it takes to take a TEFL course, study for exams, and establish yourself as a language teacher.
You’ll also need to look into which South American country you want to move to, what the cost of living is there, how much money you’ll need to find accommodation and set yourself up, and how easy it is to find students.
The more you research your goals, the more you’ll understand precisely what you need to do to achieve them.
4. Break down long-term goals
Now you have a clear idea of your long-term goals, it’s time to break them down into smaller annual milestones – and once you have your annual milestones, you can then break those down into actionable monthly steps.
So, if your five-year plan is to write and publish a novel that’s set during the American Civil War, for example, your first annual milestone could be to complete all your research. Once you have that annual milestone, you can break it down into monthly goals. For example: month one, research how the conflict unfolded; month two, research what it was like for the soldiers; month three, research how civilians lived at that time, etc.
You don’t have to break down your annual milestones into monthly goals if that doesn’t work for you; you can also do quarterly goals, bimonthly goals, or even weekly goals. The important thing is you’re creating actionable goals that have a realistic timeline.
5. Adjust and revise as needed
Now it’s time to start tackling your goals! It’s important to bear in mind that life is full of surprises, and you should be prepared for change. The job market might change dramatically. You might discover a new passion. You may find that you hit your short-term goals faster than you thought.
It’s a good idea to revisit your five-year plan periodically to think about whether your long-term goals are still achievable, to reflect on your progress, and to take into account any new information.
If necessary, you can adjust and revise your plan to take these new observations into account. This isn’t a sign of failure, it’s a sign that you’re holding yourself accountable and being realistic about achieving these goals.
It’s important to give yourself a visual reminder of the fact that you’re getting closer to your goals, so each time you accomplish something, cross it out. It can also help to keep your five-year plan somewhere you can see it; that way, you’ll see yourself inching ever closer to your goals.
Creating a five-year plan is one of the best ways to turn your dreams into reality. Sometimes it can feel like we’re so far away from our goals that it’s impossible to imagine achieving them – but breaking these big life objectives into bitesize goals makes it seem far less overwhelming.
Once you know precisely what you want to do and what it takes to accomplish it, you can create a roadmap with concrete steps for actually getting there. Then, not only will you have a much better chance of success, but you’ll also know you’re making the most out of your life and will be able to track your progress and development as you go.
For more ideas and inspiration, why not check out our articles; How to create an inspiring vision board and Self-development – 10 skills that can improve your life?