Create the life you dream of - harness a five-year plan
Your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have.
Happiness cannot be planned
You can plan, though, to reduce factors that make you unhappy and enhance/enlarge factors that make you happy
A five-year plan can massively help you to come closer to your dreams
Find out how you want to live in about 20 years
Then, think more concretely & in a time frame of 5 years
Refine your 5-year-plan regularly
Among the things that have had the most significant impact on my life, goal setting is definitely in the top 3.
Even though my mid-/long-term goals are at stake (attending my dream business school & getting my dream entry-level job) and my "five-year plan" may be thwarted (if I fail my next GMAT and the 2nd round interviews), I am still strongly convinced that setting goals, and in particular developing a mid-/long-term plan, is incredibly important so that I can live my life to the fullest.
In today's blog post, I want to explain to you why I think developing a mid-/long-term plan is a massively beneficial investment, how you can get started too, and how you can achieve and should pursue your long-term goals.
Develop a plan for the life you dream of
My overriding decision-making principle is maximizing happiness: Every decision I make has to contribute to my overall happiness. A long-term plan is a great tool to help me to achieve this goal.
Admittedly, happiness cannot be planned. You cannot plan to be happy in three years, that won't work out. You can plan, though, to reduce factors that make you unhappy and enhance/enlarge factors that make you happy. For instance, if you're dissatisfied with your body, you can set the goal to work out and create the body of your dreams. Or if you love traveling, you can set the goal to visit at least two different continents per year.
We all have dreams. Most of us, however, aren't really aware of them, ignore them, or just cannot believe that they could become reality. A five-year plan can massively help you to come closer to your dreams. We highly overestimate what's possible in a few weeks and highly underestimate what's possible in a few years. Don't be that person that doesn't want to believe in himself/herself.
I want to become an entrepreneur, build and grow organizations that are loved by the people who work for them, and contribute to the technological progress of our world. I know that this isn't a very clear goal, and it isn't easy either. Yet, I know how I can get there. Incorporating many little milestones (getting in touch with the right people, obtaining the necessary experience, create a strong network, develop soft-skills, specialize in a particular field, ...) in my five-year plan and working towards them will help me to get closer and closer to my dream.
As a person that strives for happiness, I know that health is an essential prerequisite for it and that it takes a long time until (irreparable) damage to our health looms up. Thus, I also set myself goals that don't seem very important right now but become crucial in the future. For instance, I planned to begin with cardiovascular sports (running) last summer since this will allow me to live in my 70s as someone in his/her 40s/50s.
The final reason why you should set up your medium-/long-term plan is that you're very likely to earn more money in your job, have more intense and happy relationships, and may live a longer and happier life. There's plenty of research on the benefits of goal setting out there.
How can you develop a long-term plan?
First of all, you should find out how you want to live in about 20 years. Think about the things you want to have at this point in time. What are the first three things that come to your mind? Children? A nice house? Lot's of parties? Athletic competitions? Got the job of your dreams? Where do you live? Do you have a partner? How does he/she look like?
The next step would be to think more concretely and in a time frame of 5 years. Where do you want to live in 5 years? What profession do you want to pursue then? What hobbies do you want to have? How much time do you want to spend time with your friends and family? How important is health and well-being to you? How much fun (parties, traveling, adventures, etc) do you want to have in your life? ...
Once you brainstormed for a few minutes, you should think about dimensions for your goals. For instance, I use the three dimensions career, health, and spirituality. In each dimension, I have additional categories to group my goals. In case of career, I use the groups: conventional career (becoming a management consultant or getting an MBA), politics, entrepreneurship, and personal branding (YouTube, this blog, Instagram, etc). Further categories of the other dimensions are nutrition, sports, aesthetics, languages (I want to speak), habits, family/friends, and traveling (as you can see in the picture of my first sketch below).
If you are done with your first draft, you should come back to it frequently. When I do my monthly reflection, I take a look at my 5-year plan, compare my current situation with it, evaluate my goal progression, and revise it if necessary.
The goal is to refine your 5-year-plan regularly, and every two years, you create a new one.
Once you have developed your first draft, it becomes a fun activity. If feels great to look back at the time when you devised your first version and see how far you've come.
How can you achieve & your long-term goals
Just setting goals delivers a few nice benefits: You think about things you want in your life; you know what makes you happy and what doesn't; you realize what's important to you etc.
But solely setting goals won't make them come true #CaptainObvious.
In order to achieve your goals, come your dreams closer, and reduce the likelihood of failure due to a lack of motivation, I would recommend setting small short-term goals and huge long-term goals.
As already stated, we highly overestimate what’s possible in a few weeks and highly underestimate what’s possible in a few years. Therefore, we should aim for short-term goals that we can easily achieve and long-term goals that we might fail to reach.
For instance, if you would love to have the body of an athlete or fitness model, you shouldn't set the goal to look like this person in a year. Take your time to achieve it. Let's say three years is a realistic time frame. Think about what you need to change in order to accomplish this goal: sports, nutrition, and a change in lifestyle. Start small: your goals in the first few months should be to find a sport you like, identify factors in your diet that prevent you from achieving your goal (too much alcohol for instance), and think about habits you need to introduce into your lifestyle. Once you found your sport, don't have too high expectations, just try to be as consistent as possible. After doing it for at least a year, you will see the first results. At this time, you need to reevaluate your strategy and plan the next steps towards your goal.
The same goes for every other goal: Start small and simple, be consistent, reevaluate your goal achievement strategy, and adjust it.
When I will fail to land a job in management consulting, I won't change my goal to become an entrepreneur, but I need to find another way to achieve it or find a way to land the job at a later point in time. I know, eventually, I will achieve my goal as long as I'm willing to stay consistent and don't give up.