Forget a 5-Year Plan.

How many times have you heard this question: “What will you be doing 5 years from now?” Yeah. If you are like me,  you probably just cringed when you read that.
We live in a constant state of panic about our future. Parents want to know about our five-year plans, future employers want to know where we see ourselves five years from now, and even friends will demand that you play the “5 Year Game” with them too.

And if you are one of many young professionals that really have no clue about what your 5 year plan is, then this question can be a major source of stress. After all, shouldn’t you have an answer?

Nope.

I think it’s okay not to know what your 5 year game plan is.  Hell, five years is a long time. And a lot can happen in five years.  If you are one of those people who need a plan, don’t skewer yourself if you find yourself straying off course.  It happens.

For the rest of us who are more free-spirited, I have a compromise: The 5 month plan. Thinking about your life in 5 month increments works for several reasons:

5 months is a short enough amount of time to make you feel like you are planning for your future without forsaking happiness in the present.
Think about it.  What can you accomplish in 5 months?  In that short amount of time, you can take a class in a subject you have always been interested in. It’s enough time to do research about a new career field. It’s enough time to plan and save for a trip for personal rejuvenation. It’s enough time to start a new hobby.

Most of us are not about to experience a life-changing event in 5 months (marriage, or childbirth),so it’s enough time to just plan your future without factoring in major life events.
Eventually a time might come when your future will include a significant other and little dependents, but for most of us, that time is not NOW. Why work yourself up over worrying about whether Ms./Mr. Right will pop up in the next 5 years? Plan your life for you right now, and factor in the things you enjoy doing, or the goals that you want to accomplish before you have to think of the needs of others.  And who knows, that art class you decide to take in the next 5 months, might be where you meet your new boo!

Your accomplishments in the next 5 months can give you some insight into what you might be interested in pursuing in the future.
Think for a second about the last time you accomplished a goal. How did it make you feel? If a huge smile just erupted across your face, I’m with you. Accomplishing a goal feels good! It is an amazing feeling to you achieved what you set out to do. This does not have to be a fleeting feeling. It can happen again, and again. Five months is enough time to make sure you can taste that rush of accomplishment again. Let’s say you do join that art class. Five months from now, you will know something about yourself: Either you are really into art, or you are not. You will know that you have the guts to try something new. If art turns out not to be your thing, try another subject you have been curious about. If you find out you love art, take the next class. Hmm… suddenly it looks like you have a 10 month plan.

In the next 5 months I will be planning my first trip West (Portland here I come!)  I just started a creative writing class, so that will keep me busy for the next 3 months. And this weekend I am moving to a cheaper apartment so I can save money for more travel.

What do your next five months look like?

Happy Friday!

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  1. #1 by Tessa Zeng on February 4, 2011 - 6:49 pm

    AGREED. My life has changed so much in the last 5 months that even that amount of time is starting to seem enormous! I look back on my last “5 yr” and “10 yr” plans and laugh (seriously, how can you really make a 10 yr plan when you’re 18 years old?!)

    Actually, what would be really scary is if you *did* live your life years later, exactly as planned.

  2. #2 by Alex on February 7, 2011 - 5:20 pm

    Just want to say thanks for a great article.

    Alex

  3. #3 by Yogi on February 15, 2011 - 10:55 am

    my next five months….they look pretty darn awesome actually! I will get my macbook pro, start my final cut classes, get new furniture, go to Niagara Falls with one of my besties from GA in May, and possibly go to DC for the Caribbean carnival they have every year in June (my other bestie from GA may even come with me)…I’m sure there are some other stuff that will happen in between!

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