If you want to really change your life for the better, and forever, you should come up with a five-year plan for yourself. To effect permanent change in your life, it is not enough to have goals for the day, week, month, and year; you really should think about where you want to be in five years, and what you need to do to get you there.
While creating a five-year plan may make you think of the old Soviet Union, it is actually a great way to visualize your future, and plan for it. Here are some tips on how to create a five-year plan:
Decide on what parts of your life you need to set a five-year plan for: Think about where you see yourself in five years when it comes to things like your career, your health, your home, your finances, your education, your love life, your family, your social life, your charitable interests, and your spiritual life. Perhaps some of these categories do not apply to you, while others do. That is the first part of setting up a five-year plan – deciding what categories in your life you want to set goals for.
Your goals should be SMART: Career coaching experts say that any goal you set should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Those five words spell the “SMART” method of goal-setting. That means that you should come up with tangible goals, such as saving up to buy a new car with cash five years from now, instead of just thinking that you would like to buy a new automobile at some point.
Set your own five-year goals, not ones that others want: The only way you are going to achieve what you want to in the next five years is if you set plans that speak to you, and you only. That means that you cannot set goals that your parents, or your spouse, or your friends want for you. Your goals have to be ones that you desire.
Figure out time frames for achieving the goals: For example, if you want to be completely debt-free in five years, and you currently owe $50,000 in credit card debt, $15,000 on a car payment, and $70,000 in student loans, you may wonder how you can possibly get rid of $135,000 in debt in five years. However, doing so is doable. You can come up with a written budget, and break down paying down your debt into how much you can pay every month. As the cliché goes, the way you can eat an elephant is one bite of a time.
Write down your goals: It is a fact that you are more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down. There is something about putting pen to paper that better commits the goals both to your head, and to your heart. After you write down the goals, put them in a place where you see them every day, like on your refrigerator, or above your desk.
Do a reality check every month: You are not likely to achieve your goals if you don’t regularly refer to them and see how much progress you have made. For example, if you want to save $50,000 for a down payment on a house, it is not enough to write it down – you need to regularly check your progress each month, and see how far on track you are.
Reward yourself for taking positive steps toward your goals: For example, if you have decided to go to graduate school as part of your five-year plan, figure out a meaningful reward for each part of the overall goal, like getting a great score on the GRE, getting into the school of your choice, finishing each semester, and graduating. Don’t forget to enjoy the journey, not just reaching the destination.
Lisa Swan writes for a variety of executive, personal and career coaching sites, including the Institute for Coaching.