What You Need to Put in Your 5-Year Plan

Your mom, job recruiter and spiritual Lululemon-employed BFF have all been telling you to create a five-year plan for years now, but somehow you just “haven’t quite gotten around to it.” With work, the ever-impending fear of student loan payments, tedious job applications and whatever’s left of your social life, it can be hard to find time to actually sit down and think about what you want a few years from now. However, despite constant efforts to postpone the realities of post-college life, goal setting can be incredibly beneficial in making life after college a little less scary.

Why do you need a five-year plan?

Although some may see goal setting as monotonous, creating a five-year plan is actually a lot easier than you would think. A five-year plan can be described as a map, or timeline of your life from now to five years from now, including personal goals and dreams you wish to achieve. The best part is, it’s completely controlled and based off of what you want, and what you desire. The future is in your hands, and it’s up to you to design it.

The best place to start when creating a five-year-plan is to jot down a list of things that are important to you and that you wish to accomplish in your life. Next, create an end goal in each of these sections, and work backwards to figure out what steps you can take in the next five years in order to achieve these goals. It may be overwhelming at first, but the more you break things down, the easier it will be to see how achievable your goals actually are. If you’re still stuck, or don’t know where to be begin, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. To all our fellow graduates out there (and all of you ambitious seniors!), we present five critical components you may want to consider when creating your five-year plan.

1. Career

Though your career can definitely be the path that guides you towards the goals and dreams you wish to achieve, the process of finding that path can be a bit overwhelming. While we all hope to land our dream job straight out of college, realistically, that may not happen. Analisa Cortés, a 2014 graduate of Hawaii Pacific University, says, “to get to where I am now, I had to be okay with taking risks when accepting jobs. By giving myself the option to not like something, it took the pressure off of finding my ‘dream job’ straight out of college. Once I realized that it’s okay to take one job within my field in order to get to the next, I was able to leverage myself for new opportunities in my career.”

Like Cortés, be sure and remember that it’s okay to take small steps in order to achieve your top goals. Maybe you’d like to improve your networking skills to find new opportunities. Start by making a list of people to get in contact with and the best way to reach out to them. Perhaps you want to work your way up in a corporation. Research the career path of people you work with, and find out what steps they took to get there. Whether you work in retail or have landed a corporate assistant position for your favorite company, mapping out your career path can help you get to where you need to be that much faster. A five-year plan is not only great for helping you stay on track, but will help you work your way towards achieving what you really want.

2. Life

When we think about the future, we oftentimes paint a picture of the way things are “supposed” to be. Whether it’s what our parents had always wanted for us, or simply the way society influences us, our hopes and dreams tend to sway towards that picture-perfect lifestyle. When creating a five-year plan, however, it’s important to make the effort to try and think outside the box others have created. Write it all down, and take the time to truly reflect on what you want in life and what’s best for YOU. Dream coach expert, stylist and entrepreneur Tiare Thomas of Aloha Dream Board says that doing something that you think is the “right” thing to do even if it doesn’t feel right can lead you to a dead end. “I meet many people who have entered college and signed up to study subjects driven by money or what others would like for them to pursue. Many of these people, after they graduate from college, may find themselves working in a career that is not in alignment with their core values and what may not bring them happiness, tend to feel unhappy and eventually ‘stuck,’” she says.“They end up creating a life they don’t want. If we identify our values and intentions, from the beginning, and align them with our passions and being of service to others, we are able to feel happier and more at peace with our lives.”

If you don’t know exactly what you may want for your future, creating a dream board can help you to organize your thoughts and feelings of what you wish to achieve, Thomas says, adding that doing so has helped many of her clients find clarity. Whether it’s five years down the road or not, Thomas suggests thinking about not only what you want in life at this moment, but how you want to feel in the future. If you’re unhappy in your relationship or career path, think about how you would like to feel instead. Want a job where you feel valued? Or a relationship that inspires you? Find pictures to represent these feelings, use them to create your dream board and put it up somewhere you can see it as a daily reminder of what you want for yourself. YOU have the power to create the future YOU want for yourself.

3. Love

When it comes to our future, love is probably one of the biggest aspects we take into consideration. Whether you’re in a long-term relationship, single or somewhere in between, it’s hard not to look five years ahead and wonder where you’ll be and who you’ll be with. While we all hope our future doesn’t look like a page out of Bridget Jones’s Diary knowing where you want to be in five years, with or without someone, is important to ensure not only happiness for yourself, but for your partner as well. Maybe you look ahead and think you see a wedding, or maybe you don't, but the important part is to evaluate each part of your plan for yourself, and see what’s right for you.

If you are in a serious relationship, now may be a great time to sit down and work on your five-year plan together. Start by having you and your partner create a list of goals and dreams separately, and then take a look and see how they compare. Locate the similarities and differences and discuss how you can help one another achieve the goals you have for yourselves, and your relationship. If both you and your SO are on the same page, you will have a much greater chance of accomplishing your goals and having a happy, healthy future.

4. Travel

Although traveling can be expensive, it is often overlooked as an essential component in shaping the person you are today, and who you want to be in the future. Sure, not everyone can backpack on a summer trip through Europe or sail the Caribbean, but whether you’re driving 50 miles or flying 5,000 miles, traveling can help you experience and see life through a different perspective. Make a list of places you’ve always wanted to visit, or landmarks you are dying to see. Add them to your plan, figure out how you’re going to get there, and you’ll be jetsetting before you know it!

If there is an exciting trip you’ve always wanted to take, but never seemed to have the money to afford, try thinking of ways you can use other aspects of your life to help achieve that goal. Maybe work a part-time job on the side to help finance that vacation. Instead of spending the extra income frivolously, put the money into an account to save up for your plane ticket. If health and fitness are important to you, make an effort to stop eating out during the week. You can then use the money you saved on food to pay for your hotel.

5. Personal development

Above all else, it’s important that you include your own personal development in your five-year plan. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What do you hope to improve about yourself? What skills do you hope to develop? When you take a moment to stop and write down your five-year plan, be sure that you truly reflect on yourself as a person. As much as we wish life after college reflected an episode straight out of Sex and the City, in reality it can be a bit of a rollercoaster at times. Although our hopes and dreams seem nice on paper, we can never achieve the goals we’re really striving for, unless our hearts are truly set in the right direction to chase them. “I’m constantly working towards my goals and keeping myself motivated to do more. Whether my goal is for my career, or to fuel my passion for traveling, overall I think the key to life is to reach for your dreams and always try to do more than you think you can,” says Jennifer Jacome, a 2012 graduate from Arizona State University.

After taking the time to create a list of desires, a dream board and mapping out a timeline for your five-year plan, take a step back and try to really evaluate if you’re ready as an individual to start conquering your goals. Highlight the holes, fill in the gaps and remember to ask for help when you need it. Take your time, be honest with yourself and trust that your careful planning and determination will pay off in just a matter of time.

At the end of the day, remember that no matter what path you take, everyone is different. Life changes and if you need to edit your plan as you go along, that’s okay. The important thing is that you continue working on creating a life that you love and makes you happy. No matter what, the future is in your hands and you have the power to do whatever you put your mind to. As the saying goes, “the world is your oyster,” so get out there and make it yours!