Where do you want to be in five years?

Do you have personal goals you want to achieve?

Are there financial benchmarks you want to get to?

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This common question comes up again and again in job interviews for a reason: Knowing how you want to live and grow, and then making an action plan, helps you feel purposeful and fulfilled in your life. 

When you know where you want to go, and then you take concrete steps to get there, you know you’re making the most of your short time on Earth. A five-year plan guides your decision-making, keeping you on track toward your most important dreams and goals, whether you want to crush it in your career or create a new lifestyle for yourself. 

While plans can change, creating a roadmap that makes sense for your life, right now, can encourage you to become who you really want to be. Are you ready to stay focused and map out the next five years to accomplish your smart goals?

Here are a few examples of what you need to know to create the ideal five-year plan for you.

What is a 5 year plan?

Plain and simple, five year plans outline what you want your life to look like in a five-year time frame. This includes everything – what you do for money, what you do in your free time, and While major life changes can of course redirect the course of your plan, having a breakdown of achievable potential goals for the next few years can keep you inspired and on-track for accomplishing what’s truly important to you.

A five year plan may feel structured, but it’s not ridgid. As you set benchmarks for your specific goals, you might need to tweak your future plans as the years pass. (And you might change your five year plan depending on shifts in your long term goals.) Checking in yearly and course-correcting or editing your plan will further help you create a life that you’re really excited about. 

Benefits of creating a 5 year plan

Whether you want to be successful in your career or more fulfilled on an emotional level, having a long-term goal plan can help you get there. Breaking down what you want to accomplish into daily goals, monthly goals and annual goals over the next five years helps you focus on what really matters. Here are four important benefits of mapping out your daily and monthly goals over a five year timeframe:

Having a five year plan ensures that what you’re doing aligns with your values

When you create a five year plan, you get the chance to really think about the direction your life is headed and if that’s where you really want to go. If you write down your short term goals, this forces you to really examine your day-to-day life. 

what is a five year plan
(Grace Cary / Getty)

Living out of sync with your values can be draining, unfulfilling and frustrating. (Especially if you’re currently in a relationship or a career you’re not satisfied with.) Having a five year plan allows you to stay on a path that aligns with who you really are and what you truly care about. This makes life feel more rewarding. 

Having a five year plan helps you identify and clarify your goals

Setting goals is important for actually accomplishing your dreams. When you develop a five year plan, you can name your goals, which is a key step for tackling them. If you only have a vague picture in your mind of what you want out of life, chances are that you won’t be able to take concrete steps to follow through. Making the time to really clarify your goals helps them become more real and allows you to clearly recognize what your priorities are. 

Having a five year plan helps you thrive

The difference between being successful and always wondering what could have been is having a plan. When you set out to create a five year goal, you have to examine what you really want out of life. You look deeply at your dreams and break them down into smaller, do-able action items. 

There’s also a manifestation component here. While merely thinking about your dreams won’t make them reality, having a plan to follow will influence your decision making and even teach you how to focus. When your goals are at the forefront of your mind, your thoughts and behavior will follow. 

Having a five year plan reminds you of what you’re working toward

During the daily grind of life it’s easy to feel unmotivated. Sometimes, you’re just trying to get through the day. But having a roadmap for your life can light a fire in you, and be a great first step. When you feel energized about the direction of your life, your days seem like they have more meaning. Even if you lose sight here and there, your plan will keep the spark in you alive. 

What life categories can be a part of a 5 year plan?

Five year plans are considered short-term goals, helping you figure out the next stage of your life. Some people create a multi-faceted plan to include many categories. Others devise a plan for just one part of their life that they want to focus on. 

However you choose to do it is up to you. Here are three of the major categories for five year plans and some examples to get your brainstorm started:

Career and money: financial goals

Five year plans are commonly centered around career goals. For this category, your priority is understanding where you want to be professionally for the next stage of your career and then determining what steps you need to take to get there. 

Perhaps you’re looking to start your own business in five years. You might go back to school, take on an internship, work with a career coach or mentor or save money so you can launch your company. 

While work and money can be linked, your money goals may not have to do with your professional life. For example, you might be interested in paying off debt in five years so you can buy a home. Or you might want to tuck away money for a college fund or your retirement. 

Since money is fairly concrete, these plans are more about willpower and sticking to them than anything else. 

Love and relationships

It can be tough to make concrete goals in your personal life—relationships usually involve two people, which can make planning them out tricky. But having a plan is generally helpful for knowing what path you want to take with your relationships. You can still create a picture of what you want out of your relationships and modify that as needed to reflect the people in your life.

For those focused on partnership and family, an example five year plan could be that you’d like to be married and have kids in the next five years. This could mean finding a partner or taking the next step with your current partner.

personal five year plans
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As you build a romantic partnership, it’s important to share your goals with your other half to ensure that you’re on the same page. If you’re not, then it could come down to choosing your person or your goals. 

Relationship plans aren’t limited to romantic love. Maybe you want to strengthen your friendships by coordinating a book club and committing to yearly group trips. Perhaps you want to build your bond with the older people in your family by collecting and documenting their stories. Whatever your goal may be, working with the people in your life to achieve them will help you make those dreams come to life. 

Personal development

This category for five year plans can include making big changes for your health, working on your inner life, going on a spiritual or religious journey or developing new hobbies.

Perhaps you’ve recently had a sobering doctor’s appointment and need to overhaul your wellness routine. You can, for example, set a five year plan based on lab result numbers, weight loss, healthy eating or whatever benchmark feels achievable yet necessary to you. 

Or maybe you want to add more fun into your life. Your five year plan could be to take up a new hobby and become proficient at it. Whether you want to learn how to paint, surf or grow your own tomatoes, you may need to do research, take classes, hone skills, purchase supplies and practice. 

So while a focus on doing things for fun may seem frivolous, a certain amount of these goals can keep you active, help you grow as a person and ultimately make your life happier and more fulfilling. 

How to make a 5 year plan 

To make your five year plan, you first need to identify your goal. Start with a visualization exercise and ask yourself: What is it that you really want to achieve, do or be, in the next five years? Where do you see yourself living? Who are you with? How do you feel? Write down your responses to these questions and see where the prompts take you.

Do some research about the goal you set and write down any key metrics. How long does it usually take people to accomplish this goal? How much money might you need? What example or role model can you look to? What skills should you have? 

Once you have identified what you want to work toward and listed a few key points from your research, set that research aside. Next you need to write down your unique skills—what qualities do you have that stand out? In two columns, compare this list to the goal you set and identify which of these skills will help you accomplish your goal. Then, think about what skills you might lack. These are the qualities you will need to learn by getting more experience, taking classes, working with a mentor and so on. 

Next, break down your overall goal to identify annual goals. These are smaller benchmarks you’d like to meet along the way toward achieving your five year plan. Once you have these, you can translate them into action steps. If your goal is to meet a romantic partner, then you might commit to joining a dating site, letting your friends know that you want to be set up and making the decision to go out once a week to try to meet someone. If you want to have a healthier lifestyle, you might clean out your pantry of unhealthy foods, queue up online exercise videos and set a time each day to move your body. 

As you create this plan, refine your daily, monthly goals or annual goals and edit as needed. While the overall goal should stay the same, the steps you get there can change and shift as you gain more experience, get more comfortable with your goal and start working toward it. 

Stick with your 5 year plan to make your dreams come true

The best five year plans are the ones you can reasonably follow to fruition. And the ideal goal for you is one you can actually achieve.

five year plan
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Setting goals is not as hard as you might think, so try to find that balance between dreaming big and creating attainable, measurable action steps to keep you on the path to success.