Why it May be Time to Scrap That Five Year Plan

It’s always good to have a plan. When it comes to our futures, having an idea of where we are headed and how we intend to get there is certainly a helpful way to keep us focused and on the right track. That said, sometimes plans, agendas, and lists, especially those set far in advance, can also be stifling, disappointing, and in the end may actually work to defeat rather than aid us. If you find your mind changing regarding “who you want to be when you grow up,” or about “where you see yourself in five years,” it might be time to consider altering that sacred schedule or perhaps ditching it altogether. Here are some notable points on why it may be time to scrap that five-year plan: 

Five years is a long time
Think back to where you were five years back, what you were doing, who you were. Yeah, that’s a long time ago! We don’t know who came up with this idea of a five-year plan, but for young professionals, such a time frame just doesn’t sound realistic. While it’s good to have an idea of what we want from life and for our future, trying to not only imagine, but set in stone what we will want for ourselves a whole five years from now, actually sounds kind of crazy. From 25-30 years of age, 30-35, 35-40, so many things can change with our personalities, relationships, experiences, and desires. Perhaps planning in six-month or two-year increments would be more ideal for you, or having multiple plan options each with a variety of possible tangents (think those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books from back in the day).  Five years is just a long time to commit to anything, so try giving yourself some more room to grow instead – in any direction and at any pace you see fit. 

Plans can kill creativity
Do you have one of those friends (or perhaps it’s you) who are often described by others as “artsy,” “liberal” or “free-spirited?” You know, the type that doesn’t mind supplementing their income between gigs or projects by slinging coffee and cocktails, or who just doesn’t mind living without a cell phone bill altogether? It’s the friend that takes off on last minute trips to Bali, tells tales of incredible romances, and most certainly does not have a five-year plan. While this lifestyle may or may not be for you, there is much to be learned from our “free” and “transient” friends. They recognize that we must be unrestricted to some degree for creativity to grow and for open mindedness to develop. While such freedom may sound well and good to some, others of course acknowledge that security is also important. So, for each of us, it’s about seeking that balance between productive structure and creative flexibility that best aids us in reaching our goals – even if that goal is simple happiness.    

Either way, you’ll be OK
Another concern we have with the idea of the five-year plan is that it can place unnecessary pressure on us and lead to undeserved disappointment. Again, trying to imagine not only what we will want for ourselves, but also what we will be capable of so far into the future sounds pretty unrealistic. If/when we find ourselves in a very different space after that five years, we may not appreciate how far we’ve come if it does not fit with the image of the future that we once constructed for ourselves. So instead of making big plans and creating rigid guidelines for carrying them out, consider simply stopping and taking time to value the work you’ve done thus far, the training, education, and experience you’ve acquired, and recognizing that even without a plan, you’re going to be OK either way.