I've had a five year plan. At 31, I've actually had a few five year plans. They generally go: Travel, get dream career, independently buy property, fall in love with The Perfect Person, and have babies. Each time I've made the plan, I've gotten as far as travel. Then I've had to throw the whole thing out the window and start again. Which is why I no longer have a five year plan -- and why you shouldn't either.
Having a five year plan, as grown up as it might make you feel, can actually be a super restrictive and anxiety inducing thing. And who really needs those extra restrictions and anxieties in a world that's already full of them? You might think it's comforting to have a plan -- and while it's perfectly okay to know where you want to get to and why, laying out a step by step approach for getting there is not necessarily all that beneficial. Here's why you should scrap that five year plan and fly by the seat of your pants instead.
1. Because five years isn’t that long
So you want to buy a house, get married, start your own business, go to India for six months, get your master's degree, AND learn how to bake? It is possible you might get it all done in five years, but five years really isn't all that long. Telling yourself you only have a certain amount of time to do the things you want to do is stressful. Think of your five year plan as a "life" plan instead, and you'll feel much more relaxed about getting it all done.
2. Because putting so much pressure on yourself is absurd
Constantly haranguing yourself about meeting certain goals by certain dates can't be all that fun. So you're still $10,000 short on a house deposit by your self-imposed deadline. Ask yourself: Is this the end of the world? Instead of putting pressure on yourself to hit certain milestones on certain dates, why not take stock and congratulate yourself for the hard work you put in? Shrug it off if you're a year behind and just refocus. Your original plan didn't work (the first ones rarely do), so try again. Learn from your failure and stop being so hard on yourself.
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3. Because your self worth shouldn’t be linked to arbitrary goals
Your sense of worthiness shouldn't be linked to what you achieve and when you achieve it. You should feel worthy simply for being a human person trying really hard to live well and being kind to those around you. It doesn't matter if you've got a ring on it by the time you're 30, or a promotion at work within a year of getting the job, or laser hair removal before your friend's birthday party. None of these things make you more or less worthy of self love.
4. Because life can take you by surprise
Maybe you've got a certain career goal in mind for your five year plan, and halfway through, just as everything is going the way it was supposed to, your whole company shuts down and everyone gets laid off. You can a) go into panic mode about the hiccup in your five year plan, or b) roll with the punches and let your priorities and goals shift accordingly. The point is, you can plan until the cows come home, but life is going to be there to trip you up when you least expect it. That's right: Life does not care about your five year plan (and you shouldn't either).
5. Because you might change your mind
Can you think of anything worse than deciding you want one thing, realizing you hate it, then feeling like you have to stick with it because it's part of a five year plan? Even if you successfully get to year four of your plan, if you change your mind and find the thing you thought would make you happy doesn't actually make you happy at all, you need to give yourself the freedom to change it. Otherwise, a five year plan is just an arbitrary idea of what your life should look like, rather than an actual path to happiness.
6. Because there isn’t just one road to the top of the mountain
We all have an idea of who we want to be and what we want out of life. That's great! However life isn't linear, and on your journey to the top, you might find yourself taking a detour -- an unexpected opportunity might arise, or life might throw you a curveball. Just because you aren't following the map exactly, doesn't mean you won't get where you're going. There's no "right way" to get your goals. All you can really do is try your best, be open to your changing self, and the changing world around you, as you go. Who knows -- by welcoming fluidity you might learn and experience things you wouldn't have if you stuck to a neat and narrow pre-designated path.
7. Because you might be setting yourself up to “fail”
There's not really such a thing as "failure". When you don't succeed, it's just a learning curve. But if you have certain goals and you don't meet them to deadline, you might wind up feeling like you have, indeed, "failed". Overcoming the sense of failure can be difficult, and sometimes deters us from trying different things. If you set unrealistic expectations for your life, there's a chance you might not meet them in the short term, and then be put off trying to reach them in the long term.
8. Because it might not really be your five year plan at all
If you have a five year plan, ask yourself: whose plan is it, really? Is it a five year plan you came up with totally on your own, completely unencumbered by the influence of society and cultural conditioning? If it is, congratulations, you just transcended the human condition! Chances are, your plan is probably heavily influenced by the things that society expects of you -- getting married, having children, being perfect etc. -- which are often unrealistic. It's likely then that your five year plan is based on what you feel is expected of you, rather than what you'd naturally want or do if that expectation didn't exist.