Jeffrey Paul Baumgartner - the most original thinker in creativity & innovation today

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Preparing a Five Year Plan

Many successful people achieve success because they set for themselves a few very clear goals and then strive to achieve them. Life goals provide a long term focus. Nevertheless, they can be broken down into manageable steps -- or small goals -- which are relatively easy to achieve. If you are feeling lost or are not sure where you want to go in life, I highly recommend laying out some basic goals for yourself in a five year plan. It will give your life meaning and your daily activities more focus.

A five year plan does not mean planning out every step you will take for the next half a decade. Rather it means imagining where you would like to be five years from now and then establishing a broad plan on how you will get there.

A five year plan should have some clear goals to strive for as well as steps you will need to take in order to achieve those goals. Grand goals can seem unreachable, but when broken down into steps, those goals suddenly seem realistic, especially when you allow yourself a few years to achieve them.

In this article, we will look at a five year plan for individuals. However, the same principles can be applied in order to make plans for couples, families, associations and businesses.


Where Are You Going?

Different people focus on different aspects of their lives when making long term plans. Here are a number of personal aspects that people typically consider when establishing personal goals.

  • Artistic
  • Attitude
  • Career
  • Education
  • Experience
  • Family
  • Financial
  • Health
  • Hobbies
  • Material wealth
  • Pleasure
  • Professional
  • Public service/Community
  • Recognition
  • Relationship(s)
  • Travel
  • Outrageous stuff

Go through the list above and think about where you would like to be five years from now in respect to the aspect. There is no need to establish goals for all the aspects. Indeed, that would be too much. Rather just focus on those which are important to you. Perhaps it will only be one or two aspects. That's fine.

If you are unsure of where you want to be in the next half decade, consider which aspects of your life most concern you. Are you looking for a five year plan focusing on career development? If so, look at job advertisements on the web, in newspapers or elsewhere and identify jobs that look really great; jobs that you think you would really enjoy doing. At this time, do not worry about qualifications. Rather focus on what seems cool. Make note of each attractive job. Once you have scanned a few job sites and newspapers, look at all of your selected jobs. Very likely, it will become clear where you wish to be in the future.

In other aspects of life, think about people, older than you, whom you admire. Ask yourself what it is about them that you admire. Consider several people and make a list. Once you've done this, it should again become clear where you probably want to be in five years.

You might even think about characters in novels or the subjects of biographies. But focus on literature rather than television characters. TV in general, and American TV in particular, tends to be terribly unrealistic in representing people who are amazingly attractive, glamorous and live a life style inconsistent with their jobs.



Once you have jotted down your goals in various aspects of your life, look at them all and see if there are any synergies. Perhaps your career and financial aims are related. After all, if your aim is to be a millionaire in five years' time, chances are your career will be a key factor in achieving that aim!


Make It Pretty

Now go through your notes and write up a short vision of where you want to be in five years. Take your time with this step. Indeed, it would be an excellent idea to sleep on your thoughts as well as share them with others for feedback. But do avoid negative people when you are doing this. The last thing you need is for some sourpuss to tell you that you will never be able to do this or that!

Once you are finished, you should have a nice goal statement of where you want to be in five years' time. It should not be long. Indeed, it might only be a single sentence. But it should be no more than a paragraph or a half dozen lines. If it is too long, go though it and decide on which aims are most important to you. If you attempt to achieve too many goals over the next few years, you run the real danger of not satisfactorily achieving any of them!


The Roadmap

Now look at each sentence in your goal statement. Think about what you might need to do in order to turn that goal into a reality. Don't think only about actions that will take you immediately to the goal. Think also about actions that will bring you closer to the goal. Take a brainstorming approach, that is: write down every idea that comes to mind no matter how irrelevant it is. Do not criticise yourself and do not be afraid to write down outrageous ideas. In particular, don't be afraid to write down visionary ideas.

Spend at least 30 minutes on each sentence in your goal statement. Do whatever you normally do to think creatively. Some people like walks, some like baths, some like meditating. Just be sure you have a means of writing down ideas that come to mind. Do not finalise the list after the 30 minutes. Rather give it a day or two and then see if you have some more ideas.

Once you are finished, go through the list, remove the ideas that are not viable and then select from the list actions to take in order to achieve the goal in question. Most likely, you will need to add some more information in order to link the steps into a coherent plan.

Repeat this process with each sentence in your goal statement. Once you are finished, take a break of a day or two. Then go through all of the actions and see how they might be combined or organised to make things easier for you.


The Final Document

You are almost finished. Put everything together in a single document. Make the document as handsome as possible. Consider framing it and hanging it on your bedroom wall or another place where you will see it at the beginning of each day.

Then, start working on the actions you defined in your road map!

Have you got questions or comments? If so, contact me using this form. Interesting suggestions may be added to this page.


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The Way of the Innovation Master, my book on implementing an innovation process in an organisation like yours.

Voted Number One Innovation Blogger in 2013!


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Jeffrey is also the co-founder of The Brussels Imagination Club. Meet him there on the 2nd & 4th Wednesdays of the month.


j p b . c o m

Erps-Kwerps (near Leuven & Brussels) Belgium