Where do you want to be 5 yrs from now?

Has someone asked you that question recently? Who am I kidding. I am sure all of us have been asked that by someone or the other. I sure as hell used to ask that question to a bunch of people as an attempt to help and guide them along.

It seems like a very rational approach. Pick where you want to be 5 years from now, make a plan to get there, and execute. Simple. Companies work like that, some governments work like that. Why not us, individuals?

The problem however is the following: look at the last 5 years of your life and ask your self – are you now at the place you wanted to be 5 years ago? I bet, for most of us, the answer is not exactly. Yes, we achieved a lot, and ticked off a great deal from our list, but was the journey exactly according to plan?

The more I think about this question, I realize that planning for a 5 year horizon, or even for that matter a 1 year horizon can sometimes be too much for our human brains. More often than not, your success depends on whether you can plan more immediate term goals – a week, a month, maybe 3 months.

The trick is in consistency. If you continue to hit your weekly, monthly and 3-month goals on a consistent basis, you will likely achieve the “supposed” 5 year plan in the next 2 years. In other words, let’s live in the present my friends! :)

  • Hmm, Clay Christensen would disagree. He would ask us to plan for 5 years anyway (deliberate strategy) but then don’t be wedded to it. Allow the emergent strategy to emerge..

    I guess the analogy is – If you are sailing, it helps having a rough idea of where you want to go else you just let the wind take you whereever you want.

    To simplify further – aim directional, not specific.

    And a quote (but of course!)

    “In battle you realize that plans are useless, but planning is indispensible”

  • Thanks for disagreeing Rohan. Always love a good discussion.

    I might not have been as good as CC in expressing this idea.. :-) totally agree with direction but not with detailed planning. It almost always biases your thinking.

    I am not against planning. I am against long term planning. At the same time, I am for long term vision. :-)

  • Shilpa Krishnan

    Hmmm! My personal experience is different. I wrote my before-30 list some time when I was 26 or 27. So about 3-4 year plan vs. 5.

    I had a real long list with some simple stuff like “go sky diving” and a lot more complex and at that time almost-impossible looking things like “make a feature film”. I ticked off the entire list, very happily, few months before 30.

    I have a couple of principles for myself… to write the list realistic and make it completely within my control. And that would mean, I write it out as a list of experiences vs. end results, which is what most people tend to do, and when it fails, get themselves disappointed. It should be within my control vs. being a lot under the control of external influences.

    For e.g. “I want to work out for 3 days and eat healthy for 5, every week” vs. say “I want to lose 5 kilos in 2 months”. The first will lead to weight loss anyway but it feels more within one’s control than the number on a scale, because that could take its own time and not necessarily 2 months or 4 months and when it doesnt come fast enough, people give up on healthy living anyway.

    Or in my specific case, I had written “make a feature film”. I had not written “Make a feature film that goes to 6 film festivals”, “Make a feature film that win at least 3 awards”, “make a feature film that gets released commercially” etc. Cos those things are dependant on external factors also. Had I wanted that, I would have had to look at the film making very differently – up the production values, bend backwards trying to get funding, be at the mercy of distributors, juries etc. But that wasn’t the goal anyway… it was just about having an experience of making my feature film. That was under my control – even if it means crazy amounts of time management and hard work but I could make it in whichever way I felt like making it within my small resources. And I could tick it off the list!

    Sorry, for the loooooong post!

    • Very interesting and thanks for the loooong post. Those are the best! :-)

      I am actually building a list like that as well… In fact that was the inspiration for this post. Planning in the traditional sense is fairly rigid. First this then that and then the next. Right? Go to school, then get a job, then marry, then start a family and so on. There are analogies for all works of life.

      What I like about your approach is to make a list and have direction but not necessarily have a rigid way of going about it.

      This is agile vs. waterfall for normal life… :-)