It’s one of the most common questions in a job interview: what is your 5-year plan?
While you might have the right answer to give to the HR rep interviewing you, you might not know what you actually want to accomplish in your life.
Do you want to stay on the trajectory your career is on? Or do you dream about switching fields?
Fortunately, there are a few strategies you can use to make significant changes in your life and to fulfill your dreams. Read below to find out how to create a 5-year plan that gives you purpose.
Make a list of your dreams.
The key to creating a plan that will add value, purpose, and meaning to your life is to determine what the end goal is.
Do you dream about starting your own business or switching to a new industry? Or do you want to leave home and travel the world?
Before you can hammer out the details of a plan, you need to start with the end goal.
“Once you have an idea of what you truly want, it gets easier to work backward on the milestones you need to hit to get there,” said Elle Martinez of Couple Money.
So think of what your end goal is. Is it to stay home with your kids and not have to worry about money? Is it being able to take care of your parents full-time? Or do you want to devote yourself to the nonprofit you care so passionately about?
The idea here isn’t to reach your goals next week. You create a 5-year plan so that you can make reasonable, achievable steps. It’s about progress.
Once you know what your ultimate passion is, you can start to work backward to determine what your next steps are.
Talk to an expert.
Sometimes you need help if you’re trying to figure out what to do with the next five years of your life. After you’ve exhausted your significant other, your best friends, and your family, it’s time to find someone who knows what’s up.
Try to find an expert in the field that you’re interested in. This can be someone who graduated from the same college as you, someone active in the community, or even a person you admire that you found on Twitter.
Don’t limit yourself to local people, if you can’t find anyone who fits your description. You can contact people via Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other social media platform they might have. If you know where they work, you can reach out there.
Before you meet up, bring a list of questions with you. Nothing annoys a busy person more than someone who’s asked for a favor and who’s not prepared for it. You can create a 5-year plan that is reasonable after talking with someone who’s been there. You can create meaning and be realistic about where you’re headed with a little outside perspective.
Always send a thank-you note afterward, either by email or the traditional snail mail route. Keep in touch with that person and don’t always be asking them for a favor. You want the relationship to be reciprocal.
Follow what interests you.
For most of my high school and entire college career, I dreamed of becoming a newspaper reporter. I read the best writers, wrote as much as I could and shadowed reporters I admired. But then I got my first real reporting job at a small newspaper in Northwest Indiana and hated it.
I worked evenings and covered fires, robberies, and car accidents. In a town of 30,000, the topics we covered sometimes felt trivial.
It was then that I started blogging about living frugally. I had decided I wanted to pay off my student loans early and was trying to learn all I could about personal finance. I started reading books and blogs and finally asked my boss if I could start a blog at work about living frugally.
That’s how I discovered I loved writing about money, especially from my own point of view. I found myself focusing more on the blog than on my other assignments, and people noticed. When I left that gig to work at a nonprofit, I started my own blog. That led to the freelance writing career I have now.
If you’re not happy with where your life is going, you need to figure out where your passion truly lies. Sometimes you can only do that by giving something a trial run. There’s nothing wrong with including stepping-stone jobs and trial runs as you create a 5-year plan.
Make it real.
Sometimes it’s not enough to keep a dream in your head. You have to visualize and make it real. Try creating a vision board with images that reflect your dream and the path you’ve chosen to follow. Include quotes and inspirational figures of people you admire. You can also use a life map to set your course.
Don’t be afraid to share your dream with other people. You never know who will have the right connection or give you the best piece of advice. Plus, when people hear your dreams, they might be inspired to give their own a test drive.
The more comfortable you are with expressing your true desires, the less afraid you’ll be to really take on a new challenge.
As you create a 5-year plan meant to give the next few years of your life purpose, keep in mind that you will need to figure out the next years after that. Keep revising and updating as your purpose changes. As long as you are moving forward, and you are able to take steps to reach your goals, your life will have purpose.