Five-year life plans: who invented them anyway?

I’ve never been very good with goals.

Short-term goals, yes. I’m saving for a trip to France. I want to drop 2 percentage points off my body fat. That kind of stuff is easy.

But long-term goals… well, they just don’t gel with me. Who said a five-year plan was de rigeur anyway?

Stalin – that’s who. The Bolsheviks set up five-year plans to industrialise the country rapidly, so they could create a workers’ communist paradise more quickly. That’s where 5 year plans come from!

I’m not sure if it’s my age or my character, but to me, but it’s almost impossible for me to create a vision of where I want to be and how I want to live five years from now.

And let’s be honest, I’ll probably be doing pretty much the same as I am now. Somehow my twenties seemed to pack in all the action of changing jobs, moving cities and the like. I’m guessing that my thirties is all about consolidation.

Am I supposed to have goals? I guess. Tony Robbins would tell me so. But it’s not going to happen, so the best I can do is focus on behaviours.

In the same way that values shape your reaction to events and people,  values can shape the way you spend your time. And your money, for that matter.

I’ve done this for a long time unconsciously. But actually sitting down to formalise that process is quite helpful, I realised recently.

I plotted out the behaviours that would reflect my values when it came to my health, my career and (for want of a better word) my spirit.

I have a clear view of how many times I want to train each week; how to prioritise my spending and saving; things I need to do consistently at work; and the time I should spend doing things for other people.

This is so much simpler than having a life plan for the long term. It’s like having a life plan for the month.

It’s also very helpful in managing guilt – which is one my default settings.

For instance, I feel less guilty about spending a chunk of money on personal training, because I’ve lined it up against my values (being fit) and my financial goals (still saving for holidays and paying the mortgage).

The idea of setting small behaviours rather than big goals is certainly not rocket science, and maybe it’s not that revolutionary to other people.  But I’ve found it’s a useful way to find clarity and direction, without the requirement of thinking a long way ahead. Or subscribing to communist conspiracies.

How do you cope with the big questions like life goals? Feel free to leave a comment.

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This post is by Belinda Thomson

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