You might think having a five-year plan is essential for your career growth. But a more flexible outlook could be a better path to success, in both work and life.
As someone who’s a Type A personality, a five-year plan is an alluring and comforting option. I’ve always been a logical and methodical person. Not because I felt like I had to plan out my life, but because I wanted to. Goals give me a sense of security and give me something to work towards.
Can you relate?
When I was in high school, I had everything planned out: I was headed to business school to become an accountant, then to study for my enrolled agent exam with the IRS. I loved crunching numbers. One plus one always equalled two, and that made me feel at peace.
A decade into several versions of my five-year plan, I realized that all the things I thought I wanted made me unhappy, frustrated, and bored. I needed more of a challenge! I liked having my career planned out, but that left no room for adventure or freedom.
In just a few short months, I ditched my five-year plan, quit my full-time accounting job, and moved to a new city. I’ve never been more happy, more fulfilled, or more scared of the unknown. But I know this decision for the better.
Your future will change
Technology, the economy, and the job market are all key causes as to why the next five years are completely unknown. There’s no way you can predict if the job or career you want will even exist in the next five years.
You can bank on the fact that — however grand or elaborate they are — will change, and you’ll likely have no control over them. Instead of spending your time and energy building a career plan that may become non-existent, focus on the key points of what you want to get out of your life.
Zoom out and view the big picture. If you want to work in the tech industry, the only constant is the fact that it’s fast-paced and everything is always changing. You have to be open to evolving and experimenting. Don’t put all of your time and effort into one skill or piece of technology. In other words, be flexible about the journey but firm on the destination.
Start with the end in mind
As career-minded individuals, this phrase is something we hear a lot. But I want you to think of it in a different context. Instead of starting with your end goal in mind, change your mindset to be open to how you reach the end goal and let the journey there take its own course.
In other words, don’t be so worried about the end result that you forget to enjoy the journey. ( to tweet this inspiration.) How you reach your goal, and the path you take to get there, is less important than what your destination will turn out to be.
3 ways to ditch your five-year plan
So what you should you focus on now that you’ve ditched your five-year plan?
- Be flexible. Having goals and a plan of action to reach them is not only admirable, but also necessary if you want to be successful in your career. But don’t set your goals in stone. As new and exciting present themselves, review them with an open mind. You never know where your passions may lead you, or what kind of doors they’ll open.
- Don’t limit yourself. Experimenting is a vital part of carving out your own career path. Don’t underestimate the importance of trying new things, or coming at the situation from a new angle. So your five-year plan blew up? Find different ways to accomplish your goals without going down the traditional path. The internet and telecommuting have made it possible to do work in so many career fields from anywhere in the world.
- Evaluate your goals often. As you get older, learn new skills, and experiment with different hobbies, who you are as a person will change. In order to accommodate these changes in your career to accurately reflect who you are, you must on a consistent basis. Five years is far too long to wait to change your plan, and leaves little room for experimentation.
Goals are important, but can limit you
At the end of five years, no matter what circumstances or changes crop up, ? Where to you want to be in your career? What accomplishments do you hope to complete? These are what you should focus on instead of obsessing about a five-year plan.
Having a plan and a set of goals for what you want your career and life to look like is important, but don’t put too much value on it. Your aspirations will change, again and again. Don’t put yourself in the position of becoming disappointed with the process because you’re focusing too much on the outcome.
Keep your mind and heart open to opportunities and adventure. Your five-year plan will likely turn out better than you could have expected or planned.
Carrie Smith (@carefulcents) is a writer and business consultant for freelancers and entrepreneurs. Through her blog, she’s on a mission to help creatives make a living on their terms.