How to Make a Five-Year Plan That Gets Results

“What would you do if you had a million dollars?”

Whether at a job interview, a date, or in those late-night talks among friends, it’s a question we’ve all heard a million times before. We laugh lightly about the luxury cars we’ll drive as we pull into the driveway of our mansion by the sea in some exotic country. We’ll lounge about under the sun as our own personal butlers bring us frozen margaritas by the glistening pool.

But is that really what you want?

Chances are that, if you’re like most people, literally doing nothing all day isn’t actually satisfying. We naturally crave meaning, purpose, and growth, and shrugging your shoulders and giving an answer like the above is simply a way to opt out of the question.

Are you afraid that your real dreams – the ones that make your blood race just to think about – are impossible, impractical, or even a bit childish or embarrassing? Or do you not really know what makes you come alive?

In either case, fret not. Today we’re going to go over both how to discover what your ideal life is and how to make it happen with a simple but effective five-year plan.


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Introducing the Life Wheel

“Measure what can be measured, and make measurable what cannot be measured.” – Galileo Galilei

One of the best ways to find out where you need to go is to find out where you are right now. While the Life Wheel is hardly a new concept, it is my favorite way of taking a bird’s-eye-view of your life because it is such a powerful way of measuring even hazy concepts. It’s especially good at identifying those parts of life you might be neglecting, sometimes without even realizing it.

What it is, quite simply, is a circle with several lines separating distinct categories like spokes on a wheel. Each segment represents an area of your life, and each segment is graded from 0 (extremely dissatisfied/unbearable) to 10 (the ideal).

Here’s a small example:

While there might be more or less segments depending on the person, this 8-piece wheel can be most easily divided into the following categories:

  • Business/Job/Career
  • Finances
  • Fitness/Health
  • Contribution/Giving/Volunteering
  • Spirituality/Religion
  • Creativity/Recreation/Fun
  • Social/Friends/Family
  • Romance/Marriage

The best way to begin using the Life Wheel is with a little bit of brainstorming. For each category, think about what the best-case scenario would be for each five years from now. If the you from five years in the future had news that would make you jump for joy in every category, what would she say?

That you finally found Mr Right and are getting married at your dream location next week?

That you finally started your online hustle and made enough to kiss your boss goodbye?

Did you finally get to spend a week abroad in Spain?

Really let your imagination fly!

Grading Your Life Wheel

So now you know what your ideal situation will look like five years from now. You have the bullseye in sight.

But as I said earlier, you can’t get somewhere if you don’t know where you are right now. Spend some time going over your life wheel and determine where you stand in each category right now. Are you deeply dissatisfied or lacking in one area?

Take a critical look at what that might look like for you. An attached person may score a 0 on the “Romance” section and a single person may score a 10; don’t take society’s, your mom’s, or anybody else’s opinion on the matter, since this life wheel is for your eyes only.

Taking an overview, does it seem that a few areas of your life need more attention than others, making you unbalanced? Are you below a 5 for all areas, meaning you need to make a well-rounded plan? Or do you seem to have 8s, 9s, and 10s, meaning you might need to aim a little higher on your goals? After all, by the time we actually hit our 10s, we will usually be ready for a bigger and more challenging goal.

Now that we have our ideal 5-year situation with an honest look at where we stand now, it’s time to make the magic happen by building a simple step-by-step plan.

Designing Your 5-Year Plan the Easy Way

Before we begin designing your road to the most rewarding and amazing five years yet, there’s something important to be said about clarity.

My personal stance is that working on too many high-intensity goals makes you less effective at each. Pareto’s principle states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the work (among other things – it’s a cool read!), so likewise 80% of your happiness and sense of purpose will come from 20% of your goals.

With that in mind, I recommend that you only choose 2-3 major goals in each category. This helps prevent overwhelm and cut down on “noise” that isn’t moving you towards your larger life vision. While each goal may contribute a little bit to your overall happiness and purpose, we want to get the most out of the least. Laser-like clarity on a few things beats scatter-brained hair-pulling on 20 things any day!

On to building your plan!

Yearly Goals

So you know what you want with laser precision, but that doesn’t mean it seems any more realistic!

The solution? Breaking one giant, intimidating goal into several small, more manageable goals.

Here, try to take your larger 5-year goal and break it down into five smaller, 1-year goals.

With how quick the world changes, I’d focus only on planning the first year of your five year goals. Everything after the first year gets a little hard to see and plan for reliably.

For example, let’s say you’re extremely ambitious and want to pay off all of your $60,000 student loans in just five years.

Crazy, right?

Well, all you have to do is pay $12,000 down this year. Doesn’t that instantly seem much more manageable and easier to wrap your head around? That mindset shift will help move you from panic mode to take-action mode.

Monthly Goals

Just like the step above, the key is to break a big, monstrous goal and break it into more bite-sized and actionable steps. I’d spend an hour every month planning the month ahead. Plan your big, non-negotiables first – everything else will fall into place around it if you arrange it this way. Generally speaking, if you don’t declare in your calendar that something is happening at some time, it won’t happen. There’s always something to do!

In the example above, your Year 1 goal is to pay off $12,000 of your student loan. Break that into monthly goals, and you have to pay $500 a month. That might look like a terrifying or encouraging number depending on your circumstances, but it can be done. Perhaps you can start couponing and putting your savings towards your loan. Maybe you could build a profitable blog to help pay that down. Maybe you’ll have to cancel cable to make payments that aggressive. Hey, I’m not saying it’ll be easy, but your goals are too important for excuses!

Weekly Mini-Goals

Lastly, break that big monthly goal into weekly mini-goals. Spend time planning your week, and make those big, non-negotiable things come first in terms of your planning.

If you have to pay $500 a month to get your student loans off your back for good, that’s $100-$125 every week towards your student loans. Doesn’t sound too bad put in those terms, right? It seems so much easier to find small ways to save or make an extra buck that way.

Bonus: Daily Goals

Believe it or not, our daily actions can impact the direction of our lives even five years down the line. It’s important to make every day count and do something little to steer yourself in the right direction. While I’m not a fan of being overly militant about the hour-to-hour of life, I think scheduling your top 1-3 things can do a lot to improve your life.

What are your big, five-year goals for the future? I’d love to find out!



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