5 Years: Where Do You Want to Be?

We begin by charting a course

How do you figure out where you want to be in five years? Planning five years ahead may seem unnecessary. But if you want to maximize your potential, it's essential. In the job market today, there's little certainty. By planning ahead, you give yourself the opportunity to change course in the future, and to take stock of what you've accomplished in the past.

Here are three guidelines to help you figure out where you'll be in five years.

1. Imagine.

Conceptualize where you want to be. In fact, write it down. Think, and think hard about what the best situation entails. Imagine not only what you'll be doing, but also how you'll be doing it. Even if you don't accomplish half of what you envision in the next five years, you can roll that over into the next cycle.

If you can't imagine where you want to be, you'll end up lost, thinking about where you shouldbe. And that's accepting defeat. Don't accept the status quo. Give yourself room to breathe, and seriously consider what's possible. Being anxious and scared will stop you from achieving your goals. It's not about you achieving everything. That everything is going to change, as are you. It's a scary idea. But it's also a healthy one.

2. Invest.

Look at what you've already accomplished. Think about how you got there. Even if you're not entirely happy with your career choices, remember the experience and skills you've gained. It's a worthwhile exercise. Just because you're not where you want to be doesn't mean you haven't achieved anything.

Taking a positive perspective allows you to continue with confidence, and with an idea of how to build on the past. By investing in what you've already done, you can move forward with at least an idea of what you could do in the next five years. That's why investing in yourself, and your skills, is so significant. Jobs, in today's market, are constantly changing. You should be prepared to change what you're doing as well.

3. Reflect.

Thinking five years ahead isn't about making impossible expectations. It's about giving you guidelines and structure in a way you didn't have before. Remind yourself of the past five years. What were they like? Did you make any expectations? What was negative about those experiences? What was positive?

If you haven't made the progress you've wanted to, think about whether you set any goals to do better. Often, we don't set goals. We expect things to come our way. And hard work simply isn't enough. If you don't reflect on what you've done, if you can't consider what was good and what was bad, you won't get anywhere. By reflecting on accomplishments and failures, you'll have a better grasp on what you've done well, and where you need to improve most. Then, you can have a strong idea of where you will be.

This is not a competition with anyone but yourself. It's not about you should do. And what you could do is still up in the air. Ultimately, this should help you discover where you will be.

Now get a pen and paper out and start writing.

And remember: imagine, invest, and reflect.

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