5-year life plans are useless in a world of causal opacity. Better to prioritise what’s important to you as ‘soon as possible’, start on it, and see where it takes you. For, if it’s so important, why should it wait?
Are you building a dam?
Some things, like building a dam, need long-term planning. A sequencing of events, including who does what, when, and for how much. Our life plans, on the other hand, are nothing of the kind. There are so many moving pieces, many too fluid to even clearly define, that to cling to a plan makes little sense. This is even more true when you consider the inherent complexity of the world. There are so many interacting elements, particularly in socio-economic domains, that it becomes difficult to plan and predict beyond a very, very short time frame.
Just think about how we can send rockets to Mars with great precision (hard science), for example, but how accurately predicting the behaviour of the economy or cities is virtually impossible. I highly recommend Taleb’s Anti-fragile, for the reader who wants to get into these topics more deeply.
So, 5-year life plans mostly serve to comfort the planner by making her feel that she is doing something. We must also not confuse ‘planning’ with having a time estimate. It is entirely sensible to know that the earliest you can do something, say leaving your job, is after a notice period. And, that it might be at least 3 months before you are surfing in Cornwall. This sort of planning or estimation makes sense when events are very specific and known.
The 5-year life plans that I refer to are more of the following kind. “I’ll get a promotion and make more money, then improve my health, run a marathon, meet the love of my life and finally quit my job to do something I am passionate about…”
The sequencing is based on so many unknowns and unknowables that a linear approach makes no sense. Besides, if something is so important to you, why not start on it NOW — why introduce a string of dubious pre-conditions before the thing? Why not improve your health, now?! Why not allocate time to your passions, now? Ok, there may be some trade-offs, but these are all ‘now’ matters. Matters of immediate importance.
So, the real question is what is stopping you from actioning what is most important to you?
5-year life plans are useless, ditch them
5-year life plans are then usually a sign of confusion or fear around trying. For, if you really know what’s important to you, you will want to make a start towards it immediately. To try and make it happen, to work on it and see what emerges. And, chances are that you will need many iterations. To continuously learn and refine your approach.
Ultimately, 5-year life plans are useless because they cannot incorporate new information and that includes changes in YOU. How you feel about the very goals on the plan that you chose. How sure are you that your plan will even be the same a year from now?
A life plan is static and fragile, like a porcelain figurine. It can be smashed at any moment. Better to know what is important to you today, and to make it a priority every day. At least, that is what I try to do in my life.
Harsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.