Words by Gareth Johnson | @GTVlondon
Photo © www.flickr.com/enriquelin

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

I went for a job interview a few months ago. It wasn’t anything particularly formal, but I was catching up with a guy that I’d done some work for in the past and I was trying to convince him to hire me for a new project that he was working on.

He seemed doubtful that I was the right person for the job. “I’m not convinced that this is really what you want to do…” he said: “Tell me – where do you see yourself in five years’ time?” I laughed. It’s the classic old-school job interview question. “That’s a ridiculous question!” I scoffed. “Who has a five-year plan any more?”

“I do,” he replied with a straight face. “I know exactly where I want to be and what I want to be doing in five years.” I guess that’s why he’s running a successful business and I’m not.

“I’m not planning to be the CEO of anything…” I replied. “I just want to pay the bills, hang out with my friends, and have some fun.” “This isn’t the job for you,” he said firmly, and we were done, meeting over.

I left his office feeling a bit flat. Maybe he was right? Maybe I did need a bit of direction in my life? I grabbed a coffee and did a quick stock-take of the last few years. I won’t bore you with details, but the headlines were: Lots of travel, lots of good times, lots of casual sex, several failed relationships, a few disasters on the work front, more debt than a lot of third world countries, too much booze, and sporadic attempts to stick to a balanced diet and exercise regime.

It was a timely reminder that the choices that I’d made, the decisions I’d taken, all have consequences. I could see why someone would think that I wasn’t going to be a particularly reliable employee, and also why someone would think that I wouldn’t be a particularly reliable boyfriend.

It was time for change. It was time to try something different. It was time for a new way of living.

There is, of course, no point signing up to a plan of action if there is no chance of you achieving the goals that you’ve set yourself. But setting some objectives for yourself can help to inform the choices that you’re making, help keep you on the right path. But where do you start?

One of the challenges I faced was that I wasn’t really sure what I wanted.

It seems kind of obvious that if you can visualise what success and happiness looks like for you, then you have a bit more of a chance of achieving that than if you are just blundering along blindly – lurching from one crisis to the next.

Trying to plan five years ahead was too much for me – so many things could change in that time, so much could go wrong. I could catch Ebola, disappear in a mysterious airline disaster, or be eaten by a shark while learning to surf. Planning for the next twelve months was as much as I could cope with.

There was an episode of Will & Grace where they talked about the five pillars of your life – it was something like health, relationships, work, family, and finance. I use Will & Grace as a moral compass for most aspects of my life, so I’ve set myself some achievable goals for the next twelve months – one for each pillar.

Health – There are lots of excuses as to why my diet and exercise regime has been a bit shaky. The goals for the next twelve months? Get back into water polo – training helps keep me fit and in touch with a great group of friends. Join a gym –resistance training is crucial to being lean and strong. Drink less booze – I’m not much fun when I’m drunk.

Relationships – It’s hard to set goals in terms of relationships. Often they seem to be beyond my control. For the next twelve months I’m going to focus on my friends. Casual sex is fun. Having a boyfriend is great. But it’s my friends who make it memorable.

Work – My goal for the next twelve months is not to take it all too seriously. Working as a freelancer can be hard work and stressful – especially when you’re not really sure how you’re going to pay the bills. But I’ve started to have the confidence that the work will come. I just need to keep it in perspective and keep plugging away.

Family – I love my family but I need to spend more time with them. Being spread out around the world it can sometimes feel like we’re a bit distant. The big event in the next twelve months is my father’s 80th birthday. I’m going to be there.

Finance – I’m cutting up the credit card and not getting another one. Well, if we’re being honest, the bank kind of made that decision for me, but it’s for the best. I’ve been finding it tricky to save much money, so the next best goal is to not spend money that I don’t have.

So effectively, for the next twelve months, I’ll be able to pay the bills, hang out with my friends, and have some fun. That sounds like a pretty good plan to me. 

How to write a five year plan.

1 – Think about what you want to change.

Write down what aspects of your life you aren’t happy with. This will help you set out what you want to change.

2 – Think about personal goals.

This could be to lose weight, learn something new or to find a boyfreind.

3 – Think about fun goals.

Ever fancied a trip to Oz or to sky dive over the Irish Sea? Write it down. 

4 – Think about your health goals.

Never had an HIV test? Worried about the food you are eating? Do you drink too much? Are you unhappy with the amount of drugs you are doing?  

5 – Write an item for each year.

Don’t try and rush everything into one year. Give yourself time to complete each one. Some items on your list can be easily done this year. Some may take longer. Be realistic with your goals.