What is the ‘5 year plan’ and should you have one?

The notorious ‘five-year plan‘ question may send you into a cold sweat or be the easiest question you could answer. You may have first been asked this question during your final years in education or at a job interview. This is the question that would fill me with instant dread and pressure; are you really meant to know? Are you meant to be aiming for something in particular in 5 years? Do I just fall victim to societal pressures and say “job, house, kids”?

I’d like to disclaim that I am not totally against a 2/5/10 year plan – I am sure it holds importance for many people that actually find it useful and motivating. However, what about those that don’t have a 5-year plan? Do you not hire those that don’t have a suitable enough timeline planned out? What is the significance of 5 years? Theoretically, it is not a long time in the grand scheme of things.

What is there to plan?

  • A change in mentality and perspective
  • Career progression, or even career break
  • Housing situation
  • Relationship status
  • Travel destinations
  • Personal achievements i.e. skydive or learning a language
  • Business adventure
  • Children

The list truly is endless. Personally, I view my life as being one complicated stencil I’ve drawn around on a piece of paper. There will be lines that I will want to perfect and make them as neat as possible, but there will be lines where my hand is shaky and I accidentally go outside of the lines. However, at the end of it, I will be mostly content with what I have created.

Life is renowned for being unpredictable. There are days when it may feel like a huge boulder has crashed down in the middle of your path, making it difficult to work around, but not impossible. Acknowledging that life will always have its curveballs, should help a life plan seem less intimidating. Things go wrong, but there will always be a way to get back on track and dust yourself off again. It is almost guaranteed, that if you were to ask anyone who is 5 years older than you, if they have got to where they are by sailing their way through life – they will most likely say no.

What are some pros and cons to having a 5-year plan?


  • Gives you goals to work towards, no matter how big or small
  • Allows you to prioritise your goals in terms of when you want to achieve them
  • Can keep you disciplined and on track
  • Hand in hand with the above; can force you to start something you have been putting off
  • It can be comforting


  • You may feel pressured and rushed
  • Your plan may adhere more to stereotypical achievements by default
  • May cause a feeling of disappointment if you don’t hit certain milestones within a certain period
  • It can make room for comparisons with other people’s success
  • You may become too attached to the plan and opposed to change

Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

The logistics of a 5-year plan are so personal to each individual. What might be a mountain to one person, is a molehill for another. It can be exciting to share your plans with others – I don’t believe the intention of a plan is negative. If you are surrounded by decent people, you should hopefully never feel belittled by what you have set yourself, you should have nothing but support and encouragement.

Personally, I choose to live life day-by-day. I will happily write a to-do list in the morning and can stick to it pretty well. Stretch it further than a weekly plan, and I will probably struggle to stay on track. My interests and motivation levels fluctuate too regularly for a long-term plan to sit comfortably in my head. Knowing what I want out of life is important, but the route to get there can be as sporadic and spontaneous as possible.

So in terms of being asked “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” in a job interview, the intention behind the question is probably to cover their own backs. Is this person looking to be in a completely different position in a few years to what they’ve applied for? Can we afford to train someone who sounds like they are going to leave soon? I understand why the question is asked, but it can be a tough cookie to crack if you are not a natural planner.

To conclude

A 5-year plan is exactly what you make of it. It can be as intense or as mild as you like. There is no obligation to know the answer to this question, but I do feel like it crops up quite often. It offers food for thought in many different ways. Planning what I think is my ideal plan, can allow me to spot pitfalls and genuinely think carefully about the routes I wish to take.

Avid organisers may thrive by setting their goals long into the future, and to that, I say hats off. There is not a right or wrong answer. It is admirable to see how we all cope and work our way through this journey. If you are keen to know how to create your own 5-year plan, there are many resources available to help.

“If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan but never the goal”

What are your thoughts on the concept of a 5-year plan?

Until next time,

Emily x







26 thoughts on “What is the ‘5 year plan’ and should you have one?

  1. Linda says:

    Couldn’t have worded it any better! Plans are fluid and you often find yourself going down a different route. Enjoy the journey and try to avoid potholes!! X


  2. Millie says:

    Ooo that quote at the end hit me! I go through phases (ironic) of wanting and not wanting a 5 year plan in place. I can see the strategic pros of it but, as you said, my mind wanders so much that I end up just leaving it cause it no longer represents what I want. (What do I even want??? Hahah)


    • emilygabriellax says:

      I’m exactly the same!! A 5 year plan probably isn’t for me, I just enjoy having goals I can work towards at my own pace!


  3. Helen says:

    This is a great post! I’m working on a 5 year plan that’s broken down slightly with sections for 2020 (plans hugely changed), 2 years and 5 years- so it’s broken down to more manageable chunks! Love your focus on the fact that any forward planning is very personal and you need to use what works for you ☺️


    • emilygabriellax says:

      I’m glad you’ve found a plan that works for you best! I do believe a plan is so personal, even I’m not a huge 5-year plan believer but that there’s always steps to take to reach our goals 😊 thank you for reading!


  4. Charlotte Smith says:

    This was so interesting to read and you’ve made SO MANY excellent points. I think there’s a lot of pressure to have plans and goals and I’m really similar to you in the sense that if I plan for further than a week, I lose track. Maybe this is where micro-planning comes in for us? Having a goal for the end of the month and then breaking it down into bite size goals for each week or even each day. To be honest, I sometimes find having goals quite overwhelming because the fear of not completing them overcomes me. But without them, I’m definitely not as productive. Its a fine line to balance.


    • emilygabriellax says:

      Thank you Charlotte! I think you summed it up pretty perfectly there. I too can get scared almost if I don’t get to complete something or don’t reach my goals. Microplanning sounds like a valuable idea, I like knowing that what I’ve set myself is genuinely attainable!


  5. Nicola says:

    Love this! After graduating uni a few years ago I’m defintley not gonna be where I saw myself in my 5year plan back then, but I’ve had so many great unexpected experiences so who cares 🤷‍♀️


    • emilygabriellax says:

      Exactly, who cares! As long as you are happy and living a life true to yourself then that’s the best thing you can do 🙂


  6. Richie says:

    Hi Emily. Like you, I’m more of a ‘live life on a day-to-day basis’ sort of person and never really understood the purpose of tying yourself to a specific 5-year timeframe. I once had the dreaded “Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?” interview question. I’d already had a job offer elsewhere and was, perhaps, a little flippant in my reply “Doing your job!” … I wasn’t offered that job 🙂


    • emilygabriellax says:

      Hi Richie! Hahaha I love that answer!! I’m too free spirited to be dead set in what I want to do. Thanks for reading


  7. Claire says:

    Like you, I’m not sure I’m really on board with the long term plan idea and it is a question in an interview that makes me want to bounce my head off the desk!
    I need an immediate plan though, I just can’t have a big one hanging over me.
    Brilliant post x


  8. Jenny in Neverland says:

    I love how you’ve stated that a 5 year plan is what you make it. I hate it when people are like YOU HAVE TO HAVE A 5 YEAR PLAN OTHERWISE YOUR LIFE WILL FAIL. It’s ridiculous and we all grow in different ways. Despite being a really organised person in my day to day, I don’t have a 5 year plan because the future freaks me out a bit! Of course I have some basic things I’d like to have done in 5 years time though 🙂 xxx


    • emilygabriellax says:

      I definitely don’t believe anyone needs a 5 year plan! I completely see what you mean there, I have ambitions but a rigid plan scares me too much 😂 there’s got to be room for change and movement. Thanks for reading!xx


  9. Paige Eades says:

    Planning is something I love to do; but I always have done short term ones rather than long term. Your post has set out exactly why I should make a 5 year one and listed the benefits so well that I will be doing it today for sure! It’s great to look back on as well and see what has worked out and what has changed and see how much you have learnt from the passing years. Plans for the future definitely need to be loose but it’s great to have a direction you want to head into. Thank you for this really great read Emily!

    Paige // Paige Eades


  10. Gemmaa Jayne says:

    I love this! I definitely am not a future person and I more like to live in the moment and take it one day at a time 😊 my plans definitely change all the time and so do my goals and that is life. What a great post xx


  11. Totetally Legal (Tina) says:

    Indeed, at the end of the day, we are in control on how our years ahead are to be spent — whether we’re giving ourselves any specific period (e.g. 5-year plan and the like). As for me, I try to just make achievable goals for each year. However, I decided to document the next 5 years through a journal so I can reassess how I’ve faired in the past. And I do it through my Hobonichi 5-Year Techo notebook. ❤


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