5-Year Plans: Why 20-Somethings Should Avoid Planning For What Happens Next

by Amanda Zimmerman

You just graduated college and everyone's asking, "So, what's next?"

Your obvious, natural response is probably, "Get a job." Then, as you begin making attempts at procuring said job, you hear the question, "Where do you see yourself in five years?"

Ah, the five-year plan. Have you made one? Have you even thought about making one?

You probably either fall into one of two categories: You're the person who has the plan for the next five years that will hopefully lead you to your dream life, or you are the person with no plan and no real outline of what your life will remotely look like in five years.

I fall into the latter group, and I believe it's the best way to live. Here's why:

Five Years Is A Huge Amount of Time

Think back to what you were doing five years ago. Personally, I was just starting out in college. I was a completely different person than who I am today, with different ideas about the world and completely opposite goals for myself. In the past five years, I have changed a lot. 

We are who we are today, but something could happen tomorrow that could change everything we know or think about the world around us. Plus, there are 1,825 tomorrows in a five-year span. That's a lot of opportunities for things to change.

But on the flip side...

Five Years Is A Relatively Short Amount of Time

If you were to bullsh*t a five-year plan today, what would it look like? Probably something along the lines of, "I see myself working my way up the *insert career of choice* ladder towards a leadership position. I'll be in a healthy and happy relationship, hopefully married or on the way..." Blah. Blah. Blah.

Here's the thing: Most of the time, life doesn't work like we think it will. You may not find yourself rising in the ranks of whatever field you are in for one reason or another. It doesn't mean you're not doing your best. It just means that, maybe, five years isn't enough for the ball to get rolling on a promotion.

If you're not in a healthy and happy relationship, it doesn't mean you're a bad person or that you are going to be alone for the rest of your life; it just means that, maybe, five years wasn't enough time for you to find a person you are compatible with.

If you live to be the average age of about 79, five years is only 6.36 percent of your life. That is a ridiculously small window to expect some major life success to fall into.

Which brings me to my next argument against five-year plans:

They're Stressful

A five-year plan includes having "X" done by "Y" date. Sometimes there are multiple "X" factors, such as getting job promotion, getting married, having a baby, having another baby, moving to a different city, etc.

These are all fantastic and worthy things to wish to accomplish, but again, five years is 6.36 percent of an average life span. If working yourself to the bone to accomplish these goals doesn't kill you, the stress surely will.

A five-year plan is a giant expectation, and you know what they say: Expectation is the root of all heartache.

Falling Short Is Incredibly Heartbreaking

Having a five-year plan and rigidly sticking to it can be an obsession. It becomes the driving force behind every decision you make, and if you fall short of this plan, the emotional fallout can be devastating.

I've seen it firsthand from family members who have had to rethink who they are, what their purpose is in life and where their worth lies. It's horrible for them and especially heart-wrenching to witness.

So, I propose to never have a five-year plan. Have goals, but give yourself ample room to change those goals and to grow as an individual as you see fit over time. Don't plan; just live.