“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
We’ve all been asked this question at some point in our life—maybe at an interview, by family members, or even a significant other. It can seem daunting not to have an answer, or at the very least an idea of what direction you’re traveling in. Some say scrapping the 5-year plan is a good idea, but I think it’s a good idea to have one. Whether or not you follow it exactly is up to you (to hazard a guess, you probably won’t), but the benefit of envisioning and planning for the future is really a no-brainer.
A lot can change in a month or a day, let alone five years. It was definitely true for me, and like many others in the modern workforce, flexibility has helped my career blossom out of unexpected opportunities. With the rapid advancement of new technologies, even the most organized of people understand the future is uncertain at best. That said, having a goal is a must, and a plan to get there, even better.
What I’d like to address when it comes to 5-year plans, though, is a side most of us aren’t taught to explore: philanthropy. The whole idea of planning for the future is conflated with financial and personal gain, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Planning to make money is fine, but what about planning to give back? Charity is so often put on the backburner for ambitious young people who think to themselves that in order to become a philanthropist, they need to “get rich” first.
There’s so much that people of all ages and income brackets can do to give back, and not all of it involves writing a hefty check. But like other things, like retirement, it seems that if we don’t plan for it or make time, we may never truly get there.
Now more than ever, I think we all have to get there any way can. Incorporating a plan for giving into your 5-year roadmap is a great way to make a promise to yourself (and the world) that you will be more than a go-getter, but a get-giver.
The question is, how? Publications like Fast Company advise that, to create a five-year plan, you ask yourself a series of questions. What’s my wildest dream? What am I willing to do—and have to do—to get there? What gives me an edge? Are the risks worth the rewards? What other results would be acceptable if I’m forced to pivot? Five years is short-term enough that you can have tangible, attainable goals in place. And these should be no means exclude travel goals, fitness goals, and relationship goals—though the latter may certainly be more difficult to control.
The same approach can work wonders when you work philanthropy into your plan. Ask yourself, what do I care most about in the world? What causes are making the biggest difference in this area or areas? How involved do I want to be, and how much impact would I like to make, ideally? What steps will get me there? At the risk of sounding too abstract, here are three steps to get you started:
It may seem silly, or you may think that just being a caring person is enough, but I’ll let you in on another reason it’s important. You need this facet in your plan so that it is not all about you. When we’re all focused on getting ourselves ahead, we run the risk of becoming totally self-absorbed and losing sight of things of equal import.
Personal success can be, and usually is, satisfying to achieve. Giving back is too, if not more so. Studies show that altruism reduce negative feelings and feelings of isolation while cultivating a sense of belonging, boosting endorphins, and even prolonging lifespans.
Planning philanthropy will also help to execute it more effectively. Emotional, in-the-moment altruism does not always go as far as research-backed altruism, so taking the time to plan ahead of time will likely inform smarter decisions that really make a difference.
So next time someone asks what your five-year plan is, have an answer for them. It doesn’t need to be a detailed power-point, but if it incorporates a plan for giving, it may just inspire others to do the same.