The first step to planning anything is to define where you want to go. That’s obvious, but it’s the step most of us miss. I graduated from college in 2004 and wandered aimlessly for the next five years. I experienced success at work and was able to pay off my debt in 2007. However, I still had no clear direction.
It’s scary how fast five years goes by, and it hit me in 2009 when I realized I didn’t know where I was going. By that point, I was an avid reader of non-fiction and self-help books, so I was starting to realize I should probably make some kind of plan.
The first step I took in early 2009 was to write a letter to future self – five years away. I took it pretty serious at the time, but have looked back at it the last couple of years and had some laughs. However, I’m now realizing it was my first step in the right direction. It was my first real commitment to changing my life. Below are some excerpts from my letter to myself:
To: Danny in five years (2014) (FIVE YEARS)
I am currently in the state of Georgia writing to my future self (you). Certain parts of my life couldn’t be going better right now. I’m marrying (my wife) in June and couldn’t be any happier.
Financially, I am doing well. This is the start of the second year of market turmoil and our financial system is still getting beat up. Looking back, I believe my goal was to have my first million by the time I was 30. It is still possible, but I don’t think Accenture will get me there. [Update: I’m one year away and unless something big happens won’t make it!!]
My job isn’t really in jeopardy, but Accenture has started the process of lay-offs (currently soliciting “voluntary separation”). At times, I feel that if I do get laid off or quit that it might be the best thing for me because I won’t have an option to do anything else (but go out on my own). Hopefully, you have it by now.
I continue to enjoy reading immensely. It all started with the Munger book that I got in June ’07. Since that time, I have read close to 30 books on a number of different subjects. Hopefully, I will continue with the reading as its something I really enjoy. I also feel there is a real purpose to it. I feel like it is my preparation for when something does come along.
At this point five years ago, I was in my Senior year at OSU and looking forward to the things that would come; and subsequently that are here now. I believe that I have reached some of my goals. Mainly, I am learning a lot at work, making good money, marrying (my wife), and progressing through life. I have also achieved some pretty cool goals with my volunteer service.
However, I think that I would have expected a little more of myself at this point. It’s awesome how big one’s dreams can be out of college, but sometimes the real world has a way of dampening some of those dreams. Actually, I don’t think it’s life’s fault at all. I think it’s my own inaction.
I still believe that I will get to where I want to by the time you read this. Hopefully, you are running a successful business, happily married, financially stable, and living your dreams. Remember the bucket list, hopefully it’s still around.
Fare well my friend! Dan
Ok, the letter might seem a little strange; especially since I called myself my friend! However, I still think it’s a good exercise.
1/14/2012 is year 3 of my five year letter. I’m finally making the progress that my old self wished for, and I think I will be able to hit many of my five year goals I’d hoped for at the time. In fact, I think my old self from 2009 would be pretty happy as this blog is manifestation of those hopes.
Don’t let another five years go by and wonder where it went. There’s a saying that the best way to know your future, is to know your history. This pertains to many things, but most importantly it pertains to you. If you don’t have a plan, you’re going to walk around in circles for the next five years and not even realize you’ve come back to the some place you started from.
Try writing a letter to your future self. Spend fifteen minutes and make sure you capture the good things that are happening in your life as well as some of the things you might want to change. Don’t be afraid to add in your big dreams of where you hope to be. If you’re ambitious, you can even go beyond the five years and write a letter for 10, 25, or even 50 years. It’s a great way to give yourself a vision and direction.
Do you have any tips for creating your personal plan? If you have tips, I’d like to hear about it in the comments.