Most job interviewers will ask, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" We have learned to answer so we sound ambitious, but not too ambitious; vague, but not too vague; enthusiastic, but not too enthusiastic. We essentially say nothing, hoping that nothing is enough.
But if you were talking to your partner or your best friend, how would you answer that question? Because saying nothing will leave you with nothing. Instead, take steps to move forward although the present may seem daunting.
Here are five steps to lead you to creating a meaningful tomorrow.
First, grab a notebook and find a quiet place where you can think uninterruptedly. You will need at least a half-hour, so pick a time and place that will serve you and you alone.
Second, in your notebook start writing stream of consciousness things about what you want over the next five years. Don't worry about how they sound or whether you really want them. Your objective is to get your unedited thoughts down. This list will be expansive, but we will trim it back in the next step.
The third step is the most critical. Look at each thing you wrote down and write a paragraph on why you want it. How would you feel if this happened, who would be affected by your decision, what would be different for you if it came to be? When Nietzsche said, "He who has a why to live can bear almost any how," he was talking about this step. As you read over each aspiration, decide if this is a top-five priority for you. Yes, you need to prioritize. Make these priorities measurable, actionable and realistic. Some of your priorities may not have a timetable - "I want to be more engaged with my family" is different from "I want to get out of debt or own a vacation home."
The fourth step is the how. If you believe the why, the hows tend to be easy. Create your action plan for the five priorities. If they are not things that you can do on your own, explore who you need to enlist for help. Break down your hows into smaller pieces so that they are not overwhelming.
For instance, if you want to retire in five years, create a workable budget, investment program and a list of interests.
Finally, share this with someone who will help you be accountable. The stakes may not be as charged with a friend or adviser than with a spouse, but make sure it is someone who can remind you when you are off track.
You may not have everything in five years, but you will definitely have something.