Should You Have A Five-Year Life Plan?

Like an opinion on the Melbourne Cup and an appreciation for oysters, the five-year plan seems like one of those things you’re just supposed to have when you become a grown up. It’s an odd sort of pressure: “congratulations on surviving university – now immediately decide what are you doing for the next half decade!”

But having even the most basic outline has a way of making you feel a bit more in control of your life-situation. And with New Years and the inevitable slew of resolutions just around the corner, setting goals à la FYP might not be the worst idea. Apparently the average person makes the same New Year’s resolution 10 separate times without success, but if you’re writing down your goals you’re 42% more likely to achieve them.

Traditionally, five-year plans are attached to financial goals – like getting debt free, or buying a house – but they can also be used to help you win at life in general. Travel, fitness, even relationship plans gather a little more clarity when they’re laid bare, but it doesn’t mean you have to be traditional with your five year plan.

Does It Need To Be Five Years?

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Image: Unsplash

It certainly makes sense that if you’re organised and plan ahead you’re more likely to realise your grand vision than if you’re a hot mess whose idea of forward thinking is buying two instant soups instead of one.

Five years is a good time frame because it’s long enough to think about the bigger goals you might want to achieve, but short enough to be able to think about actually achieving them. In the same way a 25-metre swimming pool is the perfect size for swimming laps, things are always more attainable when the end-point is in sight.

Whether it’s a one, three or five-year plan, the intention is the same: you’re forcing yourself to realise what you want to achieve in different areas of your life, and figuring out the pathways that can actually get you there in a certain amount of time.

Are People Still Using Them?

To find out we asked six people from a variety of professional backgrounds – from a PhD student to an astrophysicist, a Logie-nominated actor to a TV producer.

Dr Alan Duffy


“I did have a vague plan where I would set an obvious target or a goal – so that was get a degree, get my PhD – and I used that to inform my decisions. But I definitely didn’t have a rigid time frame on that. I was willing to stretch that out for an extra year if I wanted to go travelling, which I did. Or if I wanted to change course I wouldn’t feel bad about having had this locked in plan in place. I have had those timely goals, but five years just sounds a bit too Stalin-esque.

Jess Tovey

Logie-nominated actor

“I certainly had goals I wanted to achieve, but all of those have changed … I’ll be completely honest, there was an element of desire of fame when I was younger, and as soon as I went into the industry and tasted what that was like a little bit, I immediately didn’t want that anymore … I think in my industry having a FYP is almost impossible because it’s a very precarious industry and it changes dramatically. You can literally be unemployed, then you get one phone call and have work for three years. So you can have goals but it’s hard to manage and plan your career.”

Sarah Moran

Communications Manager, QUT Creative Enterprise Australia + Co-founder of Girl Geek Academy

“The first five-year life plan I had was when I was 14, and it was because I had an amazing boss who showed us how to plan a life and how to create something that’s balanced. Then I wrote another one, then I wrote another one, and I stopped at 25 and have been lost ever since … When you make a life plan it helps you think about what could happen next. You need to know when you make the plan that things will change – but it gives you something to go by, it gives you a map, and if you don’t have a map then you won’t actually go anywhere.”

Andrew Levins


“I’ve only really thought about a five-year plan in the last year. I guess my five-year plan – and this sounds corny – is always just to stay happy … I still change my mind every 10 minutes about what I want to do, but as long as you have a really really corny goal like that, then you will be happy.”

Sophia Frentz

PhD student in genetics

“No, I’ve never had a five-year life plan. My best piece of advice to give would be to do something that you enjoy right now. I look at the next step, I do the next step that is right for me at that point in my life, because I know I might be a completely different person in three years’ time, let alone five years.”

Tom Whitty

Supervising producer, The Project

“I haven’t had a five-year life plan, but I have medium-term goals, I guess. So I had a plan to buy a house at one point, I had a plan to move through my industry and do different things, write for different publications, those sorts of things … It’s worthwhile having [a goal] because you have something to aim for. Otherwise you’re sort of just drifting along and that can be debilitating if you don’t feel like you’re heading towards something – even if it’s a simple thing like making a new friend.”

(Lead image via Unsplash)