Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years? A Guide To A Brighter Future

I hated the question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” during interviews when I was applying for jobs – I still do. Even though I knew why the person sitting on the other side of the carefully arranged desk was asking this question, and even though I was prepared, my answer still sounded unexcitingly ordinary. Besides, my intonation. The body language. My eyes. Every bit of my body was betraying me. It was obvious for a professional that all I was saying was bullshit. I was merely saying what they wanted to hear.

People interviewing us for the jobs we potentially want to get are asking us different (stupid at first glance) questions because they’re trying to figure if we are a good fit.

Most commonly, we get the question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

With this, now banal query, HRs want to figure out how determinate we are. How exactly we will fit into the corporate enigma masked behind a pack of benefits that make the jobs seem like a holiday – but it’s not. Are we willing to give our soul for the greater good – i.e. work long hours to make the product slightly better. And, are we ambitious enough to spend our leisure time improving ourselves, so we can make the brand even better.

Plainly, are we the right cog for the big machine, and how much time we’re willing to sacrifice for someone else’s business?

Even though it’s a bullshit question – I mean, you can find literally thousands of example answers that will help you delude the interviewer into thinking that you care – it’s a question a lot more people need to ask themselves. Especially if they want a brighter future for themselves and their families.

It shouldn’t be something only HRs get to ask you. Something dedicated for interview sessions. We, ourselves, should schedule time with ourselves to figure out the answers to “How do you see yourself 5 years from now?” from time to time.

So if you never really thought about what will happen in your personal life in the next 3, 4, or 5 years, you don’t have to apply for a job at the local McDonalds. You can simply read this article.

It’s especially good for youngsters. People in college trying to figure out what to do with their lives. And also middle-aged wanderers who are still not sure what the hell their life is about.

Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

In reality, we legitimately can’t know the answer to the question, “Where do you see yourself after 5 years after graduating?” There is no way of knowing where exactly we will be in the next 2, 3, 5, or 10 years. Heck, we can’t be sure what will happen in the next 60 minutes.

We can presume, but we can’t know with certainty.

For example, even though we might have an appointment with a friend to watch videos of girls playing in the mud, a meteor might hit the ground. Or, a car might forget to stop at a red light and eventually end up inside our car.

Life is an adventure filled with twists and turns that we certainly cannot predict. Still, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t plan our future to some extent.

If you never thought about the “5-year goals” question. It’s probably a good idea to clear your schedule, prepare a hot chocolate frappuccino, close all doors, grab a notebook, sit down, and think about what type of future you want to create for yourself.

Start with something basic. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
  • What type of life do you want to live?
  • How much will you weigh?
  • How much money do you want to earn?
  • What kind of work you want to do?
  • You can go a bit further and even think about: What mark are you going to live on the planet Earth?

Yes, it sounds like a cliché to pursue higher meaning and stuff, but in reality, what else we’re supposed to do with our lives?

I mean, is this it?

  • Endlessly scroll through plastic screens till our thumb starts to hurt?
  • Explore monstrously big rabbit holes full of fake gurus and “glamour”?
  • Drink till you pass out?
  • Travel the whole world and when you come back hate yourself for traveling the whole world?
  • Buy the latest video games and never get out because what’s the point?

That’s right.

The possibilities to procrastinate these days are infinitive. You can waste a whole day of your life doing fun stuff for approximately 0 dollars: You can play free video games, chat with friends, share pictures of yourself on every possible social media site hoping for validation.

And while these simple activities cost us nothing besides our attention – which is of real importance. How long this type of life will last?

Eventually, a moment in your life will emerge where you will say: Why am I lagging behind? Is this life? Is sharing and liking pictures really the master goal of the universe?

If you’re at this point in your life – you started asking yourself difficult questions. This means that you’ve finally slapped yourself in the face. Reality is at your door and you can throw away all the liqueur.

Now, sit and have an honest conversation so you can find something better to do.

The first step if you are motivated to create a better life for yourself in the next 5 years will be to do this:

Where Are You Now In Life?

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” they say.

To figure out where you’ll be in the next 5 years, start with where you are now.

Unplug, take a few hours if needed to get sober from all the digitalization, alcohol, and all other prohibited substances.

Ready?

Now, take a look around:

  • Do you like where you live?
  • Do you like the furniture? The design of your apartment?
  • Go in front of the mirror: Are you happy with what you see?
  • Open the closet: Do you really wear/like all the clothes inside?
  • Log into your bank account: Is there anything left?
  • Think for a moment about your daily routines: Do you like what you do for a living? The job you do and the people you meet outside and inside work? Are they nice people?

It’s surely not going to be perfect, but perfect shouldn’t be our main concern. Think about your life in general.

Let say that A is where you are right now. What is your A?

Do you like your life as a whole?

If you do, congrats my friend, you’re one of the few.

If you don’t, then welcome to the club.

According to polls, 85% of people hate their jobs.1 Happiness reports are saying that people are feeling worse. We are observing significant increases in average sadness and worry.2

Why is that?

While the reasons vary. Most commonly, it’s because we don’t have a clue what we want to do with our lives. We are unambitious and unclear about where we should be heading.

Of course, when asked. We tend to say other things.

People will most probably blame the government or their neighbors for their personal failures and the lifestyle they have. The interesting thing is that, in most situations, the majority of the population will never take the blame for how their life unfolds.

Why? Because it’s easier to blame others for your own mistakes or unachieved goals. It’s easier to complain than to do something. And according to countless studies, people hate admitting their mistakes.3

That’s one more reason to focus on the question we are trying to answer here.

Where You Want To Be In The Next 5 Years?

Five, or ten years. It doesn’t matter. The number is arbitrary.

The goal is to set a direction. Even if you’re not preparing for a job interview, you should ask yourself what type of life you want in the next 5 or 6 years. What kind of work you want to do?

Scientists and psychologists, when asking people what makes them happy, both conclude that most people feel good when they have some sort of purpose. A goal. A calling. It doesn’t matter how you want to call it. The point is to think about and write down your personal goals on a piece of paper.4

It’s up to you to do this work. You can’t expect others to help you answer this question.

And while I also can answer this for you. The 3 steps below will navigate you and help you figure out where you want to be in the 5 years and actually get there.

How to Create A Personal Plan for The Next 5 Years?

Step 1: Set a Desirable Destination

No one can’t predict the future and there is no point in trying. It will be only a waste of time. Rather, think about a place and a lifestyle you want to live.

If A is where you are now, B will be your future place. Your “dreamland” full of unicorns and pink clouds sort to say.

Think about how you want your future life to look? What’s your B?

Take a moment to imagine what B will include. And more particularly, what type of activities and tasks you want to do when you reach B. I already mentioned some questions above, but here are some more:

  • What type of work you want to do for a living?
  • Where do you want to live?
  • What things you don’t want to do in the future?

For example, if you are a car thief, and you want to stop stealing cars for a living, this will probably be on your list:

A place I want to be in 5 years: To stop depriving citizens of their vehicles and do something good for society.

But say you’re a regular 9 to 5 worker. And you secretly cry in the office bathroom because of your manager. In this case, your 5-year goal can be: Create my own company where I will treat others with respect.

These are simply examples, of course.

Take some time to think about what you want to do.

Ready?

OK, we’ve established what you want to do with your future, now let’s see what’s next:

Step 2: Deconstruct Your Future Life Into Pieces

Let me give you a visual of what B, your desired place, might look like:

Your future life looks like a pile of things you like doing.

B will be a combination of things you enjoy doing.

A brighter future, a happier life, name it as you wish. B should be a life full of activities you like instead of doing things solely to survive – work a soul-crushing job.

Since we already established where we want to go, we need to list activities that we enjoy doing. Such that will help us reach this desired destination.

The person stealing cars might include:

  • Loves working on cars.
  • Loves driving.
  • Loves dissembling vehicles.

In the case of the regular 9 to 5 worker, we can list (for example) things like:

  • Loves reading.
  • Loves writing.
  • Enjoys quiet evenings.

Once we have a list of things we enjoy doing, we need to figure out how we’ll close the gap between where we are now (A), and where we want to be in the future (B).

Step 3: Map Out a Path

Since we established where we want to go, now is time to figure out what path we should take to reach B and leave A far in the past.

So if B is a combination of things we want to achieve, we should simply start doing these things. Implement them in our lives.

It sounds simple and easy but in reality is hard and it takes a lot of time.

Let me give you an example a lot of people use:

So if B is a combination of things we want to achieve, we should find ways how these things can help us live the life we really want to experience. Then, figure out the daily actions we should do, and focus on them.

If you want to transition from a corporate cubicle-sitting robot to a writer, this will be your B. Your desirable future. That’s a goal. So, the actionable steps to achieve B is simply to write. To write every single day.

Your path will look like this:

In order to reach B, you simply need to focus on the daily tasks.

At first, you will be clueless about what to write for but that won’t be of importance. The process of writing is what matters initially.

Over time, you will get better:

The quality of your writing will improve over time.

Over time, the quality of your writing will increase. But this is only half true. If you’re not practicing this enough, the above graph won’t be enough. That’s why a 3D model is more accurate:

Your quality of writing will improve only if you’re doing this consistently over time.

In reality, the quality of your writing will increase over time only if you are consistent.

That’s how you reach your 5-year goal.

We figure out what type of life we want. Then, we think about the activities we want to do. Finally, we create a list of things we should do daily that will help us reach the desired destination.

On paper, it sounds super simple. Easy. Like almost anyone can do it. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

A lot of people fail when they start.

Let’s observe the most common thing so we can be better prepared.

Why Do We fail To Accomplish Our 5 Year Goals?

In practice, it sounds super simple: You set where you want to go. What type of life you want. And you simply follow your plan.

But if this is true, why so many people are still miserable?

Because we start on the wrong foot and focus on the wrong things.

It’s easy to set goals. It’s fun. You sit on your desk and you dream about this wonderful life. But it’s hard to stay committed.

Getting from A state to B state, sometimes, actually most of the time, takes years of hard work.

Since we’re living in a world where we can do so many fun things, our motivation fades away after a few months. Sometimes even only after a few days.

This is a combination of laziness and the inability to work hard without receiving feedback about the work you do.

But there is another reason:

We Start With Trying To Make Huge Changes in Our Lives

Here’s our usual to-do list if we want to become writers:

  • Write 2000 words daily.
  • Make sure that what you write is best-selling.
  • Hire someone to push you to write.
  • Join at least 5 writing communities.
  • Purchase a $100 pen that will help you write magic words.
  • But before anything else: Spend $3000 (or more) to get a new laptop, a standing desk, courses, sophisticated glasses, a pipe. After all, we want to showcase to the world that we are writers now.

Or in other words, we fail because we create an impossible-to-follow plan for ourselves. We fail because we try to transform our lives for a short period of time. We start doing so many things we haven’t done before all at once that we wore off quite fast.

Only a couple of days after you wrote your “Where I’ll be in the next 5-years plan,” you quit. You get tired. Then, you return to the office job.

Something which is quite normal, our body wasn’t prepared for this insane transformation.

Soon after we start, we’re back to our original routine. It kind of looks like this:

A graph where we start doing a lot of things all at once when trying to reach a 5-year goal
If we try to make drastic changes in our lives we’ll usually return to our normal state. This won’t help you reach your 5-year goal.

We try with impossible-to-follow changes. And since we don’t see immediate returns, we get really annoyed and tired.

At some point, we convince ourselves that it’s impossible to publish a book and create a sustainable business around writing.

But instead of focusing on can’t-catch-a-breath to-do lists, you should do the opposite…

What We Need to Do To Accomplish Our 5 Year Goals?

If you’ve been working a corporate job for the past 10 years, you can’t expect to effortlessly transition into a new career. Just the other day, your daily habits revolved around meetings and filling spreadsheets.

That’s why you need to focus on making a gradual change. You need to start small if you want to actually get to the place you set in the beginning.

Small Consistent Efforts. Done Regularly

Don’t try to shatter your current lifestyle and change for a day.

Getting from where you are to where you want to be takes time. There isn’t such thing as overnight success. That’s why, start with small steps.

This is how your to-do list should look like initially if you want to become a writer, for example:

  • Write 100 per day.
  • Read a couple of pages.
  • Take notes

In time, you’ll start writing more. You’ll start writing better.

A graph showing gradual improvements to reach our 5-year goal
Your daily work will add up and soon you will become better.

Strive to be 1% better than the previous day. Write 100 words today. Then, write 200. 300. 400. The idea is to make writing part of your daily routine.

Eventually, it will become part of your DNA.

Some Final Thoughts

Do you see, achieving the life you want is not that hard. You simply need to start applying small changes to your daily routine.

The main goal is to start.

But there is one more thing.

Once you’ve answered, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” You should focus mainly on: “What should I do today to reach where I want to be?”

The sooner you understand that your daily actions are the ones designing your future life the better.

I will leave you with this quote from the people’s champ, The Rock:

“Success isn’t overnight. It’s when everyday you get a little better than the day before. It all adds up.” Dwayne Johnson


Footnotes:

  1. A global poll conducted by Gallup says that 85% of People Hate their Jobs.
  2. According to the World Happiness Report 2021 – The World Happiness Report.
  3. Publication: It Wasn’t My Fault: New Study Looks At Why People Hate Admitting Mistakes.
  4. Life goal-setting exercises have a spread positive effect: Writing about personal goals.
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