For most of my life I lived knowing that tomorrow would be the same as today, and that in five years, however desperately I wanted things to be different, they would always be the same. Even with my misery, facing an existence I hated until it ended, I couldn’t figure out how to move past it. Between fear of failure and doubt in myself, I allowed myself to be crippled and trapped. All of that started to change when I was nineteen.

Without going into too much detail, let’s just say my life changed in a big way, but it wasn’t through anything that I had done. It took another four years before I started making my own moves in life. At 23 years of age I finally started making my own decisions. I left a very toxic environment, created my first Five Year Plan (it took about two months to recognize it as such), and began organizing myself to see it completed.

For me, this first five year plan seemed immense. To most it would seem simple enough: get my Bachelor’s degree. For me, it was a life-long dream, but I didn’t feel ready. The last time I’d been in school was sixth grade, over a decade earlier, and I didn’t know what I was getting into. Still, like any good plan, I needed to get organized. My plan ended up looking something like this:

  • GED (since I didn’t have a high school diploma)
  • SAT
  • Applications to colleges
  • Acquire housing
  • Stick to it

There were hiccups, and I considered dropping out more than once. In the end, despite life attempting to jump in the way, I made it. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a 3.87 GPA. How did I make it work? First, I chose a goal that was achievable (graduating), and didn’t throw a lot of specifics on what I expected after I achieved the goal. For me, college was the goal. This allowed me to push through everything and keep focused on that end goal, which, at less than 5 years, was always pretty close.

Would I have made it if my plan had been “I want to be a video game designer. To do that, I need to go to college”? I doubt it, because after completing college, I would have had no guarantees of accomplishing my goal. By making college the goal, and one that was achievable within a reasonable chunk of time, I was able to follow through. Don’t plan too big or too far out. Does that mean don’t dream? Hell no! Dream as big as you like! Just keep in mind that dreams are dreams, and plans are the road map to the reality you wish to create.

Dreams without plans are useless. Plans without dreams are dead. Keep in mind, making a five year plan won’t get you there. You still have to do the work, hold yourself accountable, and follow through no matter how hard it gets.

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