Seth Godin wrote: “A ten-year plan is absurd. Impossible, not particularly worth wasting time on. On the other hand, a ten-year commitment is precisely what’s required if you want to be sure to make an impact.”
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It doesn’t matter if you call it a plan or a commitment. What’s important is that you do it.
I recently completed an exercise in which I wrote the story of my life, ten years in the future. It was a fun way to clarify my dreams and design a plan to get there. The exercise made me feel inspired and capable. More importantly, it showed me how far I’ve come.
If you’re someone who is determined to make an impact, this process is for you.
Where This 10 Year Plan Idea Came From
Earlier this year, Tim Ferriss interviewed designer Debbie Millman. Toward the end of the podcast, Millman shared an exercise she assigns to her students called “Your Ten Year Plan for a Remarkable Life.”
The assignment is to imagine what your life would be like if you could do anything you wanted because you’re completely free from the fear of failure. Millman explained the details in the podcast. During the conversation, she shared that she consistently receives letters from students she had ten years ago who say, “Debbie, it all came true. How did this happen?”
As a writer and a coach, I was intrigued by this process. When I work on my goals, I always include five and ten-year targets. But I’ve never laid out the specifics by writing the story.
I also know that if we want to create freedom in our lives we must clearly define what that freedom looks like. I was ecstatic to have found an exercise to help me and my clients do that.
Here’s Why You’ll Love Your 10 Year Plan!
1 – It Works
As Millman said in the podcast, “it’s magic.”
It’s not a new idea. In 1956, Earl Nightingale produced the recording, The Strangest Secret. In 2006, Rhonda Byrne released the best-selling book, The Secret. The secret, in Nightingale’s words, is that “we become what we think about.”
[bctt tweet=”We become what we think about. – Earl Nightingale” username=”hollyascherer”]
Before we move on, take a moment to think about a time when something like this has played out in your life. Maybe you said, “I’m going to become this,” and became it. Or perhaps you said, “nothing good ever happens to me,” and nothing did.
Here are a couple of examples of my own.
About ten years ago I was having lunch with a friend who was practically begging me to buy her Infinity SUV. I told her that if I was going to buy a car, it would be a Honda because you can drive them forever without having to pump money into them.
A couple of years later, I bought that Honda. As I was shopping for that car I thought to myself, a Subaru might be a better fit. But at the time I felt like the Subaru was outside of the budget I set for myself. As you might have guessed, I recently purchased that Subaru (with cash).
Another story goes back to my young and dumb college days. I always said I was going to retire by the time I turned 40 (which seemed really old back then). My goal was to make a ton of money so that I could work for 20 years and then call it quits. While I never made a ton of money and my definition of retirement has changed, I was able to leave the corporate world at age 38.
Did these things happen because of the seeds that were planted so many years earlier? I like to think it has something to do with it.
Looking back, I wish I had latched on to this idea earlier.
2 – It’s Inspiring
Creating your dream life is fun and exciting. It’s difficult to explain the elated feeling I had after I finished writing my story.
When you write down detailed dreams that include a timeline, they become attainable. The process of defining your journey to get there makes you feel capable. Visualizing yourself in the moment, ten years from now is absolutely inspiring.
Then there was the unexpected satisfaction of seeing how my life today aligns with this dream. When you finish this exercise, you’ll be able to give yourself a pat on the back for how far you’ve come. You’ll feel compelled to express gratitude for all that you already have.
The 10 Year Plan Formula
There are no strict rules to follow. I adapted the process from someone who adapted the process from someone else who likely adapted it themselves. Feel free to make it work for you.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I can be a bit detailed. If that’s not your cup of tea, consider the first three steps optional. The last step, however, is not.
Step 1 – Milestones (Optional)
I began by creating a timeline. It’s a simple bulleted list of milestones that includes the month, year, and my age at that time. I began in January 2000, when my husband, Jer and I met. I finished twelve years from now, marking our 25th wedding anniversary.
I included things like when we got married, paid off our house, and launched new projects. I also set target dates for things we want to do in the future. This step was extremely helpful in writing a plan that’s attainable.
Step 2 – Goals (Optional)
I then created specific and measurable goals with deadlines. I began with goals to be completed next month and continued throughout the next ten years.
This step doesn’t need to be super detailed. I listed fourteen goals. You might have more, you might have less. You simply want to define where you will be ten years from now and work backward to lay out what needs to happen along the way.
Step 3 – Strengths and Passions (Optional)
Before I began writing, I took a few minutes to list my strengths, skills, and passions. I included my actual Strengths Finder strengths, the activities I most enjoy, and topics I’m passionate about. It served as a nice refresher before diving in.
Step 4 – Writing Your Plan – NOT OPTIONAL!
This is where it all comes together.
Begin by noting the date you’re writing this for future reference. You may also want to write the date ten years from now. I took it a step further and figured out which day of the week it will be. I wrote, “Today is a Sunday … but that doesn’t matter because we’ve built a life where there is no distinction between work and play. We do what we love …”
Now you must shift your mindset to believe that anything is possible and there is zero chance you could fail. Begin to write what your life will look like on this day, ten years from now. Make your dreams as big and as detailed as you can.
Write every detail of this day from the moment you wake up until you fall asleep at night. The longer the better. A good plan will take time, but this is your life we’re talking about. In my opinion, it’s worth the sacrifice.
I’ve included a list of questions you might want to reference. Don’t feel like you need to answer all of them. These are simply the questions I asked myself. (A bit detailed, eh?)
More than anything, I ask that you approach these questions openly and with your whole heart.
Questions to Ponder (10 Years from Now)
- What are you doing with your life? How do you spend your time?
- What does a typical day look like for you? A week? A month?
- What do you do for work? When and where do you do that?
- How much do you earn? What do you do with your earnings?
- What have you been up to for the last ten years? How did you get here?
- What have been your greatest accomplishments?
- What have you learned from failure?
- What do you value most in your life? How does the life you’re living reflect that?
- What gets you excited to jump out of bed in the morning?
- What are you reading and learning about?
- What ten words best describe the life you’re living?
- Why are you doing the things that you do?
- How does it feel to live the life you’re living?
- Who is there with you?
- Who are the other important people in your life? Children, grandchildren, pets?
- Describe your relationships with friends and family.
- How are you involved in your community?
- What are you doing to serve others?
- How is your health?
- What are you eating? Where does it come from? How is it prepared?
- What types of physical activity do you engage in? Where? How often? What time of day? With who?
- Where are you living? What part of the world? Are you in the city or the country?
- What kind of house do you have? How is it furnished? Where do you spend the most time on your property?
- What kind of view do you have? Describe what you see, how it smells and what you hear.
- What are you wearing? How do you style your hair? Describe how you look.
- What do you drive? Where are you driving it and why?
- What else is an important part of your daily life?
Make Time and Do It
Hopefully, you’re convinced that this exercise is important, fun and inspiring. Keep in mind that it won’t begin to work until you set aside the time to complete it.
The amount of time you invest is up to you. In the interview, Millman said, “The longer it is the more likely it is to be affirmed.” “The more care and detail you put in … the more success you’ll have coming out of it.”
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I spent a few hours writing my plan that totaled 3062 words. Unless you’re a fast writer, give yourself a minimum of two hours of uninterrupted time.
Schedule time in your calendar to complete this as soon as possible. This is important. Don’t let too much time slip by.
I wrote my plan in Evernote. I like the convenience of keeping it digital. Handwriting in a journal is another great option. Do what works best for you. If that’s crayons and poster board, go for it.
Once you finish your plan, schedule an annual review in the calendar on your smartphone. I use Google calendar so that it’s available digitally, across all of my devices.
Dreams and plans are an essential part of building a life of freedom. Not only is this exercise fun and inspiring, but it works. You owe it to yourself to give it a try.
If you’re committed to the process, hold yourself accountable by sharing this post on social media along with the date you’ll complete it. Ask your best accountability friends to follow up with you. Then sit back and watch the magic happen.