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If you’re feeling burned out, or frazzled or just plain lost, it can be very difficult to see what your next step should be. In this situation it can be good to create some (artificial) distance, by making a five year plan.
It gives your mind some space and calm to think about this, without resorting to panic mode.
This is, of course, exactly the problem during a burn-out. Or of any other stage where you are feeling under pressure, stretched.
The brain goes into panic mode and is focussed on surviving right now. It can’t realistically make any sort of judgement about the future, because it’s only trying to survive right now.
Plans? Ones based on panic, yes the brain can do that at this stage. But any real, realistic plans that will bring you a lifetime of joy…not while you’re in panic mode.
Enter the five year plan to happiness.
How does this create space and balance in my life?
This creates space and balance for the overwhelmed mom, because having a plan for where to be five years from now, rather than tomorrow gives you a change to focus on direction, rather than on immediate issues that you might be facing.
Like I said earlier, in five years a lot can change. And, importantly, your family is going to have a different dynamic five years from now.
This gives you the breathing space to see where you want to go, without dealing with the panic of the immediate stresses.
For instance, if your work stresses you out and appears to be a problem you must solve, but you don’t know how. Perhaps you can’t do without the paycheck. Perhaps there is debt.
Now, compare that to the feeling that thinking five years into the future gives you. (And if five years doesn’t do it for you, feel free to stretch it to 10 years).
I always think of it as feeling lighter in my head, more roomier. Suddenly there is some breathing space in which I can imagine things that seem impossible in the day to day chaos that is now.
Yeah, but how does this help?
This helps, because once you have your five year plan, you can work backwards on the steps.
Say you hate your job, to get back to that example. And you want to be a bookkeeper instead (just naming something), but you don’t have the qualifications. You could have those papers 5 years from now. It’s not as if becoming a bookkeeper is that farfetched, right?
As adults, we have the advantage of greater hindsight as well as a greater feeling for the passing of time. Surely, when you were 16, 5 years felt like a great stretch of time.
But now? My oldest son is 5, and on most days I look at him and wonder how he got this big!
Advantages of having a five year plan:
- You’ll be able to focus on the things that bring you joy
- You’ll be able to move in the direction you want to go in
- You know when to say no
- It will make you feel more confident about yourself and about the direction that you are taking your life
- People who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them
A few years, if you truly want to change your life, 5 years is perfectly doable.
But! You need focus.
And for focus, you need a plan.
Start by dreaming first
Find a time when you won’t be disturbed. This doesn’t have to take ages, and if you find you need more time, you can always come back to this exercise.
Honestly, this is one of my favorite exercises. Who doesn’t like to relax and dream?
Once you’ve picked a time slot, sit or lie down where you can relax. I don’t recommend lying down in bed, because you’ll want to stay awake. And you know how we moms fall asleep when we don’t want to
A bath is a good place for this exercise. It gives you comfort, relaxation and warmth. Exactly what we’re looking for.
Alternatively, you could settle yourself in a coffeeshop with a Latte, huddle in your warm sweater (the weather’s gone cold here, can you tell?) and daydream.
Here it goes:
It’s 2022, and mercifully the kids are staying with the grandparents for a week. You’re being woken up by …
Take it from there. The question is, what does you ideal day look like? Are you with someone? Do you need to be somewhere? Are you working? In an office? At home? What hobby are you enjoying?
Who are you calling for a chat?
Ask yourself all these questions.
Don’t leave it at dreaming: PLAN!
Okay, so now that you’ve got an appointment 5 years from now, it’s time to start on that five year plan. We need to hop onto the planning train to get there!
Firstly, you plan needs to be SMART. It’s an overused term, yes, but it’s a good one
It stands for:
And it’s a good way to plan. Planning the SMART way has the potential to make the difference between succeeding and failing. It takes care of a lot of the very human pitfalls that usually trip us up.
Take Time. Without pinning down a time, what do we think? We think, Nah, I don’t feel so good today, I’ll do it tomorrow.
You know what they say about tomorrow, right?
Write your own five year plan!
Fill in what you need to do to get to your place five years from now.
From there, work backwards. Which steps come before? How long do they take?
Take all of these steps, for each part of your five year plan and attach concrete actions.
If you need a diploma, then the first concrete action will be to apply to some courses. Where will you do this and when.
Beware of not planning too many actions at once!
This is not a sprint. If you start feeling overwhelmed, it may be better to take the rest of the day off.
I don’t want to encourage you to procrastinate, but don’t stress yourself either. This should be fun and exciting. You can feel stressed when you’re taking your exams
List them all down. You can worry about actually having to do them all later. Right now, all you want is a roadmap with really good directions. That’s all your doing.
Then, see if you need to break these steps further down. Until you have a roadmap where every day you know what to do to help yourself into a better life.
Oh, and don’t forget that this stuff should be bringing you joy! That’s the whole goal of the exercise!
Make a pledge
Do you know who your BFF is? It’s you. Nobody else is going to look after yourself the way you will.
You can tell me that you’ve not done a good job at looking after yourself. And I believe you! I know how that goes. But, I’m also convinced that you teach others how to treat you.
How else will your partner know what you want or what’s ailing you, if you don’t teach? Let alone a stranger, who doesn’t know you at all. How are they going to treat you, if you have no love or respect for yourself?
This is why I believe that you are your own best friend. So you need to look after yourself.
I know, that at times looking after oneself is not easy. That’s why we’re here.
That’s also why you need to look after your future self, your BFF.
Today, make a pledge to every day take a small step to get to the best place for your BFF.
And if your step is just not doing anything for a few minutes while sipping tea (my first step in my journey), then that is perfectly fine.
As long as you make that pledge and stick to it.
If you haven’t already, download the workbook. Schedule the time and place to do this and get going!