Your First 100 Days: The magic of 5.

Short repeat from yesterday:

(Also: Just tuning in to this series? Welcome! Here’s the scoop: I’m giving followers here a free walk-through of a course called “Your First 100 Days,” a structured approach to help turn ideas into action. The first post in this series is here.)

Yesterday’s exercise was to check in on your future self, five years from today (January 2028) and then to write a list of goals that you want that future you to have met. Thinking of it that way – what you want to have done, not what you want to do – frames it a little differently from how you may have done in the past.

The idea behind that exercise is that when I first started planning for the year ahead by first looking back, then doing some vision work, then setting goals for the coming 12 months, this look at a 5-year horizon wasn’t part of the work.

Last year I realized what was missing, though, was the kind of far view/near view that’s like driving on the highway, shifting eyes between the next mile marker and the horizon. So I added a two-part exercise in looking at a 3-5 year timeframe in between that “100 Wants” exercise and the work of planning the 12 months ahead.

What do I want to have accomplished? How do I want to feel? What do I want to be?

So now I write 5 year goals, and although these are not they, I’ll give you an idea of what 5 year goals might sound like:

Five years from now I want to have …

…made peace with my past

…gotten a college degree

…written and published a book

…become fluent in another language

They might also sound like:

Five years from now I want to …

… be living in a house that I own (pay a mortgage, not rent)

… be able to travel in (a foreign country) and converse with the native language speakers

… harvest (and preserve) most of the food I eat from my own garden

Yours might sound different from those examples, but what they should have in common is a similar timeframe. They should be things that will require more than the next 12 months.

In the next module, which is the 12-month view, you’ll identify the near-term goals that support getting toward the 5-year goals. An example: If in 5 years you want to be eating mostly from your own garden, then the 12-month goal might be to start a vegetable garden or learn to preserve the foods you grow in your garden.

To finish out this module, there are there worksheets (images below). The basic steps are:

  • Identify the top 5 goals (in no particular order) from yesterday’s longer list
  • Prioritize those 5 goals, using a structured process
  • Write a supporting vision statement to go with those 5 goals

Maybe you’re wondering what the magic of 5 is (and maybe also wondering why I’m using 5 not five, when you know I know better).

There is no real magic to the number 5, other than that it’s typically the number of digits on the human hand, so it’s an easy list-making convention. My rule on grocery shopping, for example, is that I make a list if there are more than 5 items I need to purchase. If there are fewer than 5, then I use it as a memory exercise, making the list in my head and assigning each item to my fingers and thumb. So, yes, if you see me at the grocery one day and I’m standing in the middle of the aisle, looking intently at my hand with only three fingers outstretched, then you’ll I’m trying to recall what the hell items 4 and 5 were on my mental list.

Why 5 and not five? Just seems friendlier and easier to read.

OK, now for the work.

From your longer list of 3-5 year goals, select up to 5. Have only 3? Great. You do you.

Assign each of your goals (I’m going to assume there are 5, for the sake of easy explaining) a letter – A, B, C, D, E.

Using the Goal Prioritization sheet (or a hand-drawn grid, on a sheet of paper) write a few words by each letter (A-E) so you’ll know which of your goals is represented by the corresponding letter.

Using the grid, you’ll pair off each goal against the others and decide which one of the two in that pairing is more important to you. For example, if your 5-year goals are:

A – Grow 80% of my own food

B – Learn to speak Italian fluently

C – Write/publish a book

D – Build a screened porch

E – Master the Art of French Cooking

Then, using the sheet, you would take those 5 goals, 2 at a time, deciding which of that pairing took priority. In each open box (on the sheet) you’ll write only one of the two letters. So, pairing A (grow 80% of food) against B (learn to speak Italian), you’ll decide which one is more important, A or B, and write that number in the box. Complete the rest of the sheet that same way — A vs. B; A vs. C; A vs. D; A vs. E — and so on. You’ll consider each pairing twice.

When you’ve finished, add the number of times each letter appears on the grid.

Yes, you can end up with a tie. If that happens, then repeat the exercise using only the items that tied.

Yes, this approach is my own invention. I’ve used it in my own work, in one-on-one coaching, and in group facilitation for the last 10 years. I promise it works, and it’s worth the effort.

Can you set your own priorities, without doing this exercise? Of course. Take what’s helpful here and leave the rest.

Once you have your ordered list of goals for the 3-5 years ahead, use the third sheet to write them down, in order. Then take a few additional minutes to reflect on 2 questions: What will life look like, if all of these goals are met? Who’s on the “call a friend” list when things get off track?

Whew. That’s a big one. And guess what? We’ll do the exact same set of exercises for the 12 month view, starting tomorrow.

See you then.


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