Swap Out Your 5-Year Plan With These Daily Goals
“College is the best time of your life.”
We’ve all heard it — if you haven’t, cheers to a new cliché. The problem with this well-worn phrase is that nobody tells you what your life will be like after the “best time.” They tell you to have a five-year plan for when college inevitably comes to a close, but never what the end goal of those five years should be. And what about 10, 20, or 30 years from now?
I have been facing this question for well over a year. I graduated college, got married, and moved to a new state where I started working full-time in my new career. My husband started medical school, and my life became a routine of wake up, eat, work, and sleep. I seemed to blaze through all the major milestones at hyperspeed as I left the “best time of my life” far behind me. Without realizing it my life morphed into the simple task of getting through the day. It leaves me scratching my head and asking the ever-repetitive question: what the heck do I do with my life?
At times of self-discovery such as this, I take it upon myself to make a list of options and plans. I whipped out my notebook and pen as I quickly labeled the page, “The Next Five Years.” After fifteen minutes of obsessive thought, I had two items on the list: number one was “consider getting your masters,” and number two — well, it was blank. Left in confusion, I wondered what my purpose would be. With those “best years” of my life over and gone, I seemed doomed to repeat my daily routine until I eventually dropped dead.
How many of us have been lost in this cycle as young men and women? Our entire childhood is lived for the next test, the next grade, or the next birthday. We work ourselves mad in high school trying to graduate and plan for college, and then we repeat the cycle as we try to prepare ourselves for a life filled with those five-year plan goals. What do we do when we’ve hit most of the ordinary milestones? What do we do when our lives slow down?
St. Thérèse of Lisieux, a highly respected saint in the Catholic Church, is well known for her “trademarked” practice called “The Little Way.” The philosophy behind it is to do ordinary tasks with great love and intentionality. Something you should know is that St. Thérèse dreamed of being a great and famous missionary in her youth, but instead entered a cloistered convent where she was never allowed to leave. At the young age of 15, daily routines became her new path to greatness. As I hit my quarter-life crisis, I pondered this great woman’s philosophy and came to some of my own conclusions.
If St. Thérèse, a young strong-willed girl from France, could become one of the most famous women in the world by living in simplicity, I could have a life purpose that expanded beyond major milestones and career goals. Instead of stressing over adding more to my “next five years” plan, I put together a new list of daily goals.
1. Find joy in the simple things.
Our days as adults are spent with much more responsibility, boredom, and restriction than when we were teenagers. However, our lives are only ever as boring as we allow them to be. Imagine how lovely our days would be if we searched for joy in our menial, daily tasks. When we have understood finding joy in the little things, we will be masters of recognizing joy in the big or hard things.
2. Create your own milestones and take your time getting to them.
These milestones could be anything. It could be going for a walk, actually folding the laundry like you said you would, or calling a loved one. Maybe you don’t need another degree, maybe you need to master the sewing machine, start lifting weights, or sign yourself up for therapy. Instead of focusing on all the motivation we’ve lost from a lack of major milestones, we must focus on what we’ve gained in this moment that will help us to grow into the best version of ourselves.
3. Get out of your head and start living your life.
It’s challenging living in a world that has such a massive amount of “greatness” pushed in front of us every day on social media. I often find myself saddened by my lack of bringing anything big or noticeable to the world. But instead of looking at what we’re not bringing, let’s focus on what we are. Maybe you didn’t start Apple, but maybe you contributed to society by taking care of yourself and being a good friend, sister, husband, or son. That’s far more valuable than any trinket with voice control.
It’s not a bad thing to have goals. On the contrary, as human beings, it is our very nature to strive toward something. But your personal growth here and now is just as important as the goals you reach in two, fifteen, or seventy years. Be patient with yourself. Your life in “littleness” is worth far more than you know. Who knows, maybe with enough effort, these little moments will become the best times of your life.