You’ve probably heard this question in a job interview: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
If you came prepared, you probably answered with a quick overview of your professional 5 year plan. But if an interviewer asks about a 10 year plan, you might feel put on the spot. Whether you’re just starting your career path or eager to plan for an extreme life change, 10 years seems like a long time — and it is.
But having goals for the next decade will help you create a 1 year, 3 year, or 5 year plan to build the future you want. Here’s how to start visualizing your long-term goals and turn that vision into an actionable 10 year plan, with examples to inspire you.
What’s a 10 year plan?
A 10 year plan is an outline of the tasks or milestones you need to accomplish to meet your goals for the next decade. It combines your short-term and long-term objectives to create an achievable but exciting life plan.
If you dream of becoming a doctor, “become a doctor” would be your long-term goal. You need to get into med school first — a short-term goal. Actions like studying for the MCAT and applying to schools would be part of the 10 year plan that helps you achieve both your short- and long-term goals.
But your career isn’t the only thing that you can plan for. Say you want to buy a home within the next 10 years. Homeownership is a goal within your plan. Saving, investing, and building credit would be part of the plan that makes that goal a reality.
A 10 year plan can be whatever you want it to be, whether it concerns your personal life (get married, write a memoir) or your professional goals (start a successful business, become a supervisor). The only rules are that it has to take place over 10 years and contain smaller steps to help you reach goals in the long term.
Creating personal and professional goals
You’re more than your career. And you’re more than your relationships, your bank account, and the home you live in. But they work together to help you be the person you want to be, living the life you want to live — and you can represent them all in your 10 year plan.
To start creating a realistic plan, divide your 10 year goals into the categories they relate to. You can create as many as you want, but here are the most common categories and what they might include:
Personal and relationship goals
Even if you’re just daydreaming, you probably have some ideas about what your personal life might look like a decade from now. Maybe you want to start a family or volunteer in the community regularly. Start brainstorming a list that matches your vision of the future life you want.
Ask yourself what it would take for you to feel professionally fulfilled. Maybe it’s as straightforward as finding a job at a certain company, or as bold as joining the C-suite at your current job. A lot can happen in your career in 10 years, so this is your chance to dream big. You might even take the leap and start working for yourself as a freelancer or entrepreneur.
Financial wellness can play a huge role in your overall well-being. In 2022, 66% of Americans said money was a significant source of stress in their lives, and creating (and hitting) financial goals can help reduce this stress. If you won’t be satisfied until your credit score is in the 800s and your emergency fund can carry you for a year, add those to the list.
Some skills take time to comprehend, like learning a new language or complicated software, which is why they should be part of your 10 year plan. No matter how many diplomas hang on your office wall, your life will be richer if you make learning something new a lifelong goal. Even if it’s just for fun, write it down.
Your long-term fitness goals can be as simple or lofty as you want them to be. Just make sure the goals you set are realistic. Give yourself something to work toward without setting yourself up for failure. Running a marathon in the next 10 years is achievable, but you need to find a place to start and create a realistic training routine.
Setting SMART goals
Only 19% of people follow their New Year’s resolutions over two years. That’s because they often set goals that aren’t realistic in the long term. It takes willpower and dedication to follow a 10 year plan and meet the milestones you set, but it also takes a planning process that considers attainability.
Relevant: The goal is relevant to the values, dreams, and ambitions that matter to you
Time-bound: The goal isn’t open-ended, and you can put a target completion date on it
Some of the ideas you have for your 10 year plan might not be SMART right away. But with these broader goals in mind, you’ll be able to set short-term SMART goals that bring your 10 year vision into focus.
What makes a goal attainable?
Every letter in SMART plays its own role, but the “A” for “attainable” is especially important to note. It’s about setting goals you can actually achieve — but that doesn’t mean they need to be easy. They just need to be in your control.
Winning the lottery, for example, isn’t an attainable goal. Saying you want it and using up your budget won’t make it a reality. Winning the jackpot will always be outside of your control.
Becoming a doctor, on the other hand, might be attainable, even if it seems far away. How realistic this goal is depends on a variety of factors, like what you studied in college and how much time and money you have to go to grad school. But there are actionable steps you can take to make it happen.
According to a study in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, specific and difficult goals lead to better performance. If every goal you set is easy to complete, you won’t perform to your highest potential. Personal development comes from pushing yourself and leaving your comfort zone. Be realistic, but give yourself a challenge, and don’t be afraid to take risks.
Example goals for a 10 year plan
A 10 year plan is personal. It’s about you, the people you’re close to, and your personal values, which makes it harder to ask for advice on what your goals should be. But here are some 10 year goal examples to inspire you and give you a sense of what a plan could include:
- Get promoted: Earning a promotion can happen in much less than 10 years, but if you set your sights on a high-level position, the process can take a long time. You need to start from the bottom, prove your worth, and slowly move up the ladder.
Build a tiny home: You’ll first need to decide where and what you want to build. Materials cost money, so start creating a budget and saving up. If you choose to build on your own, you’ll also need to learn construction skills, so make a plan for adding that knowledge to your tool belt.
Move to Europe: Moving abroad doesn’t just require strong finances. You’ll need to decide where you want to go and why. And you’ll likely need a visa, whether it’s for work, study, or residency. Your 10 year plan should include saving up, finding jobs, and starting to create a network abroad.
Join a rowing team: If you’re looking to join a high-level team, you may need to spend some time working on strength and conditioning. If you’re not a strong swimmer, taking lessons and joining a gym with a pool will help get you closer to your goal over a few years.
Reduce blood sugar: To accomplish this goal, you may need to make some big shifts to your diet. And if exercise isn’t already part of your day-to-day, you’ll want to work on making it a habit. A decade is more than enough time to find consistent routines that work for you.
Pay off student loans: You can keep paying the minimum amount on your student loans forever, but if you want them gone within 10 years, you’ll need a plan. Maybe you need to refinance your loan or adjust your payment plan. Do your research and create a realistic budget.
Learn a new language: If you want to become fluent in another language, you might want to consider spending six months or a year in another country. That’s a plan for the future, but for now, you can look into enrolling in language classes.
Once you decide what your goal is, start mapping out a clear year-by-year plan. Remember that it’ll probably change if you go along. If you find something unachievable, find ways around it, and be kind to yourself.
Here’s what a 10-year plan might look like for someone who’s trying to get a job as a senior project manager:
How to create a 10 year plan
You don’t have to create goals for every aspect of your life all at once. Goal-setting can take place over the course of a week, a month, or even several months. And it’s important to remember that goals can (and will) change, especially when they cover a period as long as 10 years.
Your big-picture goals — the things you want to achieve over the next decade — are likely vague. Things like “learn a foreign language” and “have a happy family life” are just a starting point. You’ll work backward from there to create a plan you can act on. Here’s how to break it down:
1. Define your long-term goals
If professional development is your current top priority, start with your long-term career goals. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, maybe being your own boss is part of your vision. At this stage, your long-term objectives can be as grand as you want, as long as you can break them down into steps.
2. Start researching
Start with research, both internal and external. If owning a business is your main goal but you’re not sure what exactly you want to do, think about your skills and what kind of small business those skills would be suited for. Find people whose career paths you want to emulate and start learning from them.
3. Start planning
Keep working your way backward from your long-term goal until you find your first steps. If getting a business degree will help you find a better job now while preparing you to start your own company, figure out a realistic timeline. How long would a degree take you to complete? When would you like to start?
In this example, your 10 year goal is to own a business. But you need yearly goals to get you there. Your 1 year plan might include enrolling in a GMAT prep class and taking the test. Your 2 year plan might include applying to schools. Your 5 year plan might include completing your MBA, and so on.
4. Get support from your community
There’s one incredibly valuable resource to keep in mind: other people. As you work to create a life plan for the future you, turn to the friends, family, and mentors you trust for support. Connect with wellness experts to achieve your fitness goals. Make professional moves with a career coach by your side.
The most important thing to remember is that you’re never alone in achieving your goals. No matter where you are in life, you’ll have people cheering you on. And in 10 years, you can pay it forward, share your wisdom, and inspire others.
Set yourself up for success
These 10 year plan examples are just that — examples. The vision you create for your future will look different than anyone else’s. But with research, hard work, and support from your community, you’ll learn and grow. And whether you achieve all your goals or not, working for them will give you a sense of accomplishment.