Why I’ve stopped putting time limits on my goals

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Nope. No thank you. Next question please.

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Nope. No thank you. Next question please.

This is a concept that fills me with dread. It seems to be the number one piece of advice in achieving success: set a goal, when you want to achieve it by, and then get to work. But it’s method I’ve started to have a lot of doubts about. I mean, it’s probably best not to go through life aimlessly, waiting for things to happen and doing nothing to find or create opportunities. That would be ridiculous and just as dangerous. Goals are good. Until you start setting a time limit.

At 18 years old, I decided that in five years’ time I was going to have moved out and be on the way to a successful career in…something. As the years went by, and I got scarily closer to my deadline without having achieved anything, I realised this method was doing nothing except make me feel awful about myself. I don’t think I was deluded, the goals I’d set myself were definitely achievable in that time frame, but my ambitions and needs developed and changed so much over those five years until they were completely different from what 18-year-old Alice could have imagined.

I’m now 24, and I’ve gone through so many career ideas that I’ve lost count. But finally, a couple of weeks ago, I started my first full-time writing job, and now I know I’ve finally found what I want to do. In fact, I’ve returned to exactly the career that I wanted to do as a child. Clearly I should have just listened to 10-year-old Alice because she knew what she was doing. Now I just need to rule the world so I can save all the trees and animals, and be the lead singer of a rock band. Which is achievable, I think.

Anyway, I digress. My point is, six years down the line, I’ve only just started in a challenging career which I enjoy, and I’m still very much living with my parents. But I think my 18-year-old self would be proud, despite failing her 5-year goal. I am happier than I’ve ever been, because I’ve freed myself from those foolish deadlines I used to impose on my future. Don’t get me wrong, I still have goals and I know where I want to go. And there are vague things I’m working towards in the next few years. But setting time limits on achievements is an insult to the fact that nobody knows what is going to happen in the next week, let alone the next year.

You could meet someone who changes your life. An opportunity could arise that throws everything you had planned out of the window. You could lose your job. You could be forced to move to an entirely different part of the country. The world could be threatened by a zombie apocalypse and suddenly the future of the human race ends up being your sole responsibility. You get the point. So deciding that in five years you’re going to be *insert generic life goal here* is in danger of being detrimental to your future happiness.

I’ve spent far too much time worrying that I’m running out of days, months, years, to achieve what I had planned. I was silly. Don’t be like me. Don’t waste the present worrying about the future. Keep your dreams and ambitions, but at the same time, don’t try and rush them into being. Keep working. Keep improving. And good things will happen.

Because to be honest, I don’t care where I am in five years’ time, as long as I’m happy.

Wow that was cheesy.

TTFN, tata for now.


By Alice Jane

I'm a 20-something-year-old graduate who needed a creative outlet, and this is the result. I love books, baking, writing, music and drawing in any combination and I want to share these with whoever might be interested. Peruse at your pleasure.

14 replies on “Why I’ve stopped putting time limits on my goals”

I relate to this so much. I am 26 now and every time my birthday rolls around I become really anxious because another year has passed and I am still in the same place I’ve been. I’ve thought of countless career options, but none seem to be ‘the one.’ I also dreamed of being a writer and still do. I haven’t written in a long time, but I’ve been thinking of trying again. Thank you for this post. I always try to remind myself that life is not a race against time, but it’s one thing to tell yourself something and another to actually believe it.

Liked by 3 people

It is so difficult not to believe it. I think it’s just important to remember that as long as you’re constantly working towards whatever it is you want to achieve, you’ll get there. No point trying to control the future. And also, your career isn’t everything. It doesn’t have to define you if you don’t want it to!

Liked by 1 person

I like to have goals, although I usually just have them set for 3 to 6 months at a time. Any longer than that and they get a bit vague! And you are right, things could change. As I’ve got older I’ve begun to realise how important it is to live in the present and not to miss it!

Liked by 1 person

You were like me. I use to think I would have the ideal career by 30. I am 30 and I am a mess and haven’t achieved the goals I wanted to achieve. I still have a goal or moving out of teaching into something. But, it has to take time, right?

Liked by 1 person

I did enjoy reading your blog and agree wholeheartedly. Time limited goals can be so damaging to one’s self esteem. Some of the most upsetting moments of my career in education have been when children as young as 6 describe themselves as failures because they haven’t achieved a particular target set for them by well-meaning educators. Or when teachers are put under so much pressure to ensure their pupils achieve said targets that they forget how to have fun with them.
Life is for living and that means enjoying every aspect of it. The ups and downs, twists and turns, achievements and struggles. If we set ourselves too many ‘targets’ we are in danger of missing out on the unexpected pleasures that can be ours just through sitting and being in the moment. Have ambitions, yes, but don’t be so hung up on a deadline that you don’t have fun on the way.
Be kind to yourself.

Liked by 1 person

I’m so with you on this, despite being about 10 years older. I am much more relaxed now I accept things happen in their own time. Of course, there are times you have to take action yourself, but the big stuff seems to happen in its own time. I tried so hard to get a job a couple of years ago and got nowhere, then out of a the blue an offer came my way that was too good to refuse. I still have things I want to achieve in life, but my work life is jam packed with very specific goals so I don’t need them in my life outside of work.

Liked by 1 person

Definitely! Realised I was trying to control things that were out of my hands. Once I stopped, I was a lot happier. I agree with you about work, so many targets in the career world it’s nice to be a bit more chilled the rest of the time. Important to strike a balance between working towards your goals, and not worrying too much if they haven’t happened yet. Thanks for reading! 😊

Liked by 1 person

I like having goals. It gives me a sense of purpose. But when it comes to deadlines, you’re right, they cause you nothing but pressure. Yeah, pressure can be good at times but most of the time, things happen when they are supposed to happen and pressuring yourself to speed up the process of your development should definitely not be your goal.


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