Where do you want to be in five years from now? With so many unpredictable factors it’s impossible to know exactly where you’ll be and what you’ll be doing. But even though you can’t predict the future, it’s still useful to think about it. Why is this the case?

If you don’t know and don’t even think about where you want to go, you probably won’t move much at all. Time will pass, life will simply stay the same, and in ten to twenty years you’ll regret all the things you never even attempted. You may be happy with where you are right now, but everyone wants to make progress one way or another.

Let’s use a simple visual to fully understand the importance of thinking about the future. Let’s say you’re at point (A) in your life right now. You probably have an idea of what point (B) looks like. If things go well you could for example get that promotion at work. Maybe you even have an idea of what point (C) might be. But what about points (F) and (G)? It’s impossible to know exactly what these are, but having a broad idea will help to give you direction.

From A and B to F and GPoints (F) and (G) could be a complete career switch, a certain passion you would like to pursue, and/or starting your own business. There may be more personal goals as well – running a marathon, writing a book, living abroad. By knowing what (F) and (G) are for you, you can start taking very little steps in the right direction. Furthermore, by having the goals in the back of your head, you’ll be more likely to spot opportunities.

The first little steps obviously depend on the goal, but can be as easy as doing some research. Talk to someone who’s already done what you’re thinking about doing. Your (F) and (G) can initially seem impossible, but after some first small steps you may quickly realize that they are within reach. We tend to overestimate what can be done in a week or month, but underestimate what can be done in a couple of years.

The beauty of this approach is that you don’t need to drastically change your life. You for example don’t need to suddenly quit your job to explore a potential career switch in the future. There are so many small steps that you can take today. And while you’re getting closer to (F) where you thought you wanted to go, you may find out that you actually want to get to point (F2) instead. But you couldn’t see through the high grass before moving into this direction first.

The original goals

After the first steps

We can’t predict the future and we don’t know exactly what we want. But by taking the first little steps in the right direction, you will learn something new about your goals and about yourself. So ask yourself: What is the smallest step I can take today to reach points (F) and (G)? And remember that it’s not about reaching the end-goal, it’s about enjoying the journey that takes you there.

Important note: Make sure that you set your (F) and (G) for the right reasons. What will really make you happy? This requires a lot of thinking. There’s so much material out there on how to find your passion or purpose. It’s way beyond the scope of this blog post, but as a warm-up exercise I highly recommend watching the video below about designing your life. Bill Burnett uses some fun exercises that can help you think about your career, passion, and life choices.