5-Year Goals are considered intermediate to long-term goals, but they’re close enough that we can visualize them easily, get motivated to get started immediately, and maintain focused.
This is the sweet spot where you can aim big, but also actually realize your dreams in not too much time.
It takes about 5 years to do big things, like earning a PhD, rise in the ranks in your career, save up for a house downpayment, and so much more.
Below are some 5-year goals to get your mind turning, set out using SMART goals principles. I’ll explain the S.M.A.R.T goals acronym at the end of this article and provide a printable template for you to use, as well, so don’t miss that at the end.
5-Year Goals Examples
1. Job Advancement: Obtain a promotion to a management position within the current organization by seeking additional responsibilities and excelling in them.
2. Professional Development: Earn an advanced degree related to current occupation (such as an MBA for a finance professional) within the next five years.
3. Networking: Attend at least two industry-specific conferences or events annually to build a broad professional network.
4. Skills Acquisition: Learn two new job-specific skills every year to increase versatility and efficiency (For instance, a web developer might aim to master Angular and React frameworks).
5. Career Change: Transition to a fulfilling career in environmental science by undertaking a part-time course and gaining relevant certifications by the end of the 5-year period.
6. Career Milestone: Successfully lead a major project or initiative that sees completion and positive results within the organization by Year 5.
7. Workplace Influence: Earn a seat on an influential committee or board at the workplace within the five-year timeframe.
8. Public Speaking: Give at least two presentations at industry conferences every year, thereby improving public speaking and presentation skills.
9. Salary Increase: Aim to increase current salary by 20% through promotions or role revisions over the next five years.
10. Published Author: Write a book relevant to your profession or industry and get it published by the expiry of the 5-year period.
11. Start a Business: Launch a small consulting firm within the existing profession after bolstering your expertise and network for the next five years.
12. Tech-Savvy: Gain proficiency in three new software or tech tools relevant to your role each year, filling up the tech toolkit with 15 new skills by Year 5.
13. Industry Recognition: Win an industry-specific award or recognition by consistently performing above and beyond in your job role throughout the five years.
14. Intellectual Property: Contribute to company innovation by filing for at least one patent related to your work by the end of the five-year period.
15. Enterprise Leadership: Establish a leadership role in your organization by positively influencing change or improvement in enterprise-wide policies or procedures within the planned five years.
See Also: Long-Term Career Goals
Health and Fitness Goals
16. Regular Exercise: Implement a daily exercise routine and stick to it, aiming to work out at least five days a week.
17. Weight Management: Reach and maintain a healthy body weight after a careful evaluation with a healthcare professional.
18. Strength Training: Incorporate strength training into a weekly workout protocol twice or more.
19. Healthy Eating: Transition to a well-balanced diet, incorporating a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains daily.
20. Chronic Disease Management: Successfully manage any chronic diseases (like hypertension or diabetes) with healthy practices and routine check-ups with a medical professional.
21. Mental Health: Prioritize mental health by setting aside time each day for activities like meditation, journaling, or quiet reading.
22. Flexibility: Improve flexibility with regular stretching or yoga, aiming to be able to perform key flexibility tests successfully in five years.
23. Marathon Runner: Train for and successfully complete a full marathon.
24. Regular Check-Ups: Keep up-to-date with routine medical and dental checkups, ensuring all vaccinations are current and all recommended screenings are completed.
25. Adequate Sleep: Achieve a stable sleep schedule that ensures at least seven hours of rest each night.
26. Hydration: Drink a minimum of eight glasses of water per day, tracking this habit for consistency.
27. Quit Unhealthy Habits: Let go of any detrimental habits, like excessive caffeine, junk food, or prolonged screen time.
28. Cardio Fitness: Improve cardiovascular health significantly, as reflected in improved numbers in medical check-ups or ability to perform more strenuous exercise.
29. Outdoors Activity: Incorporate outdoor activities like hiking, biking, or swimming into your monthly routine, aiming to spend more time in nature for added health benefits.
30. Stress Management: Implement efficient stress management techniques (such as deep breathing, mindfulness, or a hobby) to maintain a better-balanced, healthier state of mind.
Also Consider: Setting Ten-Year Goals
31. Debt Reduction: Create a strategic plan to pay off significant debts, like student loans or credit card balances, within five years.
32. Emergency Fund: Save six months’ worth of living expenses in an emergency fund.
33. Investment Portfolio: Build a diversified investment portfolio with stocks, bonds, and other assets after seeking sound financial advice.
34. Retirement Savings: Contribute consistently to a retirement account with the goal of maximizing the employer-matched funding percentage, if applicable.
35. Home Purchase: Save for a down payment for a house, targeting a budget-friendly home that suits your personal and possible family needs.
36. Insurance Coverage: Review and optimize insurance coverages (home, health, auto) to ensure you’re not overpaying but still adequately protected.
37. Credit Score: Work towards achieving a credit score above 750, taking steps to correct any inaccuracies and to pay all bills on time.
38. Budgeting: Stick to a strict monthly budget, tracking every expense to ensure you’re living within your means and saving sufficiently.
39. Charitable Donations: Dedicate a part of your annual income for charitable donations, contributing to causes you deeply care about.
40. Financial Literacy: Take courses or read books on financial management to enhance your understanding of taxes, investments, and retirement planning.
41. Child’s Education Fund: Start a college fund for your child, if applicable, contributing a set amount each month or annually.
42. Reduce Housing Costs: Refinance your mortgage (if you have one) to take advantage of low interest rates and reduce your monthly payments.
43. Professional Growth: Invest in professional development or advanced education to warrant increased earning potential.
44. Vacation Fund: Save a targeted amount for a dream vacation in five years, setting aside a specific sum every month.
45. Second Income: Explore and establish a passive income stream, like rental income or online business, to boost overall earnings.
46. Language Learning: Become fluent in a foreign language through consistent study and practice.
47. Musical Instrument: Learn to play a musical instrument proficiently, such as the piano or guitar.
48. Cooking Mastery: Master the art of cooking, aiming to conquer diverse cuisines and complex dishes.
49. Reading Prowess: Read 50 seminal works in literature over the next five years.
50. Green Thumb: Develop a vibrant garden, nurturing a variety of plants and vegetables over five years.
51. Photography: Improve photography skills to the point of organizing a small exhibition or publishing a photo book.
52. Painting: Complete an important project like creating a series of paintings for local exhibitions or auctions.
53. Writing: Write and self-publish a book or a series of short stories.
54. Dancing Proficiency: Become proficient in a specific style of dance by taking regular classes or lessons.
55. Fitness Enthusiast: Master a challenging sport or physical activity like rock climbing or martial arts.
56. Wine Tasting: Gain substantial knowledge about wine varieties, graduating to conducting informative wine tasting sessions.
57. Crafting Skills: Learn and master a specific craft, like pottery or knitting, producing a substantial number of pieces.
58. Astronomy: Learn about space and celestial bodies and aim to identify all constellations in the night sky.
59. Expert Gamer: Master a particular video game, aiming for high scores in national or global leaderboards.
60. Traveling: Visit all continents within the next five years, experiencing different cultures and expanding your global perspective.
See Also: Goals for Life Examples
Student and Educational Goals
61. Degree Completion: Accomplish graduation in your chosen field within the given timeframe.
62. GPA Achievement: Maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher throughout your academic journey.
63. Scholarship Attainment: Secure a scholarship or grant, reducing financial stress related to educational costs.
64. Internship: Garner relevant professional experience by landing and succeeding in at least two internships during your course of study (see also: internship goals examples).
65. Research Paper: Participate in a major research project and get a research paper published in a reputable journal.
66. Study Abroad: Plan and execute a semester abroad, experiencing and learning from a new cultural environment.
67. Volunteer Service: Engagement in regular volunteer activities, contributing to societal and personal growth.
68. Networking: Actively build a professional network by attending career fairs and using platforms like LinkedIn.
69. Language Proficiency: Become proficient in a foreign language, expanding your global connectivity.
70. Time Management: Develop excellent time management skills to balance academic, personal and social life efficiently.
71. Relevant Skills: Master relevant software or tools related to your chosen profession. (For instance, coding languages for computer science students).
72. Public Speaking: Improve your public speaking skills by participating in oration activities or joining a campus debate club.
73. Leadership Role: Secure a leadership role in a campus organization or club, honing transferable skills like team management and problem-solving.
74. Post-Graduation Plan: Have a post-graduation plan in place by Year 4, be it employment, further studies or entrepreneurship.
75. Comprehensive Resume Portfolio: Develop a comprehensive portfolio showcasing your academic projects, internships, skills, and achievements, ready to present to potential employers or postgraduate admission panels.
See Also: Long-Term Goals for Students
76. Communication Skills: Sharpen communication skills for ease in social and professional settings, focusing particularly on active listening and clear articulation.
77. Healthy Relationships: Cultivate and preserve quality relationships with friends and family, ensuring frequent contact and valuable interactions.
78. Life Balance: Achieve a solid work-life balance by generating set boundaries and pledging attention to each life area.
79. Personal Development: Invest in personal growth through regular reading, podcasts, or webinars on self-improvement.
80. Mental Wellness: Prioritize mental wellness, incorporating mindfulness and regular emotional check-ins into your daily routine.
81. Sustainable Lifestyle: Shift to a more sustainable lifestyle, reducing waste, recycling, and using eco-friendly products.
82. Cultural Awareness: Improve cultural literacy by studying and appreciating various global cultures, to better understand global diversity.
83. Conflict Resolution: Learn effective conflict resolution strategies for dealing with personal and professional disputes.
84. Anger Management: Develop an effective anger management strategy that helps maintain emotional equilibrium in high-stress situations.
85. Journaling: Start maintaining a personal journal to record thoughts, ideas, and experiences, fostering self-expression and introspection.
86. Personal Style: Develop personal style, ensuring it is an authentic reflection of your personality and preference.
87. Cooking Skill: Become proficient in cooking, mastering a diverse menu of dishes.
88. Digital Detox: Regularly schedule time to disconnect from digital devices, reinforcing balanced mental health and improved personal relationships.
89. Emotional Intelligence: Enhance your emotional intelligence by recognizing, understanding, and managing your emotions effectively.
90. Self-love: Nurture self-love, practicing self-care, and regularly setting aside “me” time.
See Also: A List of Long-Term Personal Goals
91. Quality Time: Commit to spending quality time together as a family at least once a week, regardless of what activities take place.
92. Family Traditions: Establish and embrace meaningful family traditions that can become an anticipated part of each year’s celebrations.
93. Shared Meals: Aim to have meals together as a family on most days, cultivating open communication and strengthening bonds.
94. Financial Stability: Generate a sound family financial plan, securing stability and potential for long-term goals like retirement or children’s education.
95. Annual Vacations: Plan and execute an annual family vacation, letting the destination or activities cater to everyone’s preferences.
96. Home Projects: Undertake home-based projects together, such as home improvement or gardening, encouraging cooperation and a shared sense of accomplishment.
97. Health Habits: Foster healthy habits within the family, such as eating balanced meals, regular exercise, and adequate sleep.
98. Emergency Plan: Formulate a comprehensive family emergency plan, ensuring all family members know what to do in case of natural disasters or accidents.
99. Regular Communication: Uphold regular communication within the family, maintaining an open platform for discussions and problem-solving. (You might want to see my detailed article on communication goals for similar examples.)
100. Conflict Resolution: Develop a constructive approach for resolving conflicts within the family, promoting harmony and understanding.
101. Family Reunions: Organize a family reunion at least once in the five-year period, building bonds with extended family members.
How to set SMART 5-Year Goals
Once you have selected a few goals from the above list that resonate with you, it’s time to build them out using the SMART goals framework.
S.M.A.R.T is an acronym that explains five key elements you want in a well-crafted goal:
- Specific: Research shows being specific when writing down your goals increases your likelihood of achieving your goals (Milne, Orbell & Sheeran, 2002).
- Measurable: You need to be able to measure goal progress and know when you’ve achieved success. This could be a goal weight if you want to lose weight, a goal GPA at school, etc.
- Achievable: Generally, I recommend you balance your goal out so it’s not too easy, not too hard – you think it’s achievable with effort. But with 5-year goals, I encourage my students to think a little bigger than they otherwise would. We tend to underestimate what we can get done within five years.
- Relevant: Your goals should be relevant to the bigger picture. When it comes to 5-year goals, make it relevant to your phase of life. If you’re in your early 20s, it might have to do with travel or education. If you’re in your 30s and 40s, it might be more about family or building up a nest egg for retirement.
- Time-Based: This one’s easy. Set 5 years as the end date when the goal needs to have been achieved! But, you could also put in place short-term goals as well, which will act as milestones on the way to your 5-year plan.
Use the following template to turn your goal into a SMART goal, which will help you to build out your goal setting:
Bill Gates once said, “most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in five years.”
Well, he said ten years. But the same goes for the 5-year plan: we can get a lot done in 5 years. We can achieve things that are well over our horizon. So, dream big and believe that if you work hard every day, you can get anything done within 5 years!
Davis, W. D., Mero, N., & Goodman, J. M. (2007). The interactive effects of goal orientation and accountability on task performance. Human Performance, 20(1), 1-21. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/08959280709336926
Daw, N. D. (2015). Of goals and habits. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(45), 13749-13750. doi: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1518488112
Doran, G. T. (1981). There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives. Journal of Management Studies, 70-75.
Ehrlich, C., & Milston, S. (2021). Happiness through goal setting: A practical guide to reflect on and change the reasons why you pursue your most important goals in life. London: Routledge.
Latham G.P., Locke E.A. (2018) Goal Setting Theory. In The SAGE Encyclopedia of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. London: SAGE.
Milne, S., Orbell, S., and Sheeran, P. (2002). Combining Motivational and Volitional Interventions to Promote Exercise Participation: Protection Motivation Theory and Implementation Intentions, British Journal of Health Psychology, 7(2): 163–184. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1348/135910702169420
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]