A couple of years ago now I went on a retreat which looked at what we wanted from life as we aged. Interesting stuff.

One of the exercises asked us to list the things we wanted to achieve in the next five years. That was easy for me, because I had thought about it a lot, so I quickly wrote my list. We then had to narrow it down to ten things, then five. That was harder. Much harder. In the end I cheated, by putting two things in the one item, so writing book X and writing book Y became ‘writing books’. (Quite clever, I thought.) And being younger than some, I was comfortable with a full list of things I wanted to do, in my work and in my life generally.

But then we were asked what else we had to drop in order to achieve our list of five (in my case eight and a half) top priorities. That was really hard. Because I realised that whilst I could actually do all the things on my list, I also realised that in order to get there, I would have to let some other things go – things that weren’t on the list, but that were lurking round the edges of my life, holding me back, keeping me in the shadows of my own life.

Bugger and damn.

So, after some anguish, here was my list:

•Fear of failure

•Fear of looking foolish

•Shame

•Needing to understand everything

•My nightly ‘wine and crap TV’ habit

•Needing to be sensible

•Needing to tone myself down (so watch out, world!)

•Fear of being hurt

•My stories about some of the events in my family life

•Needing to hide (retreat and reflection are essential to me, but sometimes hiding is not useful…)

•Feeling not good enough

And the real biggie, anxiety. I have carried low level anxiety round with me since childhood. It’s really boring. So I said goodbye to it. And I felt a difference immediately.

And looking back now in 2017, I realise that making that list and acting on it has made a huge difference. It freed me up to finish and publish my book, Rethink Your Career in your 40s, 50s and 60s and to plan my next book (on what used to be called retirement).

Of course, I haven’t become an automaton or a perfect person – and I still love wine and Netflix. But just getting clear and getting realistic about this stuff has made a huge difference to me.

So, what’s on your five year plan? And what will you drop to help you get there?

Joanna Maxwell

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