Scrap the 5-Year Plan. Start Thinking 10 Years Ahead Instead.

Entrepreneurs, want to reach your goals faster? Here’s how to shift your mind from short-term thinking to thinking in 10-year time frames to do just that.

Published on Mar. 26, 2024
Scrap the 5-Year Plan. Start Thinking 10 Years Ahead Instead.
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If you’re like most driven entrepreneurs, you are preoccupied with today, this week, this month and maybe this year at the most. You want it now. Yet this short-sightedness is limiting you. 

When you shift to long-range thinking, time will slow down. A feeling of peace will come over you. You will start to make better decisions. You will become more consistent. And the irony is that you will get to where you want to go faster. I was 35 years old when I shifted to this mindset. I’m convinced I have accomplished more as a result.

As the saying goes, “People overestimate what they can accomplish in a year, but underestimate what they can accomplish in ten years.” The reality is that you can accomplish anything in ten years. As motivational speaker Les Brown once said, “All you need is a good decade.”

3 Steps to Make a 10-Year Plan

  1. Write down the exact date 10 years in the future. 
  2. Write the age you will be then. 
  3. Write the most important goal you want to have accomplished by that date.

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How to Shift to a Long-Range Mindset

For some people, thinking in 10-year time frames is challenging. Many can’t think past today. If that is you, I encourage you to shift your mindset. If you really struggle with this discipline, try aiming for this year, possibly three years into the future, maybe even five for starters. Whatever you feel ready for.

Just know the intention is to eventually get to 10 years. Regardless of where you are now, please pause for a moment and follow this three-step exercise.

  1. Write the exact date 10 years from now. 
  2. Write the age you will be on that date. 
  3. Take yourself there mentally, 10 years from now at that age. Write down the number one most important goal that you will want to have accomplished by that date. You can write additional goals that come to mind as well.

What you write might have to do with the income you will generate or your net worth. You might foresee a major milestone for your company. You might want to improve your physical health. You might want to change a personal relationship. You might choose to fully become your true self. There is no wrong answer. Yet for this discipline to be productive right now, you must write down a long-term target to get your neurons firing.

When Lynn Rousseau of The Conscious Leader first learned of 10-year thinking during our program, she thought, “I’m not sure about this. I’ll be 71!”

During the 10-year thinking exercise that we teach, she was inspired to establish a coaching academy. Using 10-year thinking shifted the way she thought about her business, and today she makes decisions about how to collect and organize the company’s intellectual property with the future academy in mind. She also thinks differently about how to organize and structure training for their coaches so that everything they are doing is building the foundation of the academy.

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What Is the 10-Year Business Cycle? 

Next, think about everything you have going on right now. All of your goals, plans, activities, calendared items and your current to-do list. Examine each one in light of what you wrote down. Do they all align with that 10-year thinking? If not, you have some course correcting to do. For example, when I was creating the Entrepreneurial Operating System, I decided that I wanted to have 10,000 companies running on EOS within the next two Shine book coverdecades. When I set that goal, I had only 50 companies. I had no idea how to get the rest. But the EOS Worldwide leadership team spent two full decades making 10-year decisions, and I’m happy to say that we achieved it, almost to the day.

My business mentor, Sam Cupp, taught me what he called the “10-year business cycle.” He said, “Every 10 years you’re going to have two great years, six good years and two terrible years that can put you out of business.” His advice has held up since he shared it with me more than 30 years ago. Whether a downturn is caused by a pandemic, terrorist attack, recession or depression, war or general business ups and downs, that 10-year cycle lets you know it’s coming. You can count on the unexpected every 10 years for the rest of your life. The point is, don’t be surprised by it. Operating with a 10-year horizon will keep you steadier and making better decisions through the tough times.

The 2000–2001 dot-com crash and the Great Recession of 2008–2009 were blips in the grand scheme, although most of us with businesses didn’t feel that way while going through them. At the time, it was brutal.

Yet how often do you think about either of them today? During every 10-year cycle, you will ride ups and downs. If you are always focused on the here and now, you will lose sight of the big picture during the turbulence. You will get caught up in the current growth spurt, downturn or crisis. By taking a 10-year view, you will see in the grand scheme of things that a downturn is merely a flash in the pan.

Reprinted with permission from Shine: How Looking Inward Is the Key to Unlocking True Entrepreneurial Freedom by Gino Wickman and Rob Dube (BenBella Books, 2024).

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