[IMGCAP(1)]Talk about one of the most overused questions related to goal setting! How clichéd is the question of where someone wants to be in five years? What do you expect them to say?  I want to rule the world! I want to be making an obscene amount of money! I want to be successful in my career! I want to be retired and laying on the beach! I want! I want! I want!

As clichéd, as corny, as tired of this question as so many of us get, let’s take a step back and analyze why this question is so incredibly powerful. From my viewpoint, I think I have it all figured out. I am a manager with a great accounting firm. I love the people I work with, I am challenged by my work and I am excited about the new opportunities that are arising daily. Not to mention, I have a background in leadership and organization development, which gives me this false sense of security in believing that I have a handle on the process it takes to meet stated goals. And then, I had a brief discussion with Amber Setter of Intentionsetter.com.

As Amber and I recalled our paths to be welcomed into the fraternity of CPAs with a Masters in Leadership Studies, Amber hit me with the question, “Where do you want to be in five years?” I stumbled over my response! I was overcome by the fact that I didn’t have quick response to her question.

To name a few of the items I stumbled over,  I want to be a partner at my firm, I want to be a thought leader within the accounting industry, and I want 5,000 Twitter followers by 2019! I had so many “wants” that I thought I could meet in the next five years. I quickly overwhelmed myself in recognizing how I could possibly manage all of these professional “wants” without even mentioning the personal ”wants” that I have stored in my head.

I am so focused on what I am doing today, the projects due this week, the timelines my peers expect of me, that I rarely spend the time to take inventory of myself. What are the small steps I am taking today to help me reach my long-term goals? Should my goals be re-evaluated to ensure that they are still relevant? How am I leveraging my time to ensure that the actions I take today meet the expected future results?

As CPAs we are constantly analyzing the margins, variances and ratios of our clients’ financial statements. We look at the trends and decisions made by our clients. We advise and consult with clients and colleagues daily to guarantee the financial and personal goals of everyone around us. But how often do we take the necessary time to evaluate and strategize for our number one client: ourselves?

The next time you are asked the question of where you want to be in five years, take an hour by yourself to respond. (In fact, I would recommend you not wait for the next time somebody asks you this question. I am asking you to do this today!).

During this hour, remove your distractions, listen to your favorite music, sit at your favorite coffee shop, and jot your thoughts down on a piece of paper (or on your iPad). As you accumulate these personal and professional thoughts, list them in order of priority. If your list is overwhelming, throw some items onto a bucket list that may make your 10-year plan. Identify the intermediate goals that you can reflect upon by month or by year. And then dive into the small steps that you can take on a daily basis that will ensure realization of your future goals.

The question is well-worn, but the effect of the question should prompt us to take a step back and look at the most important big picture out there. We analyze data for our clients, so why not for ourselves? Life is a blank canvas! Make your canvas adventurous, passionate and full! Start today, by taking the first step to reaching your goals that you set. As Audrey Hepburn said, “The most important thing is to enjoy your life, to be happy. It's all that matters.” Meet your goals, be happy, and be proud of your accomplishments!

Adam Blitz, CPA, is a tax and consulting manager at Wiebe Hinton Hambalek, LLP in Fresno, Calif. Along with his CPA, Adam has a Masters of Arts in Leadership Studies from Fresno Pacific University. Adam authored a thesis entitled, "The Leading CPA—the value of the leading CPA." Adam is focused on working with his clients, colleagues, and industry professionals in enhancing the value of the CPA. For additional information, he can be contacted at Adamb@whhcpas.com or via Twitter @getblitzed.

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