How to be in a Better Place Five Years from Now: Stop Looking Around and Start Looking Ahead


Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.
-Alice in Wonderland

I think there are two types of people: those who look ahead and those who look around.

People who look ahead know where they want to be in five years. They’re clear on their financial, professional, and personal goals. They have direction. They look ahead.

People who look around are unclear on where they want to be in five years. They have no specific goals or a direction to press towards. They have a tendency to look around at what others are doing for guidance.

To be in a better place five years from now, become the type of person who looks ahead, not around.

The Difference Between Looking Ahead and Looking Around

People who look ahead have specific goals. People who look around lack goals.

People who look ahead spend time thinking about what they want most out of life. People who look around spend time worrying about how they stack up against their peers.

People who look ahead are becoming a little bit better each day. People who look around remain stagnant. 

People who look ahead are long-term focused. People who look around obsess over the short-term.

People who look ahead are in a competition with themselves to be better than they were yesterday. People who look around are in a competition with others to prove their worth.

People who look ahead seek internal rewards. People who look around seek external validation.

People who look ahead are patient. They know it takes time to reach the place they want to be in five years. People who look around lack patience. They want success fast.

People who look ahead think big picture: what type of person they want to be, what type of work they want to contribute to the world, what type of goals are worth pursuing. People who look around only see the immediate picture: how many social media followers they have, how their house compares to their friends, what type of smart phone they have. 

People who look ahead are consistent. They spend each day inching closer to their goals. People who look around are inconsistent. They pursue one goal this week and a different goal the next. They jump from project to project, endeavor to endeavor, impatiently looking for the easy victories. 

People who look ahead don’t care what others think of their lifestyle. People who look around are obsessed with what others think.

People who look ahead don’t waste time looking for the approval of others. They have goals they’re moving towards and they don’t care if you approve or not. People who look around are constantly seeking the approval and acceptance of others.

People who look ahead save money. If it doesn’t further the mission, they don’t buy it. People who look around spend frivolously. If it helps them get attention, it’s worth the money.

People who look ahead seek to create a good life. People who look around attempt to buy it.

People who look ahead love progress. People who look around love attention.

Look Ahead

To become a person who looks ahead, become clear on what you want. Don’t worry about what others are doing. Determine what goals are important to you, what type of work brings you joy, and what type of person you want to become over time. 

The difference between the people who look ahead and those who look around will be astonishing five years from now. 


Zach is the author behind Four Pillar Freedom, a blog that teaches you how to build wealth and gain freedom in life.

Zach's favorite free financial tool he's been using since 2015 to manage his net worth is Personal Capital. Each month he uses their free Investment Checkup tool and Retirement Planner to track his investments and ensure that he's on the fast track to financial freedom.

His favorite investment platform is M1 Finance, a site that allows him to build a custom portfolio of stocks for free, has no trading or maintenance fees, and even allows him to set up automated target-allocated investments.

His favorite way to save money each month on his recurring bills is by using Trim, a free financial app that negotiates lower cable, internet, and phone bills with any provider on your behalf.

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His favorite place to find new personal finance articles to read is Collecting Wisdom, a site that collects the best personal finance articles floating around the web on a daily basis.


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13 Replies to “How to be in a Better Place Five Years from Now: Stop Looking Around and Start Looking Ahead”

  1. The quote in the beginning was perfect!

    Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what you want next, but at that point it doesn’t matter much if you don’t wanna be where you are — just look ahead!

    Great post.

  2. Nice post and great points.

    In a different context, I’d argue though that looking around does help. You might learn something from a colleague, friend, family member of a competitor.

    Agreed on you point to not worry what others are doing, but again – perhaps from a context perspective – if someone is doing something better than you, why not be mindful?

    Thanks for the post.

    1. Great point, Mike. There’s definitely benefit in learning from others, especially those who know more than us. The trouble comes when we become overly obsessive with comparing ourselves to others. That’s when our motives get clouded and we get distracted from what’s really important.
      Thanks for the feedback 🙂

  3. This post resonated with me but I find it hard to focus on where I want to go. It is not that I want what other people have but instead I find myself content/complacent. I have my excel sheet and for the most part I am happy with what I see. That being said there is lots of work to be done and lots of areas to improve. I will have to ponder this one a bit more. Thank you for the great post.

    1. Bro –

      One way I’ve found to help focus on where to go is to consider where I don’t want to go. Sometimes knowing what doesn’t make you happy helps make it easier to find out what does make you happy.

      Best of luck regardless of where you decide to go.

    2. It’s important to find a balance between enjoying the present moment and still working to improve your situation. If you’re content with where you’re at, by all means enjoy it! Continue to save for the long haul just in case your circumstances change and you’re no longer as content as you once were. It’s good to have money in the bank so if you do want to make a change you’re able to afford to do so. Thanks for the feedback 🙂

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