Most people spend more time planning their vacations than they do their lives. As a result, they wonder why their lives aren't working. If you are intent on living a successful and fulfilling life, then you need a life plan.
In this article, I will share with you the seven key reasons why having a life plan is crucial for your personal and professional success. Without a clear plan and direction in life, it can be easy to feel lost, unfulfilled, and unsure of what steps to take next. A life plan helps you to identify your goals, prioritize your actions, and make meaningful progress toward achieving the life you envision.
I'll explore the many benefits of having a life plan, and provide you with practical tips and insights to get started. Whether you're feeling stuck or simply seeking more purpose in your life, this article is for you.
1. An Intentional Life Plan helps you create a clear and compelling future.
As the quote from the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll's classic book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland says, "If you don't know where you are going, then any road will get you there." I find most people are like Alice. Instead of having a clear plan of where they are going, they have vague dreams, and consequentially, they end up drifting through life. Without a life plan, they live in a world of distraction and get caught up in just trying to get through the day.
For instance, when I was in sales and management, the days were long, and I was just going through the motions. My primary goal was to earn enough money to pay the bills and have a little fun on the weekends.
The truth was, I knew I wanted more in my life, but honestly, I was stuck. It wasn't until I started getting clear on what I desired for my life that it began to take off in the right direction.
Stop for a moment and take the rocking chair test.
Take a moment and imagine you are ninety years old. You have lived a rich and fulfilling life with no regrets. Plus, you've done and accomplished everything you wanted to do. What do you see?
- How did you spend your life?
- Who did you spend your life with?
- What are your most prized relationships?
- How did you contribute to those you love and the world around you?
- What are your most valued accomplishments?
When I imagine looking back on my life, I first see Shelley, my wife, and me going through this amazing adventure together. I also see us growing closer, laughing, and having a blast. I picture us supporting each other in our endeavors. Next, I imagine my children and their families filling our home with love, joy, and happiness.
In other areas of my life, I see myself speaking and writing about the principles of success all around the world. I imagine my work having an impact on the people I teach, and I feel a strong sense of contribution to their lives.
This type of clarity and focus fills my day with enthusiasm and hope. Without it, it would be easy to lose sight of what I am doing and why I am doing it. With it, however, I am propelled forward toward the things in life that matter the most to me.
Knowing what I want for my life makes the tough times I go through meaningful. And as a result, not seem so hard.
2. An Intentional Life Plan helps you identify and rank the priorities in your life.
Have you identified and ranked your priorities in life?
Too many times, the essential matters of our lives get pushed aside for urgent yet trivial ones simply because we haven't taken a moment to decide what is most important to us. Knowing who and what matters most to us helps us say "no" to the things that are less important and "yes" to the ones that are.
In my twenties, I was an assistant manager of a fast-food restaurant. The franchise I was working for was opening a new store, and I had been working with my team to make sure that it opened on time.
Due to the extended hours I had been putting in, Shelley and I had only seen each other in passing over the last several weeks. So when I knew that I finally had a night off, I asked her if she would like to go on a date that evening. With a big smile and a hug, she said yes.
The big night arrived, and with only ten minutes left of my workday, the head manager asked me to stay late.
At first, I struggled with what to do.
Work is necessary, but it is only one area of my life. My family is the most important part of my life, and I knew I had been neglecting it for some time.
Making Important Decisions Gets Easier
I quickly analyzed the situation and realized that keeping my word was more important to me than staying late at work. So I politely told my boss no, explaining that I had already made a promise to my wife.
Next, she attempted to guilt me into staying. But because I knew my priorities, I confidently stood my ground and kept my word to Shelley.
Making decisions becomes easier when you know your priorities and how they rank with each other. A life plan helps you establish this clarity, relieving you of the stress associated with making decisions that are just personal value choices.
Making decisions becomes easier when you know your priorities and how they rank with each other.
Stephen Covey, the author of the bestselling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing."
Do You Know Your Priorities?
So often, we may know what is important to us, but we still put our energy into the less important and seemingly more urgent issues in our lives. We spend time answering emails and putting out other people's fires when we really should be focused on finishing a project that is important to us or spending quality time with our spouse or kids.
With a life plan, we set up our priorities and schedule our lives in a way that lets us keep the main thing the main thing.
Yes, we must still answer our emails, but with a life plan, we realize that answering an email when we should be listening to a friend doesn't align with how we want to live. To quote Stephen again, "Things that matter most should never be at the mercy of things that matter least."
3. An Intentional Life Plan keeps you from living a life of regrets.
A friend of mine, Jared, graduated from college with a master's degree in physical therapy. He landed a position at a hospital near his home and started doing what he had thought would be his dream job. After a year of working as a physical therapist, I asked him if he was enjoying it.
Shrugging his shoulders, he replied, "I guess I better; I went to six years of college for it."
His answer, in my opinion, was sad. At the age of twenty-five, Jared had concluded that since he had gone to college and earned his degree that he was now stuck in a job that he didn't enjoy.
Most people begin their early adulthood, like Jared, with dreams of being successful and happy. The problem is they never really take the time to define what that means to them.
Next, they stumble into a job and start a family.
Life begins to happen.
In rare cases, this works out well. Most people, however, end up becoming overwhelmed with everyday living and start wondering where it all went wrong.
3 Steps to Creating a Life Plan
By creating a life plan, you first identify your priorities.
Second, you acknowledge how you are doing in those areas.
Third, you decide where you want to be in those areas.
Having this clear picture of how you desire to live your life, who you want to spend it with, and what you want to accomplish makes it a lot easier to say "Yes" to those things and "No" to the rest.
With this type of clarity, you can create a life you will be able to look back on with pride and satisfaction.
As William James said, "This life is worth living, we can say, since it is what we make it."
Make yours extraordinary beginning today!
4. An Intentional Life Plan defines your passion and purpose.
Being intentional means spending a significant portion of your day doing what you are passionate about in life. Your passion and purpose go hand in hand. As a result, you live with energy and focus unknown to those who haven't uncovered their life's purpose.
When I was 21 years old, I was fortunate enough to begin discovering my passion in life. After reading Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, I became obsessed with learning more about the psychology of success.
From that moment forward, I read every book I could find on success, positivity, achievement, leadership, change, and personal growth. I would talk about the principles of metacognition and success for hours with anyone that would listen.
What I find interesting now is while I was passionate about the subject, I didn't realize until I was thirty-one years old that it was my purpose to learn about it so I could share it with the world. At this point, I decided to get a master's degree in counseling psychology. I applied to the program at my local college and was accepted.
Uncovering My Passion
In need of money, I decided to approach the Dean of the department and ask if there were any graduate assistant positions available. To my surprise, she needed a graduate assistant to teach two freshman-level Intro to Human Behavior classes.
Up until that moment, I had thought about becoming a teacher several times but every time I would quickly dismiss the idea. This time, however, something was different. Instead of being repelled by the thought of being a teacher, I was intrigued. Thinking it would be a fun challenge, I accepted the position.
I spent my entire summer preparing my curriculum. I was determined to make a massive impact on my students' lives. The closer I came to the first day of class, the more excited I became.
That next semester was the hardest semester of my college career.
And even though I worked diligently and passionately to over-prepare for every class, I was having the time of my life. At the end of my first semester, and after having given every ounce of myself to teaching, I knew my purpose was to learn and teach the principles of success. That experience taught me that I loved sharing ideas with others that could potentially improve the quality of their lives.
I believe every one of us has a unique purpose for our life. In addition, I also feel that we all have gifts to share with the world.
A life plan helps you to identify those gifts, align them with your purpose, and find ways to live them daily. This kind of vision and clarity almost guarantees you will live a life that most of us only dream of experiencing.
5. An Intentional Life Plan helps you stay focused on the goals that matter the most to you.
Without purpose, our goals are empty and quite often meaningless.
While we might get excited imagining ourselves enjoying the benefits of attaining our prize, unless the reward matches our purpose and values, we quickly begin to look for something else to obtain or accomplish.
We may feel fulfilled for a short while, but this feeling soon fades.
I was guilty of this when I was younger.
Working at a job that was less than fulfilling, I would try and fill the gap in my life by hoping to upgrade to a newer and faster car. I would create the illusion within myself that if only I had a different car, then I would be happy.
Disillusioned, I didn't care if I was working a job I didn't necessarily like as long as I could drive what I wanted to back and forth to work. So I would get a new car and feel accomplished and significant.
At work, however, I felt restless and bored.
After a few months, I would eventually spot a shinier, faster, newer car.
I would then start to fantasize about owning a newer car. And that would lead me to feel dissatisfied with driving my old one.
It was illogical because I had felt so good about my current car just a few days before. The next thing I knew, I was driving myself and everyone around me bonkers as I tried to figure out how to go into more debt for a car I didn't need.
Once I discovered my purpose was to learn and teach, cars became less necessary.
Instead of creating goals that centered around buying a new car, I began creating ones based on my purpose. The need to obtain cars became the desire to read new books and enroll in new classes.
Don't misunderstand me. I still appreciate and drive beautiful cars, but I don't need them to feel important. Instead, I now know that I am significant simply because I am doing what I love to do while also contributing to the world around me, and that fulfills me.
6. An Intentional Life Plan helps you give your gifts to the world.
I sincerely believe that everyone has unique talents. And life is a gift we receive to discover and develop those talents so we can share them with the world.
By identifying your purpose in life, you are also defining what matters most to you while learning more about who you were born to become.
Elie Wiesel author of Souls on Fire says, "When you die and go to heaven our maker is not going to ask, 'Why didn't you discover the cure to such and such, why didn't you become a messiah?' The only thing we are going to be asked in that precious moment is 'Why didn't you become you?'"
Becoming you is your number one priority in life, and discovering your purpose is how you begin the process. If this were not true, then why are we all so unique?
Becoming you is your number one priority in life, and discovering your purpose is how you begin the process.
My morning prayer reflects this idea as it always starts with the following thought. "Thank you, Lord, for blessing me with another 24 hours to live, love, laugh, learn, and become. To become all that I can be and develop my gifts so I can share them with the world."
How to Become You
Developing your gifts means discovering your passion and using your strengths.
Believe that you are unique, and then diligently search until you uncover that uniqueness.
Notice what gets you excited and makes you feel inspired. Explore those areas that make you feel the most alive, and you will begin to unveil the gifts you were born to develop and give to the world.
Your gift is not someone else's. It's not what other good intending people have told you it is, but rather what you're passionate about.
Trying to be what others want you to be is a slow form of suicide. While you may find some success every day, a part of you slowly dies.
While you will sometimes have to do things that don't excite you, I want to encourage you not to waste too much time developing skills that you have no intrinsic motivation to improve. Instead, work on those that ignite the fire within you.
I tried for years to be a successful salesperson. I read books, took courses, and made extrinsic goals that I thought would pull me out of bed in the morning. To no avail, I would always end up bored and dream of doing something else. My joy of living skyrocketed until I connected my passion with my purpose and talents.
It's true that when you love what you do and do what you love, you never work a day in your life.
As Leo Buscaglia says, "You have something to give me I can't get any other way. Did you know that?"
7. An Intentional Life Plan helps you live inspired.
I hope you woke up this morning excited about what you are going to do and accomplish today. When you are living your life intentionally, every morning is like Christmas. You go to bed tired yet eager to wake up and start fresh in the morning.
Intentional living is inspired living because you are living your passion. You are not completing your work in hopes that it will produce a reward; doing your work is your reward.
The be inspired means communicating with spirit.
Isn't that what it feels like when you are inspired? To live from your soul because you're doing what you are supposed to do.
When we're inspired, we don't even think about our purpose because we are living it. Just like most of us only think about the air we breathe when it seems to be in short supply, the times we think about purpose are when we are not in alignment with it.
I am inspired when I write and speak about the principles of success, relationships, and happiness.
My daughter Katie feels alive when she is creating something.
My wife, Shelley, feels alive when she is organizing or leading a productive class discussion on parenting.
For my son, Michael, it's when he is making people laugh.
When I look back on my children's lives, I can see these areas that provide them with so much joy today have always done this for them.
When Michael was three, one of his favorite activities was playing improvisation with his stuffed toys. We would pick out three or four of them and then create a scene they would have to act out. He loved it. At twenty-one, he was the president of his improvisation group at college.
To get an idea of what your purpose and passion is ask yourself the following questions:
- What do you love doing?
- What are you passionate about?
- What makes you feel completely alive?
Whatever it is, know it is one of the reasons you were born.
Living in harmony with your purpose makes you feel inspired because your actions align with your soul.
Perhaps Michael Jackson said it best: "I just do what I do, and I love doing it. I pray that I'm doing my job, what I'm here to do on earth."
When you are doing what you are passionate about, you are doing what you were born to do, and that is intentional living.
Hopefully, I have given you enough reasons to understand the importance of having a written life plan.