I recently came to the conclusion that if I’m really going to get what I want out of life I’m going to need to decide what that something is and set some goals.
I know a lot of people who’ve done some really interesting things lately. A couple of friends have left their jobs recently to pursue other ambitions, my sister’s well on her way to becoming a swimming teacher, I have a friend completing a masters degree and another who’s almost finished her training to become a personal trainer. I know somebody who’s packed up shop and moved to Canada, I have colleagues who’ve worked all over the world, and when I think about the possibilities life could hold for me if I’d only grab hold of it I’m inspired, invigorated. I’m jealous of the people already on amazing journeys yet I’m terrified of taking the leap myself. I think much of that comes down to not actually knowing what I want out of life yet.
In the past I’ve thought I’ve known what I want to do. I came back from my honeymoon absolutely convinced of the change in career which would be right for me but have almost talked myself out of it. This started with downscaling my plans and now for various reasons I realise I haven’t managed to commit to the course I enrolled for. Interestingly, I’ve found time for other things that I absolutely don’t see as being part of my future career. I’ve managed months of music lessons and language classes with little trouble committing, and I know I’m meeting what Maslow would tell me are my self actualisation needs but I didn’t realise that I would choose to prioritise these needs over a new career.
I’ve been reading about life planning and I knew that the best way to decide on what those goals should be would be to create a life plan. I knew what I needed to do, I could write a life plan, but it wasn’t an exercise I felt prepared to do. Planning my life was too big and overwhelming. But when I did start I realised just how valuable this document will be for my life.
I followed the advice to sit down and write. It was a draining exercise and I can appreciate exactly why it felt so impossible to get started. But, making a life plan feels like one of the best things I’ve done for a long time. I now have clarity, I know what my priorities are, I have goals in different areas of my life, and I can take steps to the improvements I want for my life. I want you to be able to make a life plan too, but I don’t want you to be overwhelmed, terrified or unable to start, so I want to break it down.
Over the next few posts I’m going to give you some easy steps to follow to write your own life plan. It’s going to require a bit of effort but I’m certainly not going to ask you to sit down for a day and just write. I’m going to share insights of my own plan and other useful documents with you along the way. I’m going to share these over the weekends so that if you want to share this journey with me, you can take an hour over the weekend to build your life plan over the next month. I’d love to hear how you’re finding the life planning articles so please comment on my post and share your feedback.
For week 1, we’re going to keep things simple and there are just a couple of things to do. Your first task this week is to find somewhere to keep your life plan. Choose a notebook ro a laptop, whichever you’re most likely to access the most. If you’re the kind of person who always has a notebook in your pocket or likes to jot down ideas whilst on the train, a notebook might work best for you, if you’re somebody who likes to keep your life on your phone, think about a phone app. I usually have my laptop to hand so I’ve kept my life plan electronically on the cloud. This means when I’m not home I can access my life plan on my phone. If it helps you decide, you’re going to need a way to brain storm, a way to keep a list of goals and a way to keep a diary or a calendar. My life plan is in Word and Excel, Google Docs are also brilliant for sharing between devices. If you’re looking for a good brainstorming tool, I’d highly recommend Mindmeister, but the choice is yours.
Week 1 of life planning is about thinking about what is important to you and prioritising them. The idea is that once we know which things we value in life and what we prioritise, we have a clearer focus for our goals and we find it easier to make decisions. We might already think we know what our goals are but this process takes us back to the drawing board so we can reassess.
Put yourself at the centre of your life plan and brainstorm the areas or categories of life which are important to you. These can be broad or narrow and you might come up with 10 or more. Different categories are important to different people. They could include
- Your partner
You might find that you want to expand on some of these categories. You might for example want to name individuals within your “friends” category, or you might want different categories altogether for different siblings. You might want to highlight different hobbies within this category, or call out different areas of your finances for focus. Add extra detail to your brainstorm in a way that makes sense for you.
Finally, rank your life plan categories, prioritising with 1 as the most important. The reason this is important is that when you find yourself faced with difficult decisions which impact more than one category of your life plan, you’ll find it easier to make a decision based on what you value the most. Imagine being offered two jobs, one which required you to be out of the country for weeks at a time, and another which was closer to home. Knowing that you value your family above your career or above travel will help you to choose the right decision to fit with your true priorities.
This is a summary of the first stage of my life plan.
In week two, we’ll start adding some more detail about each category in our life plan so that we can begin to think about our goals.