Where there is no vision, the people perish. –Proverbs 29:18

I am updating this article on the Life Plan as the final post in the Mindset series. This post will include a brand new 2020 Life Plan PDF template you can download and use to write your 2021 Life Plan.

Vision is absolutely vital to a strong mindset.

People can endure great suffering when they keep the long-term vision in their sights.

Organizational research also shows that employees who see purpose and vision in their jobs can endure hard seasons at work.

The Big Idea—A Life Plan is a written vision for your life that will keep your mindset strong through hard times, and we need it now more than ever.

A Life Plan is also one of the best ways to make the changes you want in your life— and sustain them. It can function as your North Star so the storms of life don’t knock you off course.

Confession: My life plan changed significantly after the pandemic hit! But don’t use that as an excuse to march into 2021 with no plan.

If 2021 brings even more surprises that throw a wrench into your goals, then ask yourself this question—“Who do I want to be through this?”

Apollo 11

On July 16th, 1969, astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins suited up at the Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida.

As you may know, the Apollo 11 spaceflight went on to become the first time that humans landed on the moon. Their mission lasted for 8 days, 3 hours, and 18 minutes.

The distance they had to travel to the moon was nearly 250,000 miles.

During this amazing journey, the spacecraft had to make millions of course corrections in order to reach the intended destination—the moon. With a distance that far, a tiny change in the wrong direction could have caused them to miss their target by thousands of miles, or more.

In fact, they were directly on course for only 7,500 miles—just 3% of the total time in flight.

What kept them on course?

The space shuttle used a sophisticated internal computer—like a GPS—that kept them on track for their final destination.

A written Life Plan can function like a GPS that keeps you on track toward the ultimate vision you have for your life.

Your “moon” destination is your vision of what it means to have lived a successful life.

I’ve been using a written Life Plan for the last 9 years and it has made an incredible difference in helping me focus on the things that matter most in life.

It helps me keep my priorities clear. It helps me keep first things first.

Every year I take a day to revise it, use it to establish my goals, and I have made a ritual of reviewing it every Monday morning with a good cup of coffee.

It has helped me stay on course toward my ultimate destination—a life with few regrets.

Why a Life Plan is so important for leaders

“All leadership begins with self-leadership.” –John Maxwell

People are more likely to follow leaders who know who they are and where they are going—and a Life Plan is the best tool I have found to establish this foundation.

It is the best tool I have found for self-leadership.

A Life Plan gives me a larger vision for my life and serves as a filter for my decisions about how I will spend my time—in my work and personal life.

It is very difficult to make meaningful changes when you don’t have a vision.

Without vision, I can’t tell the difference between direction, and a distraction.

In his best-selling book The Paradox of Choice, Psychologist Barry Schwartz explains that we have more choices now than we have ever had in human history.

When we don’t have a high level of clarity, it’s very likely that the vast ocean of choices, the storms of life, or the whims of our daily mood—will quickly take us off course.

To quote George Harrison of the Beatles—If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.

We easily become paralyzed by too many options and are more likely to make decisions that won’t take us where we want to go. In life, this can have serious consequences.

According to psychologist Gail Matthews, you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals with a written plan, clear action steps, and accountability.

A Life Plan is a written master plan for your goals—all your other goals each year should usually be related to your Life Plan vision.

IMPORTANT: Many busy leaders give most of their time to work, and their personal life gets what is left over. A Life Plan is a great safeguard against this tendency by clearly identifying how work can fit in to our larger personal vision.

So how do you create a Life Plan?

I will include some detailed resources for Life Planning at the bottom, but don’t over-complicate it.

The biggest reason people don’t do a life plan is because they make them too long.

Just get a draft started and it will become a living document that you can edit with the seasons of life.

This is heavy lifting for your brain and you will want to put it off. It is hard work to think about your legacy and capture it clearly. But I promise you, it will be one of the most important things you will ever do.

This exercise can get you started.

Imagine your funeral at an advanced age. What would you want people to say about you? How do you want to be remembered?

By your spouse?

Your children?

Your parents?

Friends or coworkers?

And if you are a person of faith—God?

Take some time to write your answers to these questions.

Next, you will want to rank these common life accounts in order of priority to you and write a few sentences about your vision for each life accounts below. Think long term.

Common Life Accounts

  1. Health
  2. Finances
  3. Marriage
  4. Parenting
  5. Faith
  6. Work
  7. Fun
  8. Friends
  9. Growth

Feel free to delete the ones that don’t pertain to you, or create your own.

Then identify specific regular actions you must take in each area to make that vision a reality. I recommend SMART goals (measurable and time-bound are essential).

After reading hundreds of books and articles on leadership, one thing is crystal clear—great things are most often achieved through sustained focus over time.

If you want to have a certain amount in your retirement fund by a certain date, or you want to have a thriving marriage, or you want to raise strong children—then you must schedule regular investments in those accounts. There is no other way, these things all require time.

Without a consistent heading, we would be like the Apollo 11 space shuttle setting out with no internal GPS.

Acceleration won’t help without direction.

The ideal way to create a Life Plan is to set aside an entire day, or even a weekend, in an inspiring location away from home. This will put you in the optimal state of mind for envisioning and dreaming about your future. This can become a really fun annual ritual that you look forward to.

But don’t let this be the barrier for why you never do it.

If you need to do the quick version, pick somewhere easy and start getting some ideas down.

There will be weeks or months when we are off course, but a Life Plan can help us course-correct sooner, remembering what matters most.

There are a lot of resources out there for a Life Plan. I personally recommend the model described in the book Living Forward by Daniel Harkavy and Michael Hyatt (Links below). The entire book is about writing your Life Plan.

Final tips

  1. Schedule a time and place to do your Life Plan in the next 2 weeks.
  2. The best option is to plan an entire retreat day in a special setting that will foster your creativity and vision. Write or revise your life plan there.
  3. Use the attached free Life Plan template (I’ve included a sample health account filled in so you can see an example)
  4. Write your eulogy/legacy statements from above. Write a draft of your life purpose statement. Think long term.
  5. Often people add important quotes or spiritual references to their life plans.
  6. Schedule a time each week to review it daily for 90 days, then weekly after that. Then schedule a day to revise it annually.
  7. Pro tip: Do whatever it takes to get it done!

Have a great weekend!

Parker

*If you have enjoyed Parker’s Blog, check out The Next Peak Podcast where Parker Co-hosts every other episode.

Suggested Resources

 

 

Parker Houston

Dr. Parker Houston is a board-certified Organizational Psychologist and Leadership Performance Coach. His personal mission is to improve the way people live and work by helping them apply science-based strategies for personal, family, and workplace leadership—in that order. *Opinions expressed are the author's own.
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