One morning in 1972 Yogi Berra awakened his wife and three sons and piled them into the car to drive to his Hall of Fame ceremony.
They were in a bit of a hurry, and it soon became apparent he had taken a wrong turn somewhere. He accelerated, hoping he would make it on time. Noticing her husband’s nervousness, his wife pointed out, “We’re lost, aren’t we?”
Best recognized for his witty remarks, Yogi quickly fired back—”Yes we’re lost, but we’re making great time!”
The speed of life
Is it just me or is life speeding up every year?
Every year I think, is it Christmas already? Am I really this old!?
Busy leaders and driven people tend to race through life without even having time to catch their breath. You might have so many meetings you barely have time to eat or use the bathroom.
If you have kids, life moves even faster.
Staffing shortages, extra shifts, new clients, health issues, promotions, soccer practice—the calendar fills up quickly every year.
And life shows no signs of slowing down for you.
The research is well established—when we move through life at a high rate of speed for too long without slowing down, we end up living in a constant state of low-grade fight-or-flight. Our stress and cortisol levels increase. Good thinking and problem solving degrade substantially because we are just trying to survive.
If you are headed in the wrong direction, continuing at a high rate of speed will only take you further away from where you want to go.
Life isn’t going to slow down for you.
You have to get out of the fast lane, pull over, and study the map.
Take one day
Every year, my wife and I set aside one full day to spend together looking at our Life Plans from the prior year, assess how we did in following it, and then writing a new plan for the upcoming year.
It is best to do this in a totally secluded place away from your home or work location in order to put your mind in an undistracted and creative state.
We discuss our annual calendar, personal goals, our financial plan, parenting strategies, vacations, health issues, and anything else that might require our attention.
This is a great activity to do with your partner to learn about what they want and ensure you are on the same page with the big stuff.
I like to look at key friendships I want to invest in, and books about topics I may need to study in order to become the kind of person I want to become.
Some common life plan areas or accounts are below. Don’t be limited by these. When you do your first life plan, you would have a vision statement for each area and then identify some goals for each account in the coming year. But remember, the more goals you set, the less your chances of achieving them. So pick your most important and realize you cannot do every life goal this year.
- Health (Mental and Physical)
- Personal Growth
A map or GPS will only help you if you have a destination in mind.
A life plan is like a road map or GPS. You pick the destination, then follow the instructions to stay on course. If you hit a roadblock, you are re-routed so that you can still arrive at your intended destination. But you must enter the coordinates, or it won’t take you there. And we must keep looking at and listening to the GPS or map in order to arrive.
When I write down my financial goals, I can check to see if I am making progress after 3 months. If I’m not, my life plan reminds me what I set out to do, and helps me get back on track.
If I set a goal to spend more time with my children, my life plan reminds me to say no to additional work projects or social invitations.
The research has shown for a long time that written goals can significantly increase your chances of success.
If you have never written a Life Plan before, you can go back and read my post that contains more detail and a free fillable PDF form with some prompts and instructions. Feel free to email me if you have questions about this.
A life plan can be particularly helpful if we feel way off course in some area.
It provides a yearly opportunity to stop and evaluate whether we are living the life we want to live, or becoming the person we want to be.
With so many choices in the modern world, we need a way to stay focused on what is most important, a way to prioritize what to spend our time on. The options today are virtually limitless and overwhelming.
A life plan can help us get clear on life’s non-negotiables and avoid the painful sting of regret.
“We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turn, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and going back to the right road. In that case, the one who turns back soonest is the most progressive (edits mine).” –C.S. Lewis
Take action now
Stop making excuses. If you only have time to do a “Life Plan Lite,” then take two hours and jot down some wins from last year, some vision statements, and write two goals in each account for the coming year.
Don’t go rushing into next year at the same frantic pace. Pull over, check the map, and proceed intentionally.
Have a great weekend!
*If you have enjoyed Parker’s blog, check out The Next Peak Podcast that Parker co-hosts. We interview successful leaders and discuss research-based principles that help people win in the workplace without compromising the things that matter most—relationships, a life of purpose, and health.
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