In the classic tale by Lewis Carroll, Alice encounters the Cheshire Cat and poses a question:
Alice—“Would you tell me please which way I ought to go from here?”
Chesire Cat—“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
Alice—“I don’t much care where.”
Chesire Cat—“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
Alice—“Well I do want to end up somewhere.”
Chesire Cat—“Oh you are sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”
We often live our lives this way. We have a vague sense that we want to get somewhere, but we haven’t stopped long enough to clearly define where we want to end up.
To quote George Harrison of the Beatles—If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.
Without an intended destination, it’s nearly impossible to know what you will say YES or NO to this year. Why? Because there are almost endless options.
This series is about how people change. And it is far more difficult to make meaningful change when you don’t have a vision.
Without vision, you can’t tell the difference between a dream and a distraction.
This applies to our finances, health, relationships, or career. Virtually any life account.
If you want to have a certain amount in your retirement fund by a certain date, or you want to have a thriving marriage, then you can schedule regular investments in those accounts. You can write them down and put them in your calendar. You can say NO to good options so that you can say YES to the best ones. The ones that take you toward the future you want.
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.
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. Small steps repeated.
Without a consistent heading, we are like a boat that sets out for a certain location on a map but sees lots of intriguing islands along the way to stop at, and never comes close to the intended destination.
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, and the legacy we want to live.
I created the first draft of my Life Plan 6 years ago, and my life has never been the same. Each year, my wife and I get away for day to reflect on our past year, and look at our goals and priorities for the upcoming year.
One disclaimer—Of course we can’t control everything that happens to us in our lives—but most people have not taken the time to really define what a successful life or year would look like—and how they can align their daily time investments with that vision.
Leadership sage John Maxwell says—All leadership begins with self-leadership.
And a great starting point for leading yourself (and your family) is to create your Life Plan. A Life Plan will help you begin to chart an intentional direction for all areas of your life.
A friend of mine recently interviewed for a leadership position and I love what he said in his interview—
“You don’t suddenly become a leader when you walk through the door at work. I believe in leadership in all areas of life, inside and outside of work. How you lead in one area will affect how you lead in another. If you are a leader, then it applies to your identity and everything you do.”
In my opinion, there are 2 main reasons for having a Life Plan:
- Most importantly—A Life Plan helps you keep your life priorities in proper perspective, so you don’t drift way off course. It helps you reduce the chances of living a life of regret and missed opportunities. It helps you keep first things first.
- Second—A Life Plan is a personal leadership plan for how you lead your life. It is a strong foundation of leadership that will directly impact your work life. It does this in 2 ways. First, it helps ensure you have stability in your personal life so you can be focused at work. Second, it can serve as the template for how to be focused and intentional at work also.
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. I will include links at bottom in the resources section. After years of helping people create Life Plans, they have identified the following common life accounts most people have:
- Friends & Family
So how do you create a Life Plan?
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. In formulaic terms, author Mark Batterson says it best—Change of Pace + Change of Place = Change of Perspective.
- *Option 2: Do not let perfect be the enemy of good. Do a Life Plan Lite! Get away for a short time to a coffee shop and get some ideas down for each account.
- Start by putting the accounts above in order of priority to you. Add some, drop some, be creative.
- Think long term. Write a statement of your envisioned future—it might be helpful to think about what you would want this account to look like several decades down the road.
- Then think short term. You might make bullet points that illustrate your measurable daily or weekly activities that support your goal.
- Often people add quotes or scripture verses to their life plans.
- Schedule a time each week to review it. Then schedule a day to revise it every year.
Warning!—Do not get hung up on creating the perfect plan! Life will almost never go according to plan anyway. Just start! Get some ideas down for each account on paper or your computer. This is meant to be a living document—one that will be changed and revised with the changing seasons of life.
It’s also important that you don’t use your life plan to beat yourself up when you aren’t exactly on course (like I did). Just go easy on yourself and climb back in the driver’s seat of your life.
- Living Forward—Hyatt and Harkavy
- Here is link for templates https://livingforwardbook.com/resources/
- Here is a link for examples of Life Plans: https://livingforwardbook.com/resources/lifeplan-examples/
- Creating a life plan by Michael Hyatt
- Building Champions One Day Guide to Life Plan