Do you have a life plan? If not, why not? If you think you’re too busy to sit down and create your own life plan, consider the following:
In a 1953 study conducted at Yale University, students in the graduating class were interviewed and asked whether they had a life plan, with a set of written goals. Less than 3% had a clear plan of action and written goals. Twenty years later, researchers re-interviewed the students. The 3% that had written goals had a net worth greater than the other 97% combined! As well, 3% reported a higher level of life satisfaction than their counterparts who had no action plan or written goals.
Okay, you have decided that you want to create a life plan. But you don’t know how. It’s not difficult, but it will require some time and effort. You probably will need to mark off a time slot in your busy schedule. As well, supply yourself with a favorite pen and a paper pad or a diary, as per your preference.
Step 1: Getting Started – What Matters to You?
Most professionals suggest a life plan based on a 6 month, 1 year and 5 year interval. If you are beginning the goal-planning process, you may wish to start with the 6 month interval.
What are the most important aspects of your life? Distinguish the significant aspects or categories of your life. For example, you may value health, family, friends, spiritual growth, and career advancement (not necessarily in that order). If possible, prioritize the important categories of your life. Note: It is interesting that a person’s life priorities will change significantly, depending upon their stage in life and unique circumstance.
What’s important to you?
Step 2: What do you want?
After you make your list, it’s time to set goals. You might want to start with a broad description of a goal, and then set a specific and clearly defined “sub-goal” with a deadline. For example, if social relationships are important to you, you may set a goal that you will enlarge your social circle. A more specific sub-goal might be that you will attend at least 3 – 4 social gatherings/ month to enlarge your social circle.
You need to be specific in your goal-setting so that you can test the achievement of that goal, at a later date. Spend some time on this exercise. Make sure that the goals that you have set are ones that you genuinely want to achieve, not ones that someone else thinks you should achieve.
Use the SMART method. The best goal-setters set goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time –bound.
Step 3: Getting what you want!
After you identify your goals, you need to recognize what has to be done, in order to achieve them. It’s time now to think more fully about your desired end and what has to be done to get to that point. Basically, you need to consider the path that you have to take, in order to achieve the goals that you have set.
As an example, if you are a stay-at-home mother, you may have identified Career as an important priority and your sub-goal may be re-entry into the work force within 2 years. How are you going to achieve this? What position(s) will you seek? Is upgrading or re-training required? The necessary research will have to be undertaken for this purpose. You’ll need to contact local colleges or institutions that offer needed programs.
If you want to find the right answers, you need to ask the right questions. For example, under Health, you have listed your goal to “get stronger”. How will you do this? What will help you to achieve this goal? If you plan to start weight-training, are you going to purchase free weights, to use in a home gym? Are you going to purchase ankle weights, to wear on your daily walk? If you have specified under Financial that your goal is to make money, you need to ask yourself, how much is enough? Set a specific target for yourself. You then need to ask yourself how you are going to achieve the target. Be realistic but be ambitious as well. There is no limit to what you can accomplish with an open mind and a determined, courageous heart.
Step 4: Progress and Reward
Post your life plan diary in a place where you read or refer to it, on a periodic basis. You may wish, as well, to post a bulletin board in your bedroom or office and post pictures which illustrate the goals that you wish to achieve. The purpose of these steps is to ensure that you are reminded of the goals that you have set for yourself, and that you stay motivated to achieve them.
After you achieve a sub-goal, reward yourself! Give yourself a mental pat on the back. Congratulate yourself in taking one more step towards the evolution of your dream accomplishment.