Everyone, from time to time, drifts away from his or her desired path. That is true for careers, marriages, relationships, finances, personal passions, hobbies, health, faith, etc. We all go astray. It is part of the chaos of life. But it can be corrected. It can also be prevented. You have to stop, take an inventory of your life, create a plan for the necessary changes, and then follow that plan toward a better future.
There are several fundamental starting points. You have to admit you spend more time planning your next vacation than you spend time planning the next 5 years of your life. You have to admit you waste time overwhelmed or distracted by the small events in your life, losing your focus on the bigger and more important components of your life. Lastly, you have to admit you settle, far too often, for something good as opposed to fighting for something great.
Now, how to combat those tendencies? How do you stop the current drift in your life? You have to pause, take a couple days off, reflect and re-evaluate, and then make an effort to create (and write down) a new Life Plan. For many of you, there will an immediate resistance against writing down any assessment of your life or any new life goals. You don’t want your life condensed to a piece of paper; you want your life to be spontaneous, exciting, and fluid. All of that can be true even if you pause to reflect, re-evaluate, and commit your thoughts to paper.
Many experts will cite the original study. Researchers asked graduating seniors at Yale University if they had written goals – a written plan for life. Only 3% of the graduates had written goals. Researchers followed that class for 20 years. At the end of those two decades, the 3% of the class with written goals had more wealth than the other 97% of the class without written goals. And the benefit of written goals / written plans extended well beyond finances. Other studies revealed the massive benefits of writing down your goals for all the parts of your life.
In my own book, The Boomer Survivor Kit, I offered several chapters on how to re-design your life by writing down your dreams and re-igniting your hidden passions and purpose. In a new book, Living Forward by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy, those two authors take the same approach, but they narrow the focus to the process of re-evaluating your life and writing down an extensive new life plan, designed to keep you from drifting so you can “get the life you want.”
They quote J.P. Morgan’s line, “The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to say where you are” and then they highlight the importance of knowing that if you cannot say no to good, then you will never have the chance of saying yes to great. In short, as we plod through life, we all have a tendency to settle for less than what we really want. Worse, many of us have a tendency to even lose sight of what we really want. If you want a great life, you have to readdress this core mistake. You have to create a new, revised life plan.
Let me make it simple. Let me show you what I did after reading Living Forward and after rereading parts of my own The Boomer Survivor Kit. I divided my life into six different areas: health, family, finances, personal passions, friends/ relationships, and legacy. (Please note: There is no section for career, as I am retired – but for most people, that would be a prominent area). For each different area, I wrote a page evaluating where I was at this point in my life; I wrote a page clarifying my desired or envisioned future (e.g.: where I wanted to be in 5 years); and I wrote another page listing the steps/ changes that I needed to make to reach those goals.
At the end of this process, which took me a full morning, I had a blueprint for the next phase of my life with the desired and necessary changes, plus the clarified goals of the various destinations – destinations for each separate area. Did it help me? Absolutely. Was I dissatisfied with my life? No, not really. But was there room for me to transform my life from “good” to “great”? Easily. And I think that statement applies to almost everyone. We can all be better. We can all make our lives better. It is do-able. Even necessary.
However, we have to hit the reset button. We have to reflect. We have to plan. And if we want to dramatically increase our changes at a successful, improved future, we need to write it down on paper. Don’t let that part prevent you from the process. They are web sites that help with life planning. There are more web sites coming. Everyone needs a coach. Even the greatest golfers have a swing coach. You need someone to keep you inspired. Someone to keep you on task. Someone to help steer you toward your goals – that better future.
Let me conclude with a final insight. If you are willing to review your life, looking at different parts of your life and writing down an envisioned future with a set of steps or actions, you will have a document, which will be of great value. It will be a “life plan” you will want to read on a regular basis. All airplane flights are considered “off course” for 90% of the flight, but they reach the destination because they have a plan and because they are constantly adjusting the path along that plan. You are much the same. Ongoing reflection. Ongoing changes.
So, don’t allow yourself to drift any further. Whether you are starting on your first job, or settling into middle age, or retiring as a baby boomer, the above process works for everyone. Is there anyone who does not want a better life? If I have any core belief, it is the following. We all need to take greater control of our lives – and we have much more capacity to take control than we realize. Too many of us underestimate our ability to change. Too many of us lead a life that is far below what we deserve – and what we want. That should be changed.
So, join this new cause …
Create a new plan for a better life …
With a little guidance, it is easy …
And extremely worthwhile …