Do you have a life plan? When you think about your life ten years from now, what do you see?
Do you see a clear picture of what your life will be like for your career, your family, your friends, and so on? Or do you have trouble seeing past this year? Maybe you have a hard time just seeing past this week, and you’re thinking, “How on Earth could anyone plan their life ten years ahead?”
On the Daily New Year’s blog and in my book, Crush Your Goals!, I teach a lot of goal-setting strategies that can help people accelerate their success. Often I come across people who struggle to set clear goals, not because they don’t understand the strategies, but because they don’t have a clear life plan to help guide the way.
What is a Life Plan?
A life plan isn’t a concrete vision that you etch in stone; it’s a flexible roadmap for where you hope to end up in life. It can be daunting to think about your life ten years or more at a time, but creating a life plan can help inform decisions about which goals you pursue, which jobs you decide to take (or turn down), which people to form close relationships with (and which ones to avoid), and so much more.
A few years ago, I was attending the Global Leadership Summit, and pastor Andy Stanley was giving a fantastic talk. During his message, he said something that would forever stick in my mind. He said, “Everybody ends up somewhere in life. A few people end up somewhere on purpose. Those are the ones with vision.”
That quote got me thinking. It’s true, we are all going to end up somewhere in life, but if we’re not careful, we might end up somewhere we don’t want to be.
What do you think would happen if you set out on a five-day road trip with no destination in mind, no maps, no GPS, and no help of any kind. Instead, you just drove aimlessly. If you run into an obstacle, you would take the path of least resistance. Hit a dead-end? Perhaps you could go back the way you came and try an alternate route.
Just aimless wandering.
Is that the approach you’re taking with your life? I think we can all admit that we’ve taken that approach to life at some point or another. It seems so much easier to simply go with the flow rather than try to come up with a plan that may or may not work.
But what if instead, we set out on our five-day journey with a clear destination, GPS coordinates, and a planned route? Sure, we might get rerouted occasionally due to road closings or construction, but ultimately we would find alternate routes to the same destination.
That is what a life plan can do for your entire life. A clearly defined life plan provides you with the destination, and from there, you can work on crafting goals that will lead to your dream life.
Sounds easy, right? Maybe not so much.
At first, it may seem pretty tricky or intimidating to plan your life out ten years or more at a time, but if you break the process down and follow a few steps, it’s not that scary or hard. In my opinion, it would be far more frightening to drift through life with no plan at all, just hoping, fingers crossed, to end up somewhere that you enjoy. But the odds aren’t in our favor. We need to create a life plan and take control of our destiny.
You in? If so, grab your favorite notebook, and let’s dive in!
Creating Your First Life Plan: Starting with Blue-Sky Thinking
Have you ever heard the saying, “Begin with the end in mind?” Basically, it means that we should envision the end goal and work backward to create a plan that leads to your destination. So, for the first exercise, we need to think about where we want our lives to lead. For this, we’re going to try some Blue-Sky Thinking.
Blue-Sky Thinking is the practice of looking forward into your future and imagining that all things are possible for you, that you have no limits to speak of, and that your life is perfect in every way. That’s hard to imagine, or at least I know it was for me!
If you’ve never heard of or tried Blue-Sky Thinking before, here’s how you do it:
Imagine that you had absolutely no limits. You could do anything, be anything, and go anywhere you wanted. What would you do? Where would you go? What would your life look like as a whole?
Maybe your dream life includes a loving spouse, a high-paying career, a beautiful home, and an expensive sports car in the garage. Perhaps in your dream life, you’re a real estate tycoon who’s worth billions of dollars, or you’re the founder of a world-changing nonprofit. It doesn’t matter what you imagine as long as you dream big.
The sky’s the limit!
The idea behind Blue-Sky Thinking is that no dream is unreal or unattainable. For Blue-Sky Thinking to work, you need to remove all limits, including learned helplessness, self-limiting beliefs, and ceilings that have been placed on you by other people. That may sound simple in theory but can prove challenging in practice.
You see, most people grow up learning what “normal” is supposed to look like, so they often accept what’s possible based on someone else’s definition of “normal.” I’m here to tell you that only you can determine what’s possible for you, and you have to bring that attitude to this exercise.
As you think through your dream life, remember, this exercise is not grounded in your current reality, so there’s no need to make compromises or to settle for small goals. You should be thinking of ridiculous, outlandish, and seemingly impossible things for yourself.
Just because you can’t afford a million-dollar home today doesn’t mean it’s off-limits in the future. Just because you can’t spend your days on the beach today doesn’t mean you can’t get there.
If it helps, break it down. Think through the different aspects of your life, including your professional career, finances, family, health, and even your social life. What does each of these look like in your dream life? Do not be afraid to write down your most significant ideas and dreams. No one will ever see this document except you, so don’t be embarrassed to write down big, aspirational things.
As a note, it can be challenging to separate your actual wants and desires from those you see around you. Just because you see famous or successful people doing the things they’re doing doesn’t mean you have to share the same dream. If retiring on a beach would drive you mad from boredom, maybe don’t write that down. During this exercise, try to write down the things that you genuinely want. Reflect deeply and spend some time with yourself throughout this exercise.
If you’re ready, take a break from this blog post and start journaling what your life might look like and come back to this post when you’re done.
Coming Back to Reality
Once you get into the exercise and you’ve managed to visualize your dream life, it’s time to come back to reality and think about what you would have to do going forward to make this dream a reality.
Do not let doubt or fear creep in and kill your dream. Never underestimate your potential.
Instead, break things down and analyze them, like so:
- Are you on the right career path, or do you need to switch industries to get closer to your dream job?
- What kind of mindset does future you have? Are you hanging around people with that kind of mindset today?
- What does your future spouse or partner look like? How does he or she behave? Where can you go to meet someone like that?
- How much money does future you have? Where does that money come from? What can you start doing today to create more income?
I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea here. Nothing in life is impossible, even though it may seem hopeless when you’re looking to jump from A to Z. The concept behind Blue-Sky Thinking is not to trick your mind into jumping from A to Z overnight; the idea is to remove all of the limits in your mind so that you can truly see what’s possible in life.
Then you can take a step back and plan the steps to get there, going from A to B, and then on to C and D. As I said earlier, when setting long-term goals, it’s essential to begin with the end in mind. Blue-Sky Thinking gives us a long-term dream life to aim for, but that’s just the beginning of our life plan. Now, we need to analyze and break down the dream life we journaled about.
Review your Blue-Sky Thinking and compare it to your life today. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are some areas of your life that are on track?
- What are some areas that need improvement or maybe even a complete overhaul?
- What changes can you make today to align your current life with your dream life better?
- What can you start doing today to move closer to having your dream come true? Don’t focus on “I can’t.” Instead, think, “How can I….?”
- Asking, “How can I” opens your mind up to brainstorming. Thinking “I can’t” shuts your thought process down.
- Review the examples above to help get you started.
What if Blue-Sky Thinking Doesn’t Work for Me?
For those of you who are struggling to see where you want your life to go (and assuming Blue-Sky Thinking didn’t work), let’s try a couple of other exercises. First, try thinking back over your life and jot down the answers to these questions:
- What are some of your most significant accomplishments in life so far? (As a note, I use the word accomplishments loosely. It doesn’t have to be something huge, like being the valedictorian or winning a national competition of some kind. It could be a poem you wrote, a class you did very well in, or even a project you made in shop class.)
- Of your accomplishments, which ones made you most proud and excited? Which ones could you not wait to share with the people in your life?
- Could you expand on those accomplishments and take them further? Could you build on them? If so, how? If you enjoyed woodworking in high school, perhaps you could start making crafts to sell on the side, maybe even open a furniture rehab store. If you enjoyed writing a poem, maybe you could write an entire book of poetry.
These questions should help you identify what gets you excited in life, but if you have trouble thinking back on old accomplishments as a way to plan your future, try this one instead:
- What does my life look like in three to five years?
Aside from the obvious answers such as “make more money,” what does life look like in five years? Pretend you could wave a magic wand. Where do you work? Who do you surround yourself with most? Have you started a family? Where do you live? Are you happy?
Don’t focus on what you want to accomplish over the next five years. Instead, take five minutes to free write a description of your future five years from now. Don’t focus on the how, or the tiny details involved; focus on the future.
This technique is a little bit like Blue-Sky Thinking but on a smaller scale. Instead of projecting twenty-five years or more into the future, only focus on the next five years.
Here’s my five-year vision:
“In five years, I would like to have built a community around Daily New Year’s that includes hundreds of thousands of people worldwide with more people joining every day.
I still work full time, but my wife and I often enjoy the freedom to travel around the world promoting my book and the Daily New Year’s message at various events and speaking engagements.
My schedule keeps me busy, but I’m healthier than I’ve ever been. Even while traveling, I continue to focus on my fitness and healthy eating habits.
Due to new streams of income, proper financial planning, and a growing business, Callie no longer has to work a regular job and is free to pursue her passions in life.”
(I want to mention that my wife is an extraordinarily hard worker. It’s not that she doesn’t want to work or can’t take care of herself, but I love working, and I want to provide enough income through my passions that she can do whatever she wants to in life.)
Sounds pretty ambitious, right? Attainable or not, that is my vision for my life five years from now.
To get there, I can break it down into a five-year plan that includes things like starting the blog, a YouTube Channel, and a podcast; promoting those channels on social media; growing my audience and email list; improving my public speaking skills; expanding my network; publishing the book; and so on.
Long-term goals may seem daunting, maybe even a little scary, but they shouldn’t. They should be inspiring!
Remember, goals aren’t concrete. Things change, and so can your goals. Setting a five-year goal for yourself today doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind later, so don’t get stuck on the what-ifs that might be running through your mind. It’s okay if they evolve and change later on down the road.
To craft an effective life plan, think about your dream life three to five years from now, and set some long-term goals that will keep you excited. Have fun with the process, and dream big! If you dream so big that you can’t fit your vision into five years, make it ten years. Feeling ambitious? Jot down some twenty-year goals.
The important thing is, once you have your long-term goals, you can break them down into annual and quarterly goals, starting with a list of goals for the year ahead.
Setting Goals for Your Life Plan
Now that you have a better vision for your life and your long-term goals, you can begin to break things down into four universal types of goals: Annual Goals, Quarterly Goals, Action Goals, and Habit Goals.
I’m not going to cover the goal types in detail here, but you can get more info in this blog post or my book.
When you start to plan out your goals, begin with your five-year vision or even your entire life plan, and break it down into as many milestones as possible.
If I want to be a world-renowned speaker, I need to start taking classes, booking gigs, and honing my skills. If I want to travel the world, I need to focus on financial stability, building passive income, and chart my destinations.
When thinking about your life plan, your list of milestones and goals could become quite long, but don’t let that overwhelm you. The more milestones and goals you list out, the clearer your path will be, and that’s good.
We often underestimate what we can do over a lifetime and overestimate what we can do in a year. It takes practice, but try to chart out which goals and milestones you plan to achieve in the coming 365 days.
The aim is not to accomplish everything in your life plan in the first year. You might achieve more than you planned, or maybe even less, depending on how complex your goals are. Don’t let that discourage you.
Goal setting isn’t about being perfect; it’s about becoming better than you were before. If you’ve followed this blog post and you’re pursuing your life plan with intentionality, then you’re already winning. Right? Absolutely you are!
An effective life plan isn’t meant to be a concrete path leading to your dream life; it’s meant to be a guiding light. You might stray from the path from time to time, but your life plan will always keep you moving in the right direction.
Let’s Recap, Shall We?
Creating an exciting, long-term life plan doesn’t have to be complicated. First, start with the end in mind. Where do you want to be in 5, 10, or 25 years? Use Blue-Sky Thinking to help yourself daydream. If that doesn’t work, try asking yourself a series of questions to help plan your five-year vision for your future.
After you achieved one or both of those exercises, start planning your annual, quarterly, monthly, and weekly action and habit goals around your dream life. This list of goals is your life plan.
Your goals should support and lead to your dream life. Easy, right?
Over to You!
Are you excited about creating your first life plan? If so, what are you aiming to achieve in your life? Share in the comments below. I’d love to hear about your ideas so that I can support you along the way.
Until next time, take care!