How To Make A Life Plan: 6 Steps You Need To Take

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The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing, in so far as it stands ready against the accidental and the unforeseen, and is not apt to fall. – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Life brings with it many unexpected twists and turns. You may have the deepest desire to accomplish a specific thing but get knocked off course by unexpected circumstances.

After all, how were you to know that you wouldn’t get accepted into that college? Weren’t healthy enough for that job? Didn’t know that relationship wouldn’t work out?

It may seem counterintuitive to develop a life plan when we have no idea what tomorrow will bring.

Actually, the opposite is true. The fact that we don’t know what tomorrow will bring is the best reason to develop a life plan.

A well-considered, thoughtful life plan can serve as your compass when you’re trying to figure out how to proceed and find success in your life – whatever that success may look like. You can always come back to your life plan when the waters get rough and you’re being tossed around.

It will help ground you, consider your options, and look for more ways to move forward if you do it well.

Let’s lay some foundation for your life plan. It will help to either write these things down or type them out in a word processing document.

1. Consider what is important to you.

Every person has a compass within them that is trying to lead them in a particular direction. And we’re not just talking about a moral compass, but the compass that points in the direction of your passions and desires for life.

Do you love animals? Art? Science? Helping people? What creates a spark for you?

And if you’re lacking a spark right now, what did create a spark for you in the past?

Take a moment to think about your life’s path up until this point. Why did you pursue the things that you did? Take the jobs that you accepted? Entered the relationships that you did? Is there a theme here?

And more importantly, is this experience something you wish to continue and build on for your future?

It’s okay to change paths if you’re no longer feeling the one that you’re on. But it can be advantageous to make a pivot on the path that you’re already walking instead of starting over from scratch.

Figuring out your compass will make it much easier to find the right path for you.

Crucially, this step requires you to be totally honest with yourself about what is actually important to you as opposed to what you think is important or should be important.

Advancing in one’s career is often a good example of this. Many people see progression up the ladder and the financial rewards this brings as something that is important to them. But, when they start to list down what gives them that inner spark, their job doesn’t come anywhere near the top, or sometimes not on the list at all.

They simply believe that doing well in a job and gaining promotions is what you’re meant to do in life. It’s an assumption based on the way society views success and they don’t question it. But you should.

Everything that goes into your life plan has to be based on personal honesty.

2. Consider what brings you happiness and joy.

Accomplishing anything worthwhile is usually a lot of hard work. It doesn’t always seem that way, though, from an outsider’s perspective. Sometimes all we can see is the surface. We don’t see the countless hours of studying, preparing, working, or training that may occur behind closed doors.

And whilst it’s essential to have true desire to find a path and meet the goals you set, you must retain balance in your life. You can’t work all the time without burning out spectacularly.

Devising a plan that includes things that bring you happiness and joy will carry you through the hard times and help to offset the challenges of the work you have to put in. Tapping into the things that bring you happiness can help you stay healthier, more invested, and focused on your goals.

Many people neglect to nurture their happiness while they are hard at work setting and achieving their lofty goals. But improving and maintaining your mental health is essential for succeeding at your plans.

3. Consider self-care that helps you stay healthy.

Happiness could be considered a part of self-care, but we want to ensure that we take care of more than just our mind.

The food you eat and regular exercise do wonders for helping you succeed. Food gives you the energy you need, and exercise helps maintain your body in good working order.

Don’t neglect these things in pursuit of your goals. Include improving and maintaining your physical health in your life plan. The easiest way to do that is to schedule your exercise, rest, and give them the same importance as your other goals. That way, you can ensure you are always making time for self-care.

4. Define your small and large goals.

Goal-setting is a great skill to develop that will help you advance your life plan.

Every big goal you set your eyes on is actually just a combination of smaller, interlocking goals. The big goals don’t seem so big when you break them down into smaller pieces and work on getting those accomplished regularly.

What big goals do you see for yourself? Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years? Twenty-five years? Who is the person that you want to be?

Once you set those goals, you can work backward to set the small goals. Let’s say you want to be an engineer. You’ll need to do well in math, go to school, work an internship, and likely go to graduate school to prepare for an entry-level position in the field.

Each one of those smaller goals is further composed of even smaller goals. Maybe you need to take a few courses to brush up on your math before applying to school. Maybe you need to do research to get funding secured for school. Maybe you need to send applications out.

The goals you set will help you blaze your path forward when you start asking: how can I accomplish this goal?

5. Create actionable plans to reach those goals.

A goal without a plan is just a wish. – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Use each goal as a heading. As you research how to accomplish your goals, write out a list of things you need to do under each heading.

This record will help you move forward because you’ll know what you’ve tried, what you haven’t, and it can help you generate new ideas when you feel like you’re stalling.

Revisit these plans as you accomplish your goals to make adjustments as the challenges of your goals crop up.

Sometimes it can be hard to figure out how to reach those goals. One of the better approaches is to look for people who have already accomplished what you’re setting out to do. They can point you in the right direction and help you to avoid some of the common pitfalls of pursuing that particular path.

If you want to go to college, you may also want to talk to a college advisor that can help you make decisions and plan your way through that.

Career or life coaches with experience in what you want to do may be worthwhile as well. Just be wary of anyone making unrealistic promises.

6. Regularly reassess your progress and life plan.

As you get older and advance along with your life plan, you’re going to want to periodically stop and reassess what you’re doing and why.

It’s normal for your perspective and goals to shift as you get older and learn new things. More than likely, 21 year-old-you is going to want different things than 45 year-old-you. But events in your life may mean your priorities and goals change even more rapidly than that.

You may also accomplish specific goals and find that they are not what you thought they’d be. It’s okay to change course, set new goals, and dream a new dream if that’s what you want.

Your life plan is not set-in-stone. It’s a living document that you should regularly visit, revise, add to, and sometimes subtract from.

And what not to do with your life plan…

Don’t get so set on a singular path that you become blind to possibilities. Accomplishing your goals may open up other doors or challenges that you had not expected.

Allow yourself to be flexible as you move forward so you can bend with the challenges you’ll encounter. A compromise may not be what you want, but sometimes it can bring you closer to achieving your long-term goals.

You can set specific goals, but you need to be okay with not meeting them, too. Like, “I want to be a doctor by the time I’m 30.” Maybe that will work out, maybe it won’t. Maybe you’ll have a health problem to deal with, or can’t afford to go to school, or have an unexpected pregnancy, or any other number of things that can severely disrupt your plan.

It’s good to maintain an idea of how and when you want things to go, just don’t emotionally invest so much into it that it destroys your mental health if you cannot follow your path. Sometimes things just don’t work out; and that’s okay.

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About The Author

Jack Nollan is a mental health writer of 10 years who pairs lived experience with evidence-based information to provide perspectives from the side of the mental health consumer. Jack has lived with Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar-depression for almost 30 years. With hands-on experience as the facilitator of a mental health support group, Jack has a firm grasp of the wide range of struggles people face when their mind is not in the healthiest of places. Jack is an activist who is passionate about helping disadvantaged people find a better path.