In a small series, I'll explain what my experiences of life planning has shown and given me which hopefully can provide some insight and little tips on what you can do yourself if you are intent on creating your own life plan.
When starting the process of life planning, something typically has triggered the need to take action. There is some pain/dissatisfaction or something just niggling away in the back of our minds. We perhaps need to either understand something or we need the answers to certain questions.
I know when I started my own journey with planning, I thought I was excellent and prioritising and was living life fully to my values. I wasn't far off but I also wasn't as good as I gave myself credit for - our behavioural bias can be very bad for our planning.
Being slightly off track can actually make huge differences to your life; let's use flying for some examples.
Experts in air navigation have a rule of thumb known as the 1 in 60 rule. It states that for every 1 degree a plane veers off its course, it misses its target destination by 1 mile for every 60 miles you fly. This means that the further you travel, the further you are from your destination. If you’re off course by just one degree:
After 100 yards, you’ll be off by 5.2 feet. Not huge, but noticeable.
After a mile, you’ll be off by 92.2 feet. One degree is starting to make a difference.
If you veer off course by 1 degree flying around the equator, you’ll land almost 500 miles off target!
If someone asked me what my values were I could provide some concrete and consistent answers (family, being consistent and authentic, time for myself) but then it became a little bit more airy fairy....this is me being 1 degree off course for the next 40 years or so of life! So, one of the first things I did was commit my values to paper (they are at the bottom of this story). By writing them out and having them somewhere visible (this is important), it acts as a sort of checklist to my life, much like a checklist that pilots would be using to take off. The checklist takes out guesswork and makes you stick to a process, which we can all be terrible at. Not being consistent with a process is likely to lead to a lack of consistency with your outcome. When making big decisions, I look at my values as a guide to how to make my choice. If I make a choice that isn't congruent with my value system, how happy do you think I'll be in a year's time with that choice? So, take some time to work out YOUR values; no one else's, not the ones you think you should, or what your friends have or the ones that have been handed down to you by your parents, yours alone..... Here's mine:
Family - Just has to be my number one; without this, nothing else matters
Authenticity—Be the same person at every occasion in life and walk your talk. Know that everybody won’t like you but you will like yourself more if you are always you, no matter what
Consistency - I like this quality in others so I try to be the same. People like knowing that you are reliable and you will do what you say you will do. Very important in relationships of all kinds
Integrity - Act well in all you do. Be honest and upfront whenever you can as having an ethical moral compass is essential
Structure— I like structure and planning things out; on occasion it's great to have a day or two where nothing is planned but I like knowing what am I doing; shows me I am in charge of my days
Responsibility—Own your actions, mistakes, and current life situation. Understand what's in your control and fully own it.
Improvement - I dislike the pursuit of perfection and so much prefer constant and never-ending improvement as a goal. The 1% improvements compounding effect is a wonder of the world for me
Enjoyment - life needs pleasures to go along with the other stuff. Enjoying a movie, music or books, conversations, food and wine or being in nature, make life fun! A life without any fun or things to enjoy is not much of a life. The wonderful thing is enjoyment shouldn’t need to cost much
Solitude - I like time on my own and its essential for me to be in a good place overall