My wife and some great friends have been planning a trip to Vermont. There is a great deal to contemplate, decide on, and execute on when planning a family trip. My wife does most of the heavy lifting with the plans, but it still takes two. Here is a general outline of the steps we use for planning our vacations:
Step one is to decide where to travel for vacation. Beach, mountains, amusement park, family, etc. If you have options, it can take time to discuss the ideal destination for this vacation.
Step two is to decide when you are going. Everyone grabs their calendar for a review. If you aren’t all together, there is going to be some back and forth to decide. This step takes some time, but eventually, all are on the same page regarding the dates for the vacation.
Step three is deciding on the accommodations. The options are seemingly endless with VRBO and many hotels (depending on your destination). There is significant effort required to find just the right place to stay. Ironically, for most vacations, limited time is spent at the location we are staying.
Step four is intertwined with step three and is establishing a budget. The budget will determine the accommodation we can afford. If more than two families are participating, it can be quite challenging to land on an acceptable number for all.
Step five is working through logistics. How to get there? When to leave? What is the best route? Grocery shop before going or after arrival? How long will it take to get there? If you have kids, you want to consider the whining you might endure depending on the travel time.
Step six is figuring out what to pack. You envision the place you are going, how long you are staying and the things you will do while there. These thoughts trigger you to create a list of things to pack. If you have kids, you will have to pack for them or assist them. Sometimes you might even have to pack for your hapless husband… Thanks, honey!
Step seven is to enjoy your vacation!
What if we used the same framework, intentionality, and effort that is necessary for planning a vacation and used it in the planning of our lives? What if we made the same effort to visualize our future and defined the steps necessary to realize our desired future? In general, planning a vacation is fun and filled with anticipation. Planning our lives should be no different, yet 97% of adults in this country have no written plan! “Russ, I have a plan, but it is just not written down. It is in my head” you might mutter to yourself. If your plan is in your head and has not been written out, it is not a plan, only a dream. Planning without pen and paper is easy, feels good, and will likely never come to fruition because it lacks commitment.
Seriously – Why are you so unwilling to make a well thought out written plan for your life? Whatever your answer in an excuse. I will tell you why… because it is hard. Planning a life requires a great deal of mental energy and time. Unfortunately, we have an unlimited number of distractions that often prevent us from doing the deep work necessary for planning a life. It is overwhelming to keep up with the social feed, Game of Thrones, vacation planning, and work! None of these distractions will help you to live a more intentional life.
Planning a life is very similar to planning your next vacation… here are the steps:
Step one is to determine what your life will represent. The best method I have come across for identifying what your life represented is to write your eulogy. Many people recoil when we first discuss this process of writing our eulogy. The journey to self-discovery begins with determining what you want your life to have represented. Writing our eulogy creates a clear vision of how we need to show up each day. Four simple questions answered intentionally can alter the course of a person’s life.
1. How will my family describe my life? She taught me about life. She was always there for me. She was always serving and seeking a more significant contribution. He was a student of life and taught me. He was a supportive son and always ready to lend a hand. She was a great listener. What kind of family member was I to my family? Write it out in detail.
2. How will my friends remember me? He brought joy to every gathering. He was a man of his word. He was always the first to volunteer to help. She was a fantastic listener. She never spoke ill of another person. She was full of adventure! How did I show up for my friends?
3. How will my coworkers remember me? She was always willing to help when needed. She was always on time. She always came up with creative solutions to the problems we were facing. What was I like at work?
Detailing answers to these questions will offer great insight into how you need to be showing up in the world. The eulogy exercise is especially profound if you discover that how you are currently showing up in the relationships that matter most to you is not consistent with how you want to show up based on what you wrote. The final question in the exercise connects the future with the reality of the present….
4. Am I living these answers today or do I need to make some immediate changes to begin living these answers? This is where the rubber meets the road with regards to making some necessary changes in your life. In answering question four, you compare who you are today with who you want to be at the end of your life. If you are not representing who you want to be in the future, what changes should you make to help you be more consistent with how you want to show up? Take a minute to identify three or four simple changes you could make in your life today to help ensure that you show up in a more meaningful way for those that matter most in your life.
Planning a life takes significantly more mental energy than planning a vacation. Quite simply, that is why most people don’t accept the responsibility or take on the challenge. It is hard work, and it often requires addressing some unpleasant realities. Can you be honest with yourself? If you answered “yes” congrats because most people spend their entire lives justifying who and where they are by blaming others or outside forces. In my observations of life, I have come to realize that only three things are in our control. Seriously – ONLY three things – Our Attitude, Our Response, and Our Effort. The majority of humanity will never realize that they have allowed external forces to determine their attitude, response, and effort. Most have outsourced all responsibility because it is the path of least resistance! We teach our children these lessons but abdicate responsibility in our own lives. All the power is within us, but we give it to others and wonder why our lives are not as we desire.
In Part 2, of What is Your Plan, we will step through establishing a clear vision, core values, and other key elements for planning the Intentional Life!