Summer holidays can be a great opportunity for reflection. Whether you are lying on a beach or enjoying a sightseeing vacation, I wonder if you’ve reflected on a plan for your life?
I’m conscious that can sound a bit worthy, or overly ambitious.
But, consider for a moment, how many important priorities in your business would you seek to achieve without a plan?
Is your life & what you want to achieve with your life actually less important than those business goals?
Given the importance of this topic & the fact that I still find most leaders lack any form of ‘life plan‘, I’m delighted to review a new book to help you create one.
My first encouragement, as to why you should read this book, is that it’s short. Excluding appendices, it’s just over 150 pages. The writing style is warm, accessible & practical. Both authors share a wide variety of personal stories & examples of how they have implemented what they recommend, together with what happened as a result.
The structure of the book is a simple 3 part process. First, 3 short chapters on understanding your need for a life plan. Second, 4 short chapters laying out a process to create your life plan (including the practical aspects of where & how long you need). Finally, 3 short chapters on ‘making it happen’. That is, how to put your plan into action & maintain progress.
As well as the authors sharing personal experience & practical application tips, there are a number of free online resources provided. Readers can benefit from the templates, audiobook & questionnaires available on the supporting website. Plenty of thought has gone into helping you overcome you lethargy & actually do this.
Why you need a life plan
In part one, Michael & Daniel make a strong case for why we all need life plans (especially leaders). Starting with the analogy of a life plan as a ‘sat nav for your life journey’ they go on to identify a critical barrier to why so many of us don’t achieve what we want with our lives. This they call ‘the drift’.
Drifting is metaphor they use to help us recognise why we often end up at destinations we did not intend. Whether its being sucked into our career being all-consuming, focussing on wealth generation at the expense of other priorities, or just not noticing who we are giving time to. This first section helps the reader see why drifting through life is a real danger & the benefits of being more intentional with the time, talents & resources we do have.
This section also provides 3 powerful questions that you can ask yourself to begin organising your life plan & setting your priorities.
A blueprint for creating life plans
The central 4 chapters step the reader through a practical & simple process to create your own life plan.
This begins in a very similar way to the Franklin Covey method, that I’ve shared previously. Imagining your own funeral & what you would want all the people who matter to you (family, friends, work colleagues etc) to say about you after you have gone. So simple a concept & yet still a powerful emotional exercise to do sincerely.
Next, the writers introduce the concept of ‘life accounts’ to help you consider all the aspects of your life where you might want to create goals. For instance, this might include: your relationship with your significant other; with your children/grandchildren; your career or business; your financial legacy; your personal fitness; perhaps your faith or a passion in your life. In this area they also prompt aspects that some self-improvement books are prone to overlook (like vocational work in community or hobbies, as well as holidays & leisure time).
With helpful structure & prompting questions, the authors then step you through the process of writing your life plan. That is, how to translate that high-level vision (your intended obituaries) into specific goals for each of the life accounts that matter to you. Everyone’s life plan & even style of life plan will differ, but they share enough examples to inspire new perspectives as well as how you might articulate what you want.
The last chapter in this section deals with the practical issue of protecting time to do this. Although this may put off some readers, I believe they are right to say you need to dedicate a day to creating your life plan. After all, one day is not a huge investment in the context of the rest of your life. There are also hints & ideas on location and the resources you’ll need.
Staying on course
Too often plans can be beautiful, but never see the light of being actioned. You don’t want to put in all this effort & then just leave a plan for your life on the shelf.
So, the final section focusses on how to keep on track. The first of the final three chapters focusses on the practical aspects of implementing your plan. Here they rightly touch on the need to prioritise & create what Michael calls ‘margin’ to give time for what you proactively want to achieve based on your life plan goals. Plenty of the ideas here are the way to address why so many leaders drift through their years, with days full of answering emails & attending meetings.
Next comes a chapter on the discipline of periodic review & reflection. Suggesting a pattern of short reviews weekly, quarterly & yearly. This approach helps ensure that your life plan continues to be a living document that grows & adapts as your life changes & new opportunities emerge or you see things differently. Useful prompts as to the benefits of coaching & mentoring here, although I would personally of liked to see more of those (but then I’m a coach who sees too few leaders recognise their need of one).
The closing chapter of the book is a rallying cry to ‘join the revolution’. That might sound a bit cheesy (or ‘overly American’ as we Brits are fond of expressing our mild xenophobia), but it is an interesting challenge. The suggestion is simple. Share this book with others, buy books for your team members or in other ways encourage those around you to create life plans too.
What about you?
I hope you found that book review helpful. Reading “Living Forward” is easy to do but will also challenge you to actually put this into action. Creating your own life plan is where the real benefits come. Have you got a plan for your life? How is that working for you?
Before I close, let me be accountable here too. I must confess that I haven’t yet put all the above advice into action. This is partly because I already spent time at the beginning of this year setting goals for the year & am tracking against those using the 18 Minutes method. But, if I’m honest, it’s also the perfectionist in me procrastinating setting that day aside to commit pen to paper.
So, I hereby publicly commit to my readers that having read this book (twice actually, first on audiobook & then the paperback), I will put it into action.
I’ll share with you all how that goes & whether my own life plan lives up to all the excitement & anticipation this book generates in me.