It can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to thinking seriously about a life plan, especially if your life is chaotic or lacking in purpose and direction. It feels a lot like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle comprised of a thousand small pieces scrambled in a random configuration on the floor in front of you. Where do you begin? The default position for all too many of us is that we simply don’t have a well-thought-out plan for the future, we avoid even touching the jigsaw pieces at all, and far from being an active participant in our own lives, we instead take the role of the passive spectator, casually watching our lives unfold before our eyes with very little control of the steering wheel beyond the usual day to day routine. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. By setting aside some time to critically evaluate your life and to plan it out methodically, you can begin to live life on purpose and shape its future direction. The beginning of 2021 is as good a time as any to get started!
Who am I to provide any meaningful advice on a plan for life you may ask? I am an ordinary guy living a very ordinary and unexciting existence. I am nearly thirty years old and still living with my parents. I have done a bit of travelling both for work and pleasure, but nothing to write home about. I am not a psychologist, nor a life coach, and what limited life experience I have acquired over the years would probably disqualify me from being a point of reference for anything to do with how to plan one’s life. But in some ways, I think this might actually give me an unique perspective from which to come at this topic, as I don’t carry with me some of the common preconceptions and misconceptions about life that can accumulate within us over time, particularly as a result of negative life experiences.
This is my attempt at a short and simple life plan for 2021 and beyond, which I hope will represent a starting point for those who want to give serious consideration to the future purpose and direction of their lives. I also hope that it will be of particular help to those who are struggling to find meaning amidst the chaos of modern day life, and to that end it is also for my own benefit as well as the benefit of others. One last thing. If this plan has in any way changed your life for the better, please contact me to let me know about it as I would love to hear your stories!
Have a massive clear out
Let’s get all the negative stuff out of the way first. Over the course of our lives, we can accumulate a lot of negative baggage which can take many different forms. People, relationships, life events, work, culture, behaviour, thoughts, emotions, just to name a few. Worse still, we have a tendency to carry this baggage round with us all day and all night, which only serves to drag us down and promote feelings of resentment about life and its prospects.
It’s time for a massive clear out. Cast a hypercritical eye over all aspects of your life and remove anything from your negative baggage that you feel is holding you back from making progress and reaching your life goals. Leave no stone unturned here, nothing should be left off the table for consideration. It might be helpful to write down as many aspects of your life as you can think of onto small pieces of paper and then move them into either the “keep” column or the “remove” column. Be sure to take a photo of it after you are done so you can refer back to it in the future!
One further thing I would add here. In addition to the “keep” and “remove” columns, there is also potential for a third column called “change”. What do I mean by this? Well, there might be something or someone in your negative baggage that you might at first consider removing, like for example a toxic friendship or relationship, but what if this friendship or relationship can instead be changed? Rather than removing them from your life completely, perhaps there is an opportunity to make these friendships and relationships good again where they can enhance your life.
Develop the stuff you have kept
Now that you have completed your massive clear out, it’s time to start focusing on the positive aspects of your life that you have decided to keep. You’ve kept them because they are important to you. They provide your life with value, happiness, fulfilment, and they align with, and compliment, your life goals. That’s really great, but it’s also worth thinking about how this important stuff can be further developed and enhanced to provide additional meaning to your life above and beyond that which it already provides to you. For example, you might want to improve or change the relationship you have with your parents, whether that’s more communication, doing more family things together, etc.
A word of warning here. Try not to raid the stuff that you chucked out when you did your massive clear out and add it back into your life. It might not be much of a problem at the beginning when you are thinking about and devising your life plan, but along the way the temptation might arise to return and cling onto the negative stuff that we are familiar with. This is only natural of course, but all this will do is halt your progress, or worse, it will drag you back to square one where you started. Don’t do it!
Fill the gaps with new and better stuff
After your massive clear out, your life might look like it has a lot of sizeable gaps in it, especially if you have decided to get rid of a lot of stuff from your negative baggage. But this now presents you with an exciting opportunity to fill these gaps with new and better stuff. Perhaps you want to take up a new hobby, participate in a new sport, make new friends, travel around the world, change your career, read more books, take up meditation, raise money for a charity, or provide help and support to your local community.
When thinking about what new and better stuff to fill the gaps with, instead of asking yourself lofty questions like “what should I do with my life?” or “what is my life purpose?”, you should instead ask yourself the infinitely better question of “what things can I do with my life that are important to me?” It’s the important things that will give meaning and happiness to your life, and the unimportant things, including a lot of the stuff you chucked out when you did your massive clear out, only serve to kill time.
Put steps and timelines to any life goals
Amongst the stuff you have decided to keep and the new and better stuff you have decided to add to your life, there are hopefully some life goals in there. Perhaps you want to run a marathon, work for yourself, find your life partner, purchase your first house, visit all seven continents of the world, or become a philanthropist. That’s really great, but all of these life goals have something in common. They require time and a lot of hard work and planning.
Trying to achieve your life goals in the absence of any forward planning and timelining is a fool’s errand and is likely to end in disappointment. That’s why it is super important for you to have all of this in place before you begin embarking on any of your life goals, because then you have a clear metric to constantly evaluate how you are progressing and ultimately whether or not you have actually achieved your life goals.