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Creating a life plan can help you feel more in control of your life and provide a clear path toward the things you want. The process of making a life plan starts with creating a document to record your thoughts and ideas either with pen and paper or electronically. However you choose to document your life plan, make sure it is easily accessible where you will remember to review it often. Use this guide to help you make a life plan.

What is a life plan?

A life plan is a roadmap for your life that helps you prioritize what is important to you, make decisions based on your priorities and move toward the life you want. It should provide a clear path for your life, but it should also be flexible. As your life changes, your values and priorities may also change. A life plan is a living, breathing document that requires periodic attention to ensure it accurately reflects your life. It is your own personal guide to how you want to live, what is important to you and what you need to do to achieve the life you want.

Why is a life plan important?

A life plan is important to help you take control of your life and your future. In creating a life plan, you identify your values, what is important to you and what you want in your life. Then, when faced with decisions, you measure your options against your values and choose the option that best aligns with your priorities or that moves you forward on your chosen path.

Whether it’s a simple decision such as spending money on something you don’t really need versus saving your money to fulfill a dream of starting your own business, or a major decision such as a career change, a life plan helps you clearly decide what is right for you.

How to make a life plan

Creating a life plan is one of the best things you can do to identify the things you most want in your life and develop the strategy to make them happen. Here are the steps to help you create a life plan:

  1. Create a vision.
  2. Perform a self-assessment.
  3. Prioritize your life.
  4. Identify your values.
  5. Establish goals.
  6. Outline an action plan.

1. Create a vision

Allow yourself to dream big. Imagine what an average day in your ideal life looks like. Imagine where you work, what kind of work you do and the income you earn. Imagine your relationships with friends and family. Maybe your ideal life means gaining new skills to find a more fulfilling job. Maybe it is honing your skills to increase your marketability and find a higher paying job. Maybe it’s working from home to spend more time with your family.

Imagine the kind of person you want to be and how you want others to perceive you. For example, you may want your colleagues to know that you are reliable in delivering your work. You may want your manager to respect you as someone punctual in meeting deadlines and accountable for your quality of work.

Think about the things you want to improve in your life. This can include different areas in life, such as finances, career or health. It may entail some weaknesses you want to overcome. Consider how you will measure your improvement and define success. Clearly define what success means to you.

2. Perform a self-assessment

To perform a thorough life assessment, you need to be honest with yourself and what you want. A life assessment includes considering factors like the roles you have in life, your satisfaction with different areas of your life and your various strengths and weaknesses. Reviewing your life from different perspectives allows you to develop a holistic evaluation. Practice self-reflection to clarify your roles and satisfaction in different areas of life. If you struggle with assessing your strengths and weaknesses, ask several people close to you who will give you an objective opinion.

Everyone fills different roles in life. Brainstorm a list of the different roles you play. Examples of roles include student, coworker, employee, manager, entrepreneur, volunteer, spouse, parent and sibling. In the next step, you’ll prioritize these roles and identify the values you want to bring to each one.

Consider different areas of your life such as career, finances, personal development, community, health, relationships and faith. Look at each area of your life and rank your satisfaction in that area on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being ‘needs a lot of work’ and 10 being ‘best’.

Identify your strengths and weaknesses. These can be either technical skills or soft skills. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses allows you to decide where to focus your energy—which weaknesses to improve or which strengths to highlight.

3. Prioritize your life

Now that you have identified the roles you play in life, the areas you want to improve and your strengths and weaknesses, you can prioritize these to discover what is most important to you.

Review your list of roles and reorder them according to what is most important in your life. For example, your role as a parent or a manager may be more important to you than your role as an employee or student.

Also, prioritize the areas of your life to identify what is most important to you. For example, your health and family may be more important than your work or hobbies. When prioritizing areas of life, it’s also important to consider how different areas are related. For example, you may prioritize family over finances, but some financial goals are necessary to care for your family. Establishing that one is more important to you does not decrease the value of another; it simply indicates the areas you want to focus more attention on.

Prioritizing your roles and the areas you want to focus on will help you identify your values and non-negotiables when it comes to your career. For example, if your family is among your top priorities, you may prefer a career with a good work/life balance that requires little or no travel for an organization that is close to home and respects employees’ non-working hours.

4. Identify your values

Comparing how your life is now and what you want your life to be will help you identify your values. Allowing yourself to feel and analyze the difference clarifies your core values. The person you imagine yourself to be—with the life you imagine—lives by these values. They represent who you are as a person even if you’re still working to realize them.

When you identify your values and what is important in your life, they become a measuring tool for every decision. Decisions become much easier because you can clearly see what does and does not align with your values. For example, you might value work that is gratifying and serves your purpose more than you value the size of your paycheck. Understanding this helps you narrow your job search to opportunities that are more gratifying instead of any position with a higher salary.

Related: Core Values: Overview and Examples

5. Establish goals

Now that you have an idea about the life you want and what is important in your life, establish high-level goals for the person you want to be. These goals are the things you want to accomplish over several months or years. They may include things like achieving an executive-level management position or earning a specific annual salary within a certain timeframe. They may also include obtaining a job with income and the freedom to vacation with your family twice a year.

For each role and area of your life, consider the big goals you want to accomplish, but also make them realistic. You will want to ensure they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely.

6. Outline an action plan

Your high-level goals are the person you want to be and the things you want to achieve in life. Now you need to reverse-engineer those goals to identify action steps that align with your values and move you forward. These action steps are your ground-level goals for actions you take to achieve your high-level goals. For example, if a high-level goal is to change careers, a ground-level goal may be to obtain training and practice skills for the new career or start hobbies that help you build new skills. Your action plan is the steps you need to take to work toward the life you want.

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