How to create a meaningful life plan in two hours
Yes, this is entirely possible! If I was an online blogger I’d be calling this a life hack, so my 10-year-old son keeps telling me!
You will need a couple of hours to yourself, a notepad, some post-it notes and somewhere to stick them – a table or wall will do, a pen or fine marker, together with an open and curious mind to help you think about the big things going on in your life.
Step one: 30 mins
First, find somewhere quiet where you enjoy being, to help put you in the right frame of mind. Perhaps at home, a favourite café, or a hotel or health club lounge? Sit and unwind for a bit. You may approach this knowing precisely what needs your attention. Or perhaps the following life areas will get you started:
- personal development
- stress/emotional health
- weight/physical health
- marriage/major partnership
- parenting/ageing parents
If it helps to scribble things down as you think of them, then do. Then, when you’re ready, pause and think about the things that rise to the top of your mind and ask yourself this question:
If I paid attention to these things, would they make a big difference to the quality of my life, right now?
If you are unsure, you may just need more time, perhaps something has cropped up that you find yourself wanting to avoid (which is quite likely). If this is the case, count it in, because it will give you some important clues about what you do next. This is where coaching might help afterwards. Also, remember, there’s no rush, you’re just exploring and thinking.
When you are ready, using the post-it notes and write down three theme words, and place them down to make column headings. Then, looking at each theme/life area, begin to add more words or very short phrases (four to five words) beneath each column to give each of your themes more meaning.
- What does each theme conjure up in your mind?
- What would you like more/less of from this area of your life?
- What do you need to feel happier?
- Or conversely, how will you let go of something that is causing you to feel stuck? Coaching can help here too.
You will end up with a collection of words (aim for 12 - 15) that are personal to you, organised into three columns, which may vary in length. Now sit back for a bit, and look at everything you’ve written down.
Step two: 45 mins - 1 hour
Next, taking each word, think about the context and origin of each in your mind. This will help you bring your words to life to see what connections, if any, lie between the themes and the words. Think about how these play out in your life now.
By this stage, you’re likely to be on a roll where your feelings trigger more thoughts as you move between the words. Some words may overlap into one life area, and some may not. Some words may be dependent on other words (in terms of action) and some may not, i.e., if I can bring more focus to this area, then my awareness will increase and help me with...
Some words may be strengths, others may not. Interestingly you may find that some words are overdone strengths. Time, as an example, is something many coaches and clients work on, so you may find that you spend your time very effectively at work and be high achieving, which brings it's own rewards. However, that same strength when overdone could have the effect of sabotaging your personal time.
The important thing is that every word should hold meaning for you, and every word should have a place in your life right now. You are likely to get to a point where you become very clear about what you can begin to work on and when.
You may find yourself questioning why some things are as they are in your life. Using your sense of curiosity about what you can do to help or hinder your own progress is key. The more a client is willing to work with themselves warts and all, the greater the personal rewards are in the long run.
Step three: 30 mins
You’ve done it! You’ve created a life plan that can be updated as and when each word or theme has served its time, bearing in mind that some words will stay with you and some will go. Use this time to think about how you intend to bring your plan to life to enable you to bring (or let go of) whatever it is you need in your life, tailored to a time scale which serves you.
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About Karen Hayns
Karen has an MSc in coaching and behavioural change from Henley Business School and works with a mix of business and private clients.
‘Whether we are working 1-2-1 or in a group, ultimately what we're doing is creating opportunities to learn about ourselves. The change we seek always comes afterwards. So we work from the inside out' she says.