5 steps to a better life
When was the last time you gave serious thought to what you want in life? Not a fleeting thought that you never concluded, but a thorough conversation with yourself about how you want to live your life and where you want to be in a few years’ time. If you think that it’s time to stop drifting and be more focused, then creating a life plan is the right way to go. Here’s how to get started.
1. The first step is the easiest but not necessarily the simplest. Take some time away from your daily distractions. Switch off your phone, forget the markets and your deadlines. Just be prepared to do some serious thinking. Be aware that you are about to set realistic expectations for yourself. You’re not aiming to have your whole life figured out after a long walk by the beach. Give yourself the time you need to understand what you want to achieve.
2. Before you plan the future, take a good look at the present. Examine the roles you have in life – parent, spouse, friend, employee etc – and ask how you see yourself in each of these roles in five or ten years’ time. It might sound strange but imagining your own funeral sometimes helps with this exercise. Who would attend? Next to each of the roles you’ve identified above, write what each of these people would say about you. Now ask: is this how you would like to be remembered? If not, then you know in which areas of your life you need to make a change. You can also consider whether you want to reconsider the priority you give to each of these roles in your life.
3. Now it is time to define and write down the big thing you want to achieve in the next three to five years. Keep in mind that if this doesn’t scare and excite you, then it probably isn’t the right goal. If it takes you outside your comfort zone, you’ll start thinking in new ways and looking for opportunities where before you looked for excuses. This is how you grow as a person, achieve more and get rewarded in terms of your sense of achievement and also by higher monetary returns. So, for example, a goal such as “I want to be a successful consultant” will not keep you focused for long, whereas the following statement will provide plenty of motivation: “By the end of 20xx, I will be a sought after consultant, earning $x per month, advising mid-range companies on digital marketing and digital solutions. I will be considered a thought leader in my area and will be sought after by local and international clients for my experience, creativity and innovative solutions.” Make it specific and descriptive of the life you want to live.
4. Once you have a goal, the next stage is to work backwards to create a step-by-step blueprint on how to get from where you are now to where you want to be. Make sure you spend sufficient time on this, and include details such as financial arrangements, timelines and milestones. Put all this on paper - and then brace yourself for seeing it fail. This is because there will always be something that doesn’t go your way; the vital thing is to know that temporary defeat isn’t an indication of permanent failure. Instead re-adjust your approach, redefine your tactics and move on.
5. Writing a plan is one thing, living it out is completely different. To ensure you stay on track, consider having an accountability partner who will hold you responsible for your actions and motivate you when you feel discouraged. Some of the most successful business people I coach share their life-plan with their spouse or a close friend. They often find that this person becomes their biggest cheerleader; not only challenging them to do what may seem impossible but also there for them so they do not feel that they have to go it alone.
This probably all sounds logical and a good idea on paper. The question now is whether you will follow through with each of these steps. I’ll leave the final words of motivation to the great Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, who once said: “Two percent of the people think; three percent of the people think they think; and ninety-five percent of the people would rather die than think.”
What you should aim to do is be part of that two percent of the population that actually thinks.
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