Pillar # 7 – Create Your Plan of Action

Welcome back to Life Compass, where I’m sharing my Ten Pillars of Lifestyle Design.  Congratulations on making it this far!  You’ve invested a lot of time and energy in following the first six Pillars:

That work is about to culminate as I share Pillar #7 – Create Your Plan of Action.  In this step, you’ll synthesize the work you’ve done so far into an action plan that will propel you to achieve your targets (goals).

  1. Refine and rewrite your Life Purpose onto one sheet of paper titled “Life Purpose”.
  2. Review your list of Personal Values and make a master list of your most important values.  Title this page “Master List of Personal Values”.
  3. Review your list of Goals for each life area and make a master list of your most important targets to work on for the next season of life (I suggest three months).  Prioritize them by order of importance and indicate which Life Area they’re from.  I suggest you work on at least one target in each life area per season, but I recognize that some will require more time and energy than others.  Next, set a due date for when the target should be attained or completed.
  4. Make a separate “Goal Planning Worksheet” for each one of your seasonal targets.  At the top of each sheet, write today’s date, the Life Area that this target corresponds with, and the due date. Leave space at the top for a completion date, which you’ll fill-in when the target is completed.  Next, write out the target using the SMART format (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Tangible).  Then list the benefits you’ll receive by achieving this Target.  Feel free to write a few sentences – these will help motivate you to achieve the target.  *HINT* Make sure you ask yourself “Why?” several times until you get to the answer that will really motivate you!  Next, list the obstacles that could keep you from successfully attaining the target.  Next, list some ways you can avoid or overcome the obstacles.  Lastly, identify the specific action steps that are necessary for you to achieve this target.  You might list them in order and put a target date next to each one…or you might create a mindmap or use some other kind of chart or timeline.

That’s Pillar #7 – Create Your Plan of Action.  We have a little more work to do on your Target Planning Worksheets.  But we’ll save it for Pillar #8 – Identify People or Tools that Can Help.

Pillar #5 – Reveal Your Personal Values

Welcome back to Life Compass, where I’m sharing my Ten Pillars of Lifestyle Design. So far, we’ve covered:

Now I’ll share Pillar #5 – Reveal Your Personal Values. Last time I mentioned you’ll want to keep your Life Area sheets handy, because you’ll need them for this next step.

Each of us have a set of personal values, or beliefs that impact each Life Area.  These values, or beliefs, guide us when we are faced with choices, set priorities, and make decisions.

We all have a tendency to “default” to unconscious values or beliefs that have shaped us due to influences or decisions from the past.  This shows just how powerful our values and beliefs are, and how important it is for us to consciously determine our values for each life area.

For example, those who have been told that they’ll never amount to anything in life end up believing this is true.  Therefore while they may say they want to make change in a certain area of their life, they fail to take action to change their current reality because they believe deep down that it will make no difference.

So, in this step, I want you to take each of your Life Area Worksheets and write down what you currently value or believe about each Life Area.  This will require some thought…and quite a bit of honesty.

Example:  Life Area – Health

Current values/beliefs: I can eat or drink whatever I want and it doesn’t matter.  I don’t really care how much I weigh or how I look.  No amount of exercise will make a difference in my life.

Once you’ve written them down, take a good look.  Is what you’ve written satisfactory to you?   Does it match the dreams you’ve listed or your life purpose or preferred future?  If not, then write out new values or beliefs that do.  Here’s an example:

New values/beliefs: I value maintaining my ideal weight.  I value regular exercise to maintain my body and keep it in good condition.  I value drinking water more often than I do soda pop.  I value choosing fresh foods over processed foods.

Example: Life Area – Family

Current values/beliefs: I’d rather read the paper and watch television than talk with or do things with my spouse.  My work comes before my family – after all, if I don’t get paid, they don’t eat.

New values/beliefs: I regard my marriage as the most important personal relationship in my life.  I spend quality time with each member of my family every week.  I teach my children to manage money and use it wisely.  I keep communication open and comfortable with every member of my family.

Allow yourself plenty of time to do this.  And if you get stumped and can’t think of any values or beliefs for one life area, just skip it for now and move on to the next.

That’s Lifestyle Design Pillar #5 – Reveal Your Personal Values.  Congratulations, you’re half-way through the Lifestyle Design process, and you’re moving closer to achieving your dreams and finding more freedom, purpose and fulfillment in your life and work!

In the next installment, we’ll cover Pillar #6 – Set Well-Defined Goals.

Pillar #4 – Evaluate Your Current Reality

Welcome back to Life Compass, where I’m sharing my Ten Pillars of Lifestyle Design. So far, we’ve covered:

      Today I’ll share Pillar #4 – Evaluate Your Current Reality.

      Our lives are made up of seven basic categories, or Life Areas. They are:

      1. Family
      2. Career
      3. Financial
      4. Social
      5. Health
      6. Personal Development
      7. Spiritual/Ethical

      Many times, when we want to change one aspect of our life, like our income, or our career, we tend to focus so much on that particular life area that we tend to neglect others.

      Sadly, the media and our culture often endorse this approach. We celebrate singular success: people who achieve greatness as athletes, writers, business leaders, etc. We don’t often celebrate those who live well-balanced lives and are winners on the field and in the back yard, or in the office boardroom and at home in the living room.

      I believe that successful Lifestyle Design is holistic, it impact all areas of life. Think of your life as a wheel…you want it to be well-rounded. You don’t want success in one area to cause weakness in another. It might be OK for a little while, but not for long.

      In this step, we’re going to take the time to evaluate how you’re doing in each of the Seven Life areas.  Grab seven sheets of paper, or your computer, and put the name of one Life Area at the top of each sheet.  Ask yourself:

      • What things should be important to me in this life area?
      • How important are they currently? How are my relationships with others?
      • What is going well?
      • What needs attention?
      • What are your strengths in each area?
      • What are your opportunities for growth (formerly called “weaknesses”)

      That’s Pillar #4 – Evaluate Your Current Reality.  Keep your Life Area sheets handy, because you’ll need them when we cover Pillar #5 – Reveal Your Personal Values.

      Is Your Job a Gift From God?

      On Sundays, I write on Spirituality, Faith and Ethics.  Click here to read why.

      A few years ago, I heard Marcus Buckingham, one of Gallup’s lead researchers and author of Now Discover Your Strengths, speak at a conference.  He said something that absolutely floored me:

      80% of Americans feel unhappy and unfulfilled in their work.

      That number, he said, was up from 70% a few years before!  My mouth dropped open when I heard the news!  I had no idea.

      Could it really be true that eight out of ten men and women, maybe even you, work at a meaningless job that doesn’t match their purpose and calling in life?  Sadly, it was true.

      And then a thought came to mind – actually, it was a verse of scripture – that really gave me something to think about!

      That each person finds pleasure in his work…this is a gift from God. – Ecclesiastes 3:13

      These were the words of Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived.  I sat and thought about the verse for a few minutes, and then I asked myself,

      How is it that God intends for each person to find pleasure and meaning in his or her work…and yet only 20% of Americans actually do.  Is God really playing a cruel trick on the other 80% who don’t find pleasure in their work?  Or are they missing something somewhere?”

      Later, I had an “A-ha” moment and wondered if the key to the whole thing was the word “gift”?  What if God does give each of us meaningful and pleasurable work as a gift…but few people ever take the time to look for the gift or to receive it?”

      After all, someone may give me a gift by placing it under the Christmas tree.  But that gift isn’t really mine until I look under the tree, find the gift, pick it up, shake it, open it, and eventually use it.

      That’s just the way it is, I believe, with our work, if we see it as a gift from God.  I believe God gives each of us a calling in life and work we’re meant to do.  But He doesn’t often make it so plain for us to see, does He?  We don’t typically hear a declaration from heaven saying, “John Smith, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to…”  Life sure would be simpler if He did!

      Instead, He wraps up our calling like a gift and places it inside of us.  Then it is up to us to unwrap the gift and discover it for ourselves.

      How do we do that?  You can learn how by reading the post Ten Pillars of Lifestyle Design – #3 “Clarify Your Life Purpose”.

      So, let me ask you, friend…Does your job feel like a gift – or is it more like a curse?  Do you find satisfaction and fulfillment in your life and work?  Are you at peace with who you are and what you do for a living?

      If not – Do something about it!  Don’t waste another minute working a job that isn’t fulfilling.  Life is too short!  Keep reading, because the purpose of this Life Compass site is to help you achieve your dreams and find more freedom, purpose and fulfillment in your life and work!

      Pillar #3 – Clarify Your Life Purpose

      Welcome back to Life Compass!  I just started sharing my Ten Pillars of Lifestyle Design. So far, we’ve covered:

          Today I’ll share Pillar #3 – Clarify Your Life Purpose.

          First, what do I mean when I talk about Life Purpose?  Others may refer to it as a mission or calling.  It is the overarching theme of your life, which blends your interests, goals, passions, dreams together.  It is built on life experiences of the past, and points you toward your future.  And it becomes your guide, and a benchmark, to help you weigh future decisions.

          How do you identify and clarify your Life Purpose?   Grab some paper and a pen, or sit at the computer and take a good look at yourself to understand your personality, how you work with others, and what motivates you.

          What are your unique skills and abilities?  What are you good at?  But don’t stop there.  Sadly, many people do stop there when they make career decisions, and that’s why 80% of Americans end up feeling unfulfilled in their work.

          Experts tell us the average person is probably good at 100 things.  For fun, take a few minutes and make a list of all the things you’re good at.  You might be surprised at how big your list is!

          After you’ve written down your unique skills and abilities, think about your personality tendencies.  Are you an introvert or extrovert?  Do you take action immediately or procrastinate?  Are you extremely organized or a clutterer.  Do you get things done, or do you leave projects half-completed?  Are you self-motivated or do you need outside accountability?

          Next, what are your values, your dreams and passions?  Your values are the non-negotiable things or principles that are most important to you.  We’ll take a more in-depth look at your values in a future post, but for now, just jot down whatever comes to your mind.  For example, your values might include:  being debt free, being home with your family at least four nights a week, growing in your faith/spirituality, maintaining personal health.  You get the idea.

          You already took the time to think about your dreams when you started your Master Dream List, which we covered in Pillar #1.  Of all those dreams you wrote down, which are the ones that might shape your life’s direction?  Write those down here.

          Passions are interests or causes that are important to you. The things you’d give your life for.  Maybe your passion is to help at-risk youth stay in school, or you want to improve the lives of people living in sub-Saharan Africa, or maybe you’re a stay-at-home mom whose passion is to encourage other moms to stay at home at raise their kids.  List all the passions and interests that come to your mind.  And you can always add more later.

          The more you take the time to understand yourself, the more confidence you can have about your life’s purpose.  And this understanding and confidence then leads to clear focus regarding your Life’s Purpose.

          For extra credit, now that you’ve taken a good look at yourself, ask yourself how others see you.  Then, if you’re bold enough (and I think you are), ask a good friend, spouse, co-worker how they see you.  We can eliminate blind spots in our life, improve the quality of our work, and strengthen our relationships when we take the time to ask trusted friends how they see us.

          It is through this process of introspection, of taking a good look at ourselves and how we’re uniquely made, that we’re able to understand and clarify our Life’s Purpose.

          Your next step is to write out a first draft of your Life Purpose.  You can just write down the first thoughts that come to your mind, then refine and edit it later.

          Here are some suggestions to help you as you write your Life Purpose:

          1. Identify the highest priority roles you fulfill in your life (for example:  at home, at work, at church, in your community).
          2. Include the values and ideals that are important to who you want to be in the future (for example:  excellence, continuous improvement, generosity, goal achievement).
          3. Summarize the most important long-term goals and achievements you wish to obtain.

          Once your first draft is written, you can feel free to edit, refine, or synthesize it a bit.  Then let it sit for  a while.  In future posts, we’ll cover some more tips that will help you refine your Life Purpose further.

          That’s Pillar #3 – Clarify Your Life Purpose.  Tomorrow we’ll cover Pillar #4 – Evaluate Your Current  Reality.

          Pillar #2 – Define Your Preferred Future

          As you read yesterday, I’m sharing my Ten Pillars of Lifestyle Design over the next several days.  Yesterday, I shared Pillar #1 – Start Your Master Dream List.

          Today I share Pillar #2 – Define Your Preferred Future.  What is your Preferred Future?  Quite simply, it is your dream life.  If you could live any kind of lifestyle at all…if time and money were no object…what kind of lifestyle would you choose?

          I encourage you to get a piece of paper, or the computer, and project yourself one, three, five and 10 years into the future.  How old are you?  What is your life like?  What is most important to you?  How have your personal, family and career circumstances changed?  What goals have you achieved?

          Be as realistic and objective as possible. This isn’t the time to dream that you can go from making $30,000 this year to making a million next year.  I know people have done it…and I’d be the last person on earth to stop you from dreaming it and doing it.

          But one of the reasons many people fail at achieving their dream life is that they set unrealistic expectations, and they simply give up before long.

          Here’s a sample Preferred Future description:

          The year is 2014 and I’m 42 years old.  My family lives in a 4 bedroom home in the country, with a pool.  We have a few horses and ATV’s which we ride on throughout our five acre property. My photography hobby now supports our family as a business.  I sell my work through my website, at art shows, and a few retail locations.  We’re able to travel as a family to interesting sites across the country where I want to shoot pictures.  My spouse and I have a great relationship – we’re madly in love with each other.  Our three kids are a blessing and I have a special relationship with each one.  We now give away 14% of our income to causes we believe in (included in this is the 10% we give to our church).  We are debt-free (including the house).  The financial stress we used to feel is gone.  Financial freedom feels WONDERFUL!

          Next, review what you wrote.  What stands out to you?  What things, from all that you’ve described, are most important and why?

          Then ask yourself: “How are my current life/work experiences helping me achieve my future?”

          Lastly, ask “What changes do I need to make so that whatever I do is leading me to the realization of my future?

          That’s Pillar #2 – Define Your Preferred Future.  Tomorrow we’ll cover Pillar #3 – Clarify Your Life Purpose.