When one of my coaching clients wants to start a business I often help them brainstorm a one-page business plan to get down the essential elements of what they need to do to set themselves up for success. We talk about the vision, mission, objectives, strategies and action plans for the business and capture the key elements in short-form in writing. Each element builds on the next with vision setting the context for mission, which in turn sets the context for strategies and finally action plans. Almost universally people understand that for a business to be successful it must have a plan. Yet often people are much more casual about how they conduct their lives. Rather than creating their futures they watch to see where life takes them – they are reactive rather than proactive – they have no equivalent one-page plan for their lives.
I think that one key reason why people don’t attempt creating a “life plan” is the same reason potential business owners panic when they first think about creating a business plan – it seems like such a complex and overwhelming project. However, having at least a top-level plan (e.g., a short one-page plan) is better than having no plan at all and it is often a great place to start whether you are trying to build a business or a life. You can always fill in the details later – the important thing is to have at least a basic structure in place for moving forward. This structure will help provide you direction and let you see and measure your progress.
In the paragraphs below I will share with you a set of key questions to ask and answer to create a one-page plan for your life. (Your plan may actually end up being two or three pages but the idea is to keep it very short). As you ask yourself these questions I encourage you to think deeply and enjoy the inquiry. There is no right or wrong answer and the goal is to get something down on paper – not to have it be “absolutely complete and perfect.” I ask that you set aside any perfectionist tendencies that you may have and jump in. You will note that while the sections of the Life Plan mimic those of a business plan they differ in their focus and orientation.
Your vision is the big picture outline – the global context. It draws you forward and keeps you focused. Many people have trouble creating a vision for their lives because they try to focus on themselves and what they want to accomplish – which really comes later in the “Objectives” section. So here is another way to start. Think big – think world view. Think about what is really important to you in the broadest sense and then write down what you would hope to see in the world in your lifetime. As a simple example let me share with you my own vision for what I want to see in the world: “Everyone has the awareness, tools, and support they need to succeed.” Other possible visions: “Every child has the life skills and character to succeed.” “The elderly are honored and supported contributors to society.” “The environment of our planet is clean, health giving, and sustainable.” “People have access to products that are well made, functional and easy to use and that significantly contribute to their wellbeing.” “There is physical beauty in the world that nourishes and inspires the soul.” “Everyone has the food and clean water they need to be healthy and flourish.” “Everyone has one person in their lives that provides them the physical, mental, emotional support and long-term committed partnership they need to flourish.” “Each person has the ability to bring their unique talents and abilities into the world.”
What do you see as possible in the world? Try to capture it in one sentence.
Your mission translates your global world view into a personal context. Ask yourself the following questions:
What role can I play in making my vision come true?
How can I live my life in a way that contributes to my vision becoming a reality?
For example, if your vision is that, “People have access to products that are well made, functional, and easy to use and that significantly contribute to their wellbeing” you may chose to be the person who designs or creates such products, or markets them.
If your vision is that, “Everyone has one person in their lives that provides them the physical, mental, emotional support and long-term committed partnership they need to flourish” you may choose to make a key focus of your life providing this support to one or a few people that are closest to you.
If you envision that, “Each person has the ability to bring their unique talents and abilities into the world” you may commit yourself to identifying your own unique strengths, honing them, and sharing them with others.
If you envision that there is “Physical beauty in the world that nourishes and inspires the soul” you may decide that your mission is to create such beauty, or support its creation or its availability, or its enjoyment.
Both in the context of your vision and mission, and in the more personal context of your own needs and desires, ask yourself the following questions:
What do I want my life to be like?
What do I want to feel?
What one or two key things do I personally want to create or accomplish by the end of my life?
What specifically would I like to learn in my life?
How much money will I need? By when?
Who do I want to be around?
How would I like to be with the other people in my life?
Here again – keep your answers short.
Examples: How do you want to feel? Short phrases may be all that is necessary to capture the essence - creative, in-the-flow, non-stressed, adventurous.
Who do you want to be around? People who are intelligent, creative, positive, free-thinking, supportive, accepting, and/or energetic?
You want to identify top-level strategies that will make you successful in achieving your objectives over time. Ask yourself:
What strategies are appropriate and specific to who I am – my skills, desires, temperament, needs, values and how I work best?
How can I capitalize on the opportunities I see around me that I may not yet have taken advantage of?
How can I solve the key problems I see?
Take your objectives one by one (or simply pick one to focus on and begin there) and create strategies to achieve them. You may have strategies in several areas – financial, growth, partnerships, etc.
Your plans must derive from, and tie back to, your objectives and strategies.
State what actions you want to initiate and complete this year to implement your strategy(ies). Keeping a longer time frame in mind – rather than just planning for a day or week – will help insure that your Life Plan stays at the right level – not mired in day-to-day struggles.
Ask yourself, “What specific steps do I want to take to make my strategy(ies) real?” Perhaps you only want to pick one goal and strategy to focus on this year.
Remember to keep the focus on items that build your life, not on routine or repetitive tasks.
Because some of the things you must do to build your life may depend on the actions or support of others, for each step in your Action Plan think about defining “who” is responsible for each step as well as “what” must be done and “by when.”
The Bottom Line
In no way do I mean to imply that even a short “one-page” plan for your life is easy to construct. But if you take it a step at a time and keep the focus high-level and long-term it can provide a useful framework for the future. It may help inspire you if you keep in mind the powerful statement made by Don Juan in the book “A Separate Peace” by Carlos Castaneda: “The difference between a warrior and an ordinary man is that a warrior sees everything as a challenge, while an ordinary man sees everything as either a blessing or a curse.” When you have no plan for your life, when you allow yourself to drift along wherever the river of life takes you, then you see your fate as driven by outside forces – by blessings or curses that come from “out there.” I encourage you to become a warrior in your life – and I hope that the One-Page Life Plan concept will be a tool to help you step onto the warrior path.