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How To Work Backwards To Create A Life Plan That Feels Good

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May. 18 2021, Published 4:05 a.m. ET

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The world is moving at light speed and it’s easy to feel like you’re not keeping pace. It’s difficult to keep it all in perspective, and sometimes advice from your friends saying “everyone has their own path,” and “your time will come,” certainly doesn’t make it easier. 

You’re surrounded by career people who seem to be working their way to the top. Your friends can’t stop saying how much they love where they’re at in life. Everyone you know is getting married or getting a promotion. Others are celebrating milestones and achieving short-term (hey- maybe even long-term) goals. You may even be one of those people. If you are, that’s great. If you’re not, that may not feel great.

It’s important to separate yourself from others. What do you actually want your life to look like? How do you visualize career fulfillment? Are your long-term goals associated with your career, your family life, the experiences you’re able to have, or all of the above?

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Here are a few things to consider when you take the time to sit down and work on your life plan. The most important thing to remember is it should be a living document. Jack Heimbigner offers meaningful advice on creating a life plan, and for me this was the most critical piece. When sitting down to visualize what you want your life to look like, it shouldn’t be set in stone, there shouldn’t be a step-by-step process with timelines and very specific milestones. There are factors out of your control and you learn a lot about yourself as you work through this crazy life that may change or alter your plan. 

If you’re writing it down- use a pencil. If you’re typing it -don’t save it as a pdf. 

Here are five important considerations for when you decide to sit down and work out your life plan:

Understand Where You’re At 

If you don’t understand where you’re at right now, it’s difficult to visualize your own success moving forward. You’ve taken steps and achieved goals on your way to where you’re at right now. So – where are you right now? Do you like where that is? How did you get here? What role did you play in getting yourself here? Why is this where you’ve landed? This is a great time to take inventory. List your accomplishments, roadblocks you may have encountered and surpassed, and any moment that stands out about your journey. These experiences are what have shaped you as the person you are now. Don’t discount your journey.

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Ask Yourself These Questions

It’s one thing to celebrate your achievements thus far. It’s also critical to address some things you may have missed, or haven’t gotten to yet. Is there something you wanted to have achieved by this point in your life, but you haven’t? Is it still meaningful for you to accomplish? Before you can move toward your long-term plans and plan for your future, it’s important to be at peace with who you are right now – as a career person, as an individual, and as a partner.

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Define Your Purpose 

Many businesses develop their long-term goals through defining their purpose, mission, vision, and values. So what’s stopping you from doing the same? You can get caught up in a task list waiting for you, or you can develop a strategic plan for achieving your goals. You are responsible for your goals, and you are accountable to yourself.

It’s time to do a little soul searching. What in your life gives you purpose and meaning? Is that something you can base your career goals on? Perhaps, it’s your family goals and your personal life that give you meaning. Are you in a position to be the best version of yourself for the people you love? Those critical elements of your life that drive meaning for you, are those that will bring you happiness, fulfillment, and achievement. So figure those things out. It will also help you to evaluate if you’re on a path that will offer you fulfillment. 

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Set Clear Goals

Now, let’s start looking forward. Take that purpose, your values, and what you visualize for a meaningful life, and work backward. This isn’t meant to discourage you, but help to create milestones and short-term goals. Short-term goals should reflect your journey to achieving your long-term goals. People respond positively to achievement, no matter how small, and this can be beneficial in staying on track. Breaking down your greater purpose and aspirations into smaller, achievable goals helps to ensure that you can celebrate small wins, avoid procrastination, and alleviate stress when your long-term goals seem larger than life.

Celebrate Yourself And Practice Patience

It’s one thing to visualize your future, set some goals, and try to work hard. You will encounter failure along the way – or at least I hope so, how else are you supposed to learn and grow? Celebrate your achievements. Did you do something really impactful that wasn’t in the plan? That’s why it’s a living document- add it in! Success is measured however you decide. Take the course, spend time with your loved ones, and take a vacation. A successful life plan isn’t measured by checking off the boxes, it’s measured in how you feel looking back on what you’ve achieved. 

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Evaluate Your Progress

Your life plan is not going to go accordingly every day. There will be barriers to success, delays in opportunity, and some powerful learning opportunities. Revisit your plan regularly and make sure it still aligns with how you feel. If it’s not reflective of your aspirations, revise. Give yourself the space to be a work in progress. 

From my experience, you’re going to be given a handful of meaningful opportunities, and it’s up to you to make the most of them. Be thoughtful about how you spend your valuable time and don’t get caught up in what those around you are doing. Your path and your goals are for you.

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By: Jenna Weishar

Jenna Weishar has been finding her way in the technology industry since graduation from Wilfrid Laurier University, with a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and Sociology. Combining her passion for technology and people, she works in human resources at a connectivity networking company in Waterloo, Ontario. In addition, she has been a freelance writer for a handful of years, contributing to the music media industry and university networks.

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