Living Your Best Life through Life Planning

What would it look like if you could put all of your thoughts, dreams and goals on paper, organized into tangible actions to implement throughout the year? What would it look like if you could articulate, at any given moment, your most precious priorities in each area of your life? And what would it look like if you clearly understood your heartfelt “why” behind those goals? It would look like a life plan. It would look like your BEST LIFE, a life where you are living with intention, happiness, determination, and confidence…At least, that’s what life planning has done for me. Come with me, as we discover how the technique can do the same for you. 😊

It’s been 9 years since I wrote my first life plan. I remember sitting at my small cubical desk in my freshmen college dorm, at 19 years old, writing a list of bulleted goals for each month of the coming year, and a shorter list for the years to follow in 10-year increments (way too many bullets, but more about that later). While I pondered life in my college dorm that evening, I projected that at age 28 I’d be married, starting a family, working as a project manager, and living in the Caribbean. (For anyone who knows me well, you might not be surprised that my 19-year-old self thought she’d be an eternal beach girl. 🤣 I’ve come to my senses - the Caribbean is a better vacation spot for me!) 

In some ways, my projections weren’t far off. In others, my plan has shifted and taken detours - and that’s ok! It’s impossible to know what our entire life will look like, but it’s important to consider what we wish and truly believe it will look like based on the horizon we can see today. Then, continually act and adjust, updating our plan as events unfold. It’s a guide, not a definitive plan. It allows us to fully live in the present moment, while still maintaining an overall compass for our life.

Today, more resources have surfaced on the topic of life planning than there were back then, including one my husband came across 3 years ago - Living Forward by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy. This book has truly revolutionized how we go about life planning, making our goals come to life!

Here’s how:

  • It first walks us through understanding where and how we may fall into the habit of “drifting” through life, and helps us see how we can take control of our circumstances through life planning.

  • Next, the book facilitates designing a personal legacy, determining life priorities, and creating an action plan for each priority area in our life - all which can be done in one dedicated day away from all the hustle and bustle - a planning retreat getaway!

  • It also comes with access to helpful resources to assist in the life plan process, such as life plan templates and a Life Assessment Profile to help identify which life priorities are getting more attention than others.

Life planning is not about living in the future. It’s about intentionally living in the present moment. It’s keeping the future in mind by living out your best life each and every day. - Lovelight stories

Ironically, my husband and I had planned a weekend getaway to focus on our life plans at the time we found Living Forward. We actually found it the week of our planned retreat way! Coincidence? 😊 We both quickly read the book and hopped in the car to drive down to Amelia Island, FL for our first life planning retreat together!

  • We spent the entire first day walking through the book’s processes, really pondering our values, life priorities, and envisioned future for each. 

  • The second day, we broke each of the priorities into actionable steps and created a way to track our progress each month (a.k.a. putting it into a life plan format). 

    • My priority areas: providing for others, family and friendships, productive work, spiritual and personal development, play/fun, finances

  • We spent the third day walking the beach and discussing our new life plans filled with personal values, priorities, and most important goals.

It was anything but a mundane process! Although it takes dedicated time, it was way more rejuvenating than laying by the pool or playing a round of golf - we were able to dig into who we were made to be and create an action plan we could actually see leading us to our most precious dreams!

That weekend was a turning point for us in many ways. It took the process of what I’d been doing for many years to a whole new level. 

  • It gave Sam and I the opportunity to discuss our goals and where each of us were headed, so we could align our lives in support of each other. Naturally, it strengthened our relationship too.

  • It further solidified that at my core I care most about: serving others, focusing on family/friends, growing in relationship with the Lord, and adventuring to new places.

  • It gave deep meaning and purpose to how I structured my life and I knew how I was going to live out my action plan for the year.

  • I was able to narrow that once long list of bulleted goals to a focused few action items that directly supported my overall vision. 

  • This, in turn, gave me the energy, focus, and desire to push through one of the busiest, most exciting seasons of my life: planning our wedding, passing my PMP certification exam, and getting promoted at Korn Ferry!

  • I chose to make a few tough decisions in saying “no” to some things, so that I could say “yes” to ones that would ultimately lead to my envisioned future.

  • It gave me confidence and clarity around my biggest dreams - many of which lead me here, to Lovelight stories (and beyond too)!

“Find out what makes you kinder, what opens you up and brings out the most loving, generous, and unafraid version of you - and go after those things as if nothing else matters. Because, actually, nothing does.” - George Saunders

A few tips to consider as you begin:

  • Think about defining and including your own personal vision, mission, and values statements.

  • Give yourself flexibility with your life plan process to track your goals. Different techniques work for different people. Find something that works for you! For example, my husband first writes his life plan on paper, and then tracks his progress using Trello and OmniFocus. I also write mine on paper (in a different format than his), but I use my Passion Planner to keep it at the forefront on a daily basis.

  • Although flexibility is important to making the process work for you, I’d strongly suggest buying the Living Forward book and putting in 100% of your effort towards the exercises. There really aren’t shortcuts here. I’d been doing life planning for 6 years on my own, and it wasn’t until I fully dedicated myself to trying the exercises of this book that I came to understand who I was and why I was made. It’s a powerful, intricate process.

  • There aren’t any shortcuts on the getaway piece either. I believe this is absolutely critical, so much so, that I wouldn’t suggest starting to write your plan until you’ve committed at least 1 day away from your normal routine. You’ll get more value out of the process. Again, I’ve done it both ways - at home and at the beach. The beach wins every time! (It doesn’t need to be fancy) There’s just something about being away from daily distractions that clears the head and rejuvenates the soul! After all, you deserve a retreat anyway!

Ultimately, I’m sharing this with you, because I feel like it’s a best kept secret that needs to be shared! We’re all made with such potential and purpose and I hope for all of us to tap into that. It’s a freeing feeling to know with 100% confidence what matters to you most at your core. There’s no more pretending, questioning, or wondering. It will all be right there, flowing onto your paper from a place you didn’t know you had. That’s my wish for you, friends. That you can start 2019 with complete confidence in your purpose with the courage to pursue it. ❤️

As for me, I’m off to Amelia Island with my husband for our 3rd annual life planning retreat later this month!

P.S. Comment below to let me know how it goes! I’d love to hear about your newfound purpose and goals!

❤︎ Stephanie


Have young teens who’d like to write a life plan? Consider, the 7 Mindsets Ultimate Life Summit - July 7-13, 2019. Some of you may remember my 7 Mindsets days! I first attended the Ultimate Life Summit in 2010 for the purpose of learning to write a life plan, tailored to younger teens and adults. I came back with tools to write my first life plan and it was one of the most foundational weeks of my life. Questions? Ask me! Learn more, or register here.