Much has been written about the importance of a life plan. Even more has been written and promoted about steps to develop one. All of this is positive, but is it the right approach?
Life Plans Fall Short
Life plans without a life philosophy will not survive in the long haul. A bold statement, maybe, but I believe it is true.
Life plans set a direction and key objectives to pursue. It may even include key milestones to check along the way. Again, all positive. However, what is the meaning behind the plan? What character traits are embedded in plan? What is the aim of the plan in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, or a lifetime?
Life. This is the key word, and it needs to have a solid purpose, a meaning underlying what and how we act. Our life philosophy defines how we will live, lead, and develop relationships.
As William B. Irvine pointed out in A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy:
“…readers should realize that there are costs associated with not have a philosophy of life. I have already mentioned one such cost: the danger that you will spend your days pursuing valueless things and will therefore waste your life.”
Philosophers used to be very popular, spending time with ordinary people to help them live extraordinarily. I believe this practice has great merit and the pendulum is swinging back to this practice. It is time to encompass our life plans with a solid life philosophy, gaining more meaning and purpose in what we do and how we do it.
The Value Unboxed
When a life philosophy and life plan come together, this is where the true power is realized. To gain further clarity on this situation, let’s unbox it.
To understand the power of the combination, a two-by-two matrix can help. It creates a comparison between the possibilities, and it facilitates an outcome within each quadrant.
The outcomes are:
Having no life philosophy or plan will result in being a wanderer, and it will not necessarily be a happy one. Pick your favorite analogy, but it is being rudderless. Without either, there is no direction or foundation. There may be moments of meaning, and they may be really, really good moments. It will just be unrewarding as life ages and the hollowness of it all encompasses you.
This is not a good place to be in the long term.
If we move up to where a life philosophy is present without a plan, it gets better. A belief system is in place about how to live and how to be good citizens in our communities. We may be well-liked and have meaningful conversations. Herein is the danger. It can be a life of all talk and little action, or it can be a life of routines or sporadic bursts of action. There is a great life foundation in place, but the direction or plans for achieving meaningful outcomes will be lacking.
Think about the person who writes fortune cookies, and you can imagine the life here – a place of big thoughts in short bursts and good conversation starters. An easy chair may be present…. you get the picture.
Moving to having a life plan with no defined life philosophy, a different outcome unfolds, and this is the quadrant where many people will be. Life goals, objectives, strategies, and steps are well-defined, likely for a specific year ahead. Based on the previous year’s successes and failures, the plan is updated and renewed for another year. All good things to do, as it provides a pace to your life. It makes it go, the fuel.
Having a meaningful pace to life is important, but it may lack soul. Your beliefs are likely buried in the goals, but why not define the philosophies you want to live and lead by? It creates a higher calling to your life and the way you lead. Even more importantly, it provides another level of self-accountability.
Having pace in life is essential. We just need to ensure we are on the right path and are leading with an intended purpose.
When a life philosophy is combined with a life plan, it is like a jet taking off. The path will still be bumpy, but the lift-off will be awe-inspiring and filled with wonder realized.
How could one life travel so far and bring so many others with them? When in this quadrant of having a life philosophy combined with a plan, this is the question that will be posed by those around you. People will notice a strong sense of confident humility around you, and they will wonder how and why.
A strong belief system and a live-life-fully attitude empower a plan for the long haul. More than this, our purpose-filled stride rarely misses a beat. We are living from within, full of action and mindfulness in the outside world.
The real life formula is:
Life Philosophy + Life Plan = Opportunity to Live Full of Purpose
What do you believe empowers a life plan? What role do beliefs and philosophy play?