How and When to Revise a Life Plan

When I ran cross country in high school, my team’s coach changed the workout schedule every week. Why did he do that? Because after following his workout plan for one week, we were in better shape and needed new challenges.

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How to Use a Life Plan

Has your office ever announced a “new and exciting mission statement” that is subsequently ignored?

We all know, whether from real life or from Dilbert, that good intentions and eloquent documents don’t mean much on their own.

What really matters is what we do. How we actually live.

In other words, you need to plan to use your Life Plan. It does you no good to write out your goals and then ignore them.

Here are four time-tested strategies for using a Life Plan:

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How to Write a Life Plan

Let’s say that you are now excited to develop your own Life Plan. How do you go about writing it down? What does that process look like?

Your number one enemy is procrastination. So the best strategy is to get started immediately. Before you read the rest of this post, why not take the next five minutes to get started on your life plan?

However, if you have the time to read this post AND write your life plan, all the better. Let’s get started!

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What To Leave Out Of A Life Plan

Putting together a Life Plan is an exciting process! Once you get going, you might feel a surge of energy as you dream about your future.

Pretty soon you’re cramming it full with your entire ‘bucket list’: go skydiving, write a book, visit Argentina, adopt a cat, start a bed-and-breakfast, and end world hunger.

At some point, though, you step back and feel overwhelmed and even discouraged by all your great ideas. “Oh, no. There’s no way I can do all of this.” Once you get to the “I feel overwhelmed” part of the process is when you know it is time to start cutting back. If you self-edit too much at the start of the process, you might short-circuit some very important dreaming.

So: What do you leave out of a Life Plan?

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What To Put in a Life Plan?

So you’ve decided to write (and follow) a Life Plan! But what do you put in your Life Plan – and what do you leave out?

I’ve interacted with dozens of students as they’ve put together, worked on, and experimented with different kinds of Life Plans. Here’s the thing: they’ve all looked radically different. Some are very poetic and artistic. Others are highly organized, structured, and clear. Some students focus on very specific details, while others prefer to give their attention to the big picture.

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Wisdom from St. Benedict

The idea of a Life Plan is an ancient one. It goes back to the Garden of Eden, when God advised Adm and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). God has always offered his people a meaningful and purposeful guide to life.

However, in faithfully responding to the Biblical story for contemporary challenges, very few have compiled a guide to life that has stood the test of time for over 1,500 years! Born in 480, in Italy, St. Benedict of Nursia has become known as the father of western monasticism due to the influence of his “Rule of Life,” which became widely adopted in monasteries across Europe with the support of Charlemagne, and is still the most widely used set of guidelines for monastic communities today. 

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Objection to a Life Plan: It Feels Legalistic!

Legalism is the attempt to be somebody, apart from the grace of God, by keeping a set of rules.

Some people seek to ‘win’ through success in business and financial gain. Others do it through their good looks. Perhaps you are the best tuba player in the world.

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Objections to a Life Plan: I Feel Limited!

Have you ever volunteered to be harnessed by a straight jacket? I know that I haven’t. In fact, I hope to never be trapped into such a claustrophobic experience. As far as I’m concerned, a straight jacket should be called an “I’m-going-to-go-crazy” jacket.

Sometimes, when thinking about the idea of a Life Plan, it feels like a similarly constricting idea. I believe the internal monologue goes something like this: “Oh boy, a life plan! It will let me limit my choices, miss out on serendipitous opportunities, take all the fun out of life, and make me want to poke needles in my eye every day!”

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Self-Deception, Honoring God, and the Gospel (Part IV)

Self-deception is a universal problem. For instance, we are prone to believe that we are all above average. Here are some particularly humorous examples to illustrate the point!:

From the academic world:

  • In a survey of faculty at the University of Nebraska, 68% rated themselves in the top 25% for teaching ability.
  • In a similar survey, 87% of MBA students at Stanford University rated their academic performance as above the median.
  • In a 1976 College Board survey of U.S. students taking the SAT, in ratings of leadership ability, 70% of the students put themselves above the median. In ability to get on well with others, 85% put themselves above the median, and 25% rated themselves in the top 1%.

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More Benefits to a Life Plan (Part III)

I love to say “yes” to people. There is a real pleasure in making someone else happy, seeing their needs met, and in honoring God, all by using the gifts He’s given me to benefit another person.

Saying “yes” when that requires a sacrifice – going to an inconvenient location, staying a bit later on campus when my family is waiting for me at home – is certainly harder. But I remind myself that the life of a disciple is not supposed to be easy. Saying “yes” in these moments is one way to demonstrate the reality that God’s kingdom is more important than my own interests.

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