The phrase “working parent” is practically synonymous with the term “distraction” these days. You have a constant stream of responsibilities and demands coming at you, and you have to decide moment to moment what gets your attention. It is so easy to get caught up in the “needs” of everyday life and forget what's truly important. But living this way is a recipe for burnout, frustration, overwhelm, and even depression. Who wants their life to revolve around putting out the latest fire day after day? Having a vision for your future will help you get out of this “reactive mode” and live with more intention and purpose.
What is a Life Plan?
A Life Plan is your ideal vision for your life. It is a statement of the type of life you and your family want to live. A good Life Plan is specific and descriptive. It reflects your deepest intentions for your future. Your Life Plan is a declaration of your goals and priorities, which gives you the guidance you need to get back in the driver's seat of your life. Your Life Plan also identifies the concrete steps you need to take to make your ideal life a reality.
How a Life Plan Will Save You Time
A Life Plan helps you save time because living with intention is essential for managing your time. If you don't know what type of life you and your family want to live, meaningless pursuits will easily pull you off track.
Even if the activities you're involved in are close to your heart, that overwhelmed and chaotic feeling you have is a result of spreading yourself too thin. At best you'll have a lot of fun things on your calendar, but you won't be present to enjoy any of them because you have to rush off to the next scheduled item on your calendar. At worst, you'll get caught up in activities that you don't want to be doing, which wastes your precious time.
Your Life Plan is your guide when you need to make hard decisions about who and what gets your attention.
Once you have a clear vision for your ideal life, it becomes much easier to commit to your priorities and avoid getting sucked into time-consuming activities that aren't compatible with your Life Plan.
Why We Abandoned Our Life Plan
When my husband, Joey, and I were engaged, we had a lot of conversations about what we wanted our lives together to look like: How many children we wanted. Which neighborhood we saw ourselves living in. What our dream jobs looked like. We talked about the hobbies we enjoyed, how much time we wanted to spend with our friends and extended family, and where we saw ourselves retiring. We didn't know it at the time, but we were creating our first Life Plan together.
And then we had our son, and everything changed.
Life just started happening to us and we pretty much abandoned our plan.
First we simply stopped thinking about our future altogether as we struggled to manage the day-to-day responsibilities of being new working parents.
That very quickly progressed to our lives spinning out of control.
We lost our focus and became disconnected from what was truly important to us.
As I described in this post, it was at about that point that I had a complete meltdown. While it was a terrible moment for me personally, that was our family's “rock bottom” that led us to the much happier life we have today. That was the point when Joey and I realized we absolutely needed to get back on track. For the health of our marriage and for the sake of our entire family, we needed to get clear about what we intended for our lives.
How We Created Our New Life Plan
The more Joey and I talked about our future, the more we realized that the theoretical life we had envisioned all those years before just wasn't what we wanted after all. Some parts were, but other parts we realized we were going to have to change.
So we started small. Joey and I started having little conversations here and there about what we liked about our new life as parents, and what just didn't fit for us anymore. We started opening our minds to what we could create in our lives instead. We tried not to box ourselves into any particular reality just because it was part of “our plan” or because it was what was expected of us, or because we might disappoint our loved ones. We started to design a life that would really make us happy.
A New Plan
Slowly but surely, Joey and I re-constructed a new vision for our future based on what we really wanted. We created a new Life Plan that we both became excited about. And then once we had a clear vision for our future, we started taking small but significant actions to follow through on our plan.
Every element of our plan isn't achieved yet, but man – we are MUCH closer! Over the last year, both Joey and I have set boundaries at our jobs so we aren't working around the clock. We've both eliminated the three-hour commute that was zapping our time and energy (and threatening our sanity). We have more quality time with our son every day. We moved our family to a beautiful, peaceful home near the beach in San Diego. We have more fun. We laugh more. We are much more relaxed. Most importantly, we feel like we've reclaimed control of our lives and we are excited about our future again!
Are You Ready to Create Your Life Plan?
In our last post, we talked about identifying and committing to your priorities. Creating your Life Plan is the next step in this process. Your Life Plan will give you even more clarity about what your priorities are so you know in detail what you're committing to.
Your Life Plan may include other important life categories, but here is the list of key areas of our life that we started with:
Marriage & Relationships
Environment & Living Space
Health and Fitness
Self Development & Mental Wellness
Recreation & Hobbies
Spirituality & Religion
Service & Charity
A Note for You Responsible Working Parents: Don't Be Practical!
I know you.
You work incredibly hard and you take providing for your family seriously. You might be thinking to yourself “Well, sure, it would be nice to work from home (or quit my job and move to the French countryside… think big!), but c'mon – this is real life. I need to work hard to feed my family.”
Don't go there.
Let go of being “realistic” for just a little while. Get crazy. Be hopeful. Imagine a life that would truly make you happy. We will worry about breaking your Life Plan down into practical steps later. For now, just go all out. Be honest with yourself about what you really, truly want out of life. Don't sell yourself short.
You only get once chance to live a life of meaning. Don't hold yourself back.
Once you open your mind (and your heart) to what you really yearn for, I think you'll be surprised to see what becomes possible. It all starts with your vision though.
One Last Note Before You Get Started
A Life Plan is a living document. It's meant to evolve and change as your family and your needs change. It's meant to be evaluated from time to time to make sure you're still on a path to a life you love. A Life Plan will only work if it reflects your current priorities, desires, and values, which are bound to change as you do. Take stock every so often, to make sure you're still on the right track. If you need to change something – change it! There are no rules here, except to be as authentic and creative as possible.
An additional note for married couples: If you're in a committed relationship, you have a couple of options.
1) You can sit down together and discuss what you both want your life to look like together, and come up with a shared Life Plan for your family;
2) Or you can each sit down separately and ask yourselves what you want individually, and then share your plans with each other. Together you can support the details of each of your Life Plans while factoring in the wishes of your family overall.
The main goal is to come up with a Life Plan that works for you both, and can be supported by both partners.
Let's get started!
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