Wisdom//

What I Learned at 30 That I Wish I Had Learned at 20

How bringing clarity and intention to ALL areas of my life changed the game

MirageC/Getty Images
MirageC/Getty Images

Generally speaking, I’ve always been good with goals. I set them, I work hard to achieve them – rinse and repeat. Over the last 10 years, I’ve been addicted to achieving my goals, specifically those of a professional nature. And as far as achieving my goals is concerned, I’ve been nailing it. At least that’s what I thought.

What I didn’t realize is that all of the momentum created from achieving my goals was actually causing me to drift further and further from the life I really wanted. Seems backwards, huh? For the past 10+ years, I was being intentional, taking initiative, securing opportunities, climbing the ladder and enjoying the hard-earned rewards in my life — everything I keep telling college students to do over at The Intern Hustle. So where exactly is the problem in all of this?

The problem is that I lost sight of the forest for the trees. Each goal was a new tree that distracted me from looking across the forest at my bigger picture. Like most things in life, it took a couple big obstacles to actually shake me and wake me up from my drift.

I faced obstacles such as a broken relationship, followed by all the attendant heartache and self-doubt. I also faced complete burnout at work, to the point where I couldn’t remember the last time I slept through the night without waking up in a deep sweat. (And I actually enjoyed what I did for work… these things can be deceiving.)

All of this forced me to pause and re-evaluate what I was doing with my life. And that’s when it hit me – what was my bigger picture? Not a clue. I drifted all the way to 30, without a clear bigger picture.

I was too caught up in overachieving in one area of my life (career) to pay any decent attention to the other areas of my life (relationships, health, personal development, etc.). The altitude from which I was navigating was way off, and it put a limit on my ability to design and achieve my most fulfilling life.

Upon discovering my drift, I hit some emotional lows. I’ve never been more thankful for the family and friends who listened, encouraged and stuck it out with me. But after a month of feeling sorry for myself, I knew I had to take action and do something about it. I am an achiever, after all.

I started listening to inspirational podcasts, and reading a lot. The previous year I don’t think I read a single book, and all of a sudden I was a few books deep each month. The book that really jumpstarted me is the one I’m sharing with you today, a book that sat on my shelf for a couple years before I bothered to pick it up.

Introducing… Living Forward

I’ve never recommended a book more. I frequently purchase it for friends, and I even gifted a copy to everyone on my team as I exited my last company. If you read and follow the guidance within Living Forward, it is a game changer.

I have my parents to thank for introducing me to the book. They typically gift me and my brother a book for Valentine’s Day each year, and Living Forward was the gift a couple years back. If only I had read it then…

What authors Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy have packaged up in this book is exactly what I needed in order to intentionally get back into alignment with my life. They have developed a resource that provides practical recommendations and proven practices to drive you forward into action. They teach you how to design and maintain your life plan.

What is a life plan?

Think about it. People create plans all the time. You wouldn’t think about launching a business without first creating some semblance of a business plan. So why wander through life with no overarching plan?

A life plan is exactly what it sounds like. You are charting out a course to guide you to your ideal life. Michael and Daniel call it “an app for your life.” Whether you decide to design it like Google Maps or Waze is up to you.

On a side note: If you got to pick someone to be the celebrity navigation voice for your life, who would it be? I’m pretty sure mine would be Chris Berman. I like to think I’m “whooping!” my way through life now that I have a life plan to help me elude some of the obstacles placed in my path.

A life plan helps you address your current realities and clarify your priorities. Sounds perfect for someone in their twenties seeking direction and purpose, right?

How to get started with your life plan

Living Forward lays out a step-by-step template for how to create your life plan. It is very straightforward and numerous examples are provided within the book. Understanding how to create the life plan is not the hard part. Getting yourself to create the life plan is probably the biggest hurdle.

If you don’t start planning your life, life just keeps happening to you. You start to make excuses for why you need to push back the life planning exercise, and before you know it, months, maybe even years have gone by. Don’t wait for the perfect time to magically appear. Read the book, plan ahead and schedule the time to life plan. Then, keep your commitment. That’s how I did it.

I first read the book in April of 2017. Followed by immediately requesting a couple days off work that next month for my first life planning retreat. I was motivated and there was no time to waste!

My first life plan shaped up to be a 15-page Microsoft Word document. Sure, that sounds like a lot, but it’s really nothing when you acknowledge that the average book is over 100 pages in Microsoft Word — and this is your life we’re talking about.

Also, once you create your first life plan, you just get to review and refine it going forward. If you do it right, you’re not reinventing the wheel.

I just returned from my second annual life planning trip, and updating my life plan was a breeze. To refresh my memory, I bought the audio version of Living Forward and listened to the book on the road trip to my destination.

My kind of life planning

As far as destinations are concerned, it doesn’t matter where you go, but as recommended in the book you should take yourself out of your everyday environment. I chose to drive North from San Francisco and unplug in the beautiful surrounding area of Lassen Volcanic National Park. It is now my designated life planning retreat spot. (The locals know me there as “the girl who is life planning.”)

It doesn’t matter where you go — just take yourself out of your everyday environment.

The best part about my most recent trip was reflecting back on the life plan I created just one year ago. My life looked very different when I sat down to write that first life plan. It is amazing how much I was able to impact my life for the better just by getting clear on my intentions.

For example, I placed a much bigger focus on personal development (outside of the workplace). I read a lot more, took a couple of online courses and even attended a live event to soak up new learnings in person and network with other achievers. I also spent more time with my family over the last six months than I probably have in the last three years combined. And drumroll… I made a big shift in my career, took a leap, and started The Intern Hustle.

I’m one year in, and I’d say this life planning thing has been working for me.

  • I established the areas of my life that are important to me,
  • determined their current condition,
  • prioritized them,
  • stated my envisioned future for each,
  • and then outlined the commitments that will take me from current to future state.

I can’t help but think how much clarity and direction that would have brought to my life while in college or my early twenties.

My call to action for you

This book didn’t exist when I was 20. It does exist now. And you can create your life plan now.

Will a life plan help you get intentional about your career path and what internship or job opportunities you should be pursuing? Absolutely. But here’s the thing, a life well lived isn’t just made up of your career, or any singular focus for that matter.

I get excited thinking about the clarity a life plan will bring you in all areas of your life (and I’m a little jealous that you get to start now, while I wasn’t even in the loop until age 30). A life plan won’t allow you to drift for 10 years, just largely focusing on one area of your life and neglecting the rest.

Can a life plan get you ahead of the game by starting to save for retirement in your early twenties? Yep. How about using it to set health goals so that you don’t forget the importance of self-care when life picks up the pace? Sure thing. The positive outcomes are endless, you just need to design it and commit to following it.

In Living Forward, Michael and Daniel cite John Rohn’s “law of diminishing intent”. This law states, “The longer you wait to do something you should do now, the greater the odds that you will never actually do it.” If this post leaves you inspired to take action, I encourage you to act now. Fire up your initiative muscle, buy the book and get started. Don’t lose your emotional momentum to act, and wind up at 30 wishing you would have life planned at 20.

You’re going to end up somewhere in this life. You’re winning if you end up there on purpose!

Originally published at www.theinternhustle.com

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