When you first reach adulthood, the sheer scope of what is possible can be overwhelming. You’re no longer living under the more limited expectations of a child and while you might not be able to do ANYTHING you want, there’s a certain freedom that can’t be denied. However, while we often think or talk about what we want to do, we rarely take steps to actually achieve it. Some might describe this as laziness or a lack of motivation, but more than likely it’s because we don’t know where to start.

Yet by building a life plan, you can determine which goals are worth pursuing and how to work towards them!

Making a Life Plan

A life plan is both a guide and a reminder of what you want to achieve in your life. However, it is not a rigid “to-do” list for yourself: life is unpredictable, so our goals are constantly shifting. Still, creating an action plan based on your personal and professional objectives makes it easier to determine your course of action and figure out how close you are to achieving your goals. An effective life plan also helps you prioritize, positions you to make better decisions, and keeps you feeling motivated.

Setting S.M.A.R.T. Life Planning Goals

When creating a life plan, it is common to fall back on the S.M.A.R.T. criteria when writing your goals. Originally a management concept was presented as a smart way to write management goals and objectives. The S.M.A.R.T. Process is as follows:

  • Specific: Goals must be as clear and concise as possible in terms of who is involved, what you want to accomplish, and why you want to achieve this.
  • Measurable: Goals must have some measurement or milestone to indicate your process so that you can properly add up whether expectations were met.
  • Attainable: Goals must be realistic rather than lofty and aspirational. Your goal should test yourself while still being achievable.
  • Relevant: Goals should be closely aligned with your business objectives or personal aspirations. If they aren’t, why pursue them at all?
  • Time-Based: Goals need a deadline to promote a sense of urgency and increase the chances that you actually accomplish your goal.

Though not everyone uses the S.M.A.R.T. process, the core concepts behind it are sound: if you aren’t specific enough about your goal or if there’s no way to measure it, then success or failure becomes difficult to determine. People often throw themselves into projects they cannot realistically complete or that don’t personally resonate with them. And while some goals have harder “completion dates” than others, if you don’t have at least a rough date to hold yourself, you lack one of the fundamentals for evaluating your progress.

Determining Your Personal Goals

Now that you have a template for setting better goals, it is time to make your plan. You can either do this alone or work with a professional, but the goal is the same: look at your life and recent accomplishments, then consider what you want to accomplish in the future. This isn’t just business and financial goals either: personal, family, health, and spiritual goals are all important, so take some time and make a list of all of your goals.

From there, look at your current life and lifestyle and determine how well it matches up with your goals. For instance, maybe you enjoy working at the company you’re at right now, but you want to work your way up the ladder. This will require a different approach than if you realize you aren’t happy where you are now and that you want to pursue a different career. Regardless of how close or far off your goals might be, you need to come up with a rough estimate of how long it will take to achieve them.

If you’re having trouble deciding on a “deadline,” look more closely at some of your goals and break down the separate steps needed to achieve them. It is often easier to accomplish a goal if you break it into smaller tasks, and it will also make it easier to get a sense of how long it will take to get to the end goal. Finally, once you have a solid sense of what your goals are and when you want to accomplish them, you can create a strategy, whether it’s a weekly schedule or a more generalized “roadmap.”

Looking Towards the Future

Creating goals for yourself and building a plan around them is an important method for getting motivated, organized, and focused on what matters most to you. But remember that, just like life, your plan can need change at the drop of a hat. Always leave some room for adjustment, as even the best-laid plan can come apart due to unforeseen circumstances. Most importantly, take the time to enjoy yourself when you complete your goals. After all, these are your hopes and dreams, so take pride when you accomplish them!

About the author

Author profile

Christopher Ripley is a Valparaiso native and a lifelong Indiana resident. He is the oldest of five children. After graduating from Valparaiso High School, Chris attended Purdue University where he received his B.S. in Mathematics. He then attended law school at Indiana University in Bloomington where he received his Juris Doctorate. Chris has practiced law since 2013 and has served clients across the State of Indiana from Porter County to Evansville in a variety of legal matters. Chris is licensed to practice law in Indiana and Illinois.

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