Pause for a minute and look around you. Are you where you thought you would be in life? Did you see a different future for yourself? Maybe you thought you’d simply be further along at this point.
Whether you’re just starting out or want to change direction, consciously charting your life course can be beneficial. Having a plan in place can keep you focused and help you avoid many of life’s derailments. Consider these eight steps to help plot your journey.
Having kids might be something you’d like to do … one day. Now just might not be the right time. Perhaps you’re finishing up school or have just started your first (or a new) job. In that case, your current priority is focusing on yourself and your professional future.
If midnight feedings and diaper bags don’t fit into your life at the moment, you’ll need to take precautions. Finding and using the right birth control method can let you determine your timeline for becoming a parent. Only you will know when you’re ready — if ever — for the pitter-patter of little feet.
A big part of life planning is realizing you can’t predict everything. Life is going to throw you some curveballs every now and then. Most of them will be small, but a few could be expensive. So it’s a good idea to be financially prepared.
Start building your savings up today to avoid monetary setbacks. Scrutinize your budget and decide how much you can comfortably sock away. Maybe it’s 10% or 30% of your paycheck. Whatever the amount, stick to it. That financial cushion will soften the blow if you take a salary cut or have some big bills roll in.
No, we’re not talking about a few extra pounds here. (Although shedding unwanted weight can be good for your health.) In this case, we mean figuring out what’s not working for you in your life. Take a good look around and figure out what’s helpful and what’s not.
Analyze your job, your finances, your home, and your relationships. Are any of them stressing you out? If so, consider what you might be able to change to put you on a better course.
Next, write down the ways you can make adjustments or improvements. It could mean canceling unnecessary subscriptions or pulling back from a toxic friend. Whatever it is, remember your goal is a more positive life path.
When it comes to navigating life, relationships are key. It’s especially true in the job market. Networking can be invaluable. Even if you weren’t crazy about your last company, don’t torch every connection you made there when you leave. Those contacts could come in handy one day.
When you change jobs or move to a new location, share phone numbers and email addresses. Make the effort to stay in touch. Someone from a past job could help you with an employment search one day. Their input could make a difference in your moving forward professionally.
Making a to-do list keeps your days productive. It can do the same for you over the long term. Think about what you want to accomplish. Decide what’s most important over the next five, 10, and 20 years. Consider using the SMART goal method to set realistic, achievable, time-based goals. Then, be sure to write them down.
Creating a list can help you prioritize. It’s an easy way to figure out what to concentrate on first. Once you’ve identified the big things, add in details about how you’ll achieve each goal. This can be your step-by-step map for charting your path. Imagine how great you’ll feel when you start checking things off!
You’re probably accustomed to starting projects from the beginning, so this might feel strange. Charting a life course, though, works in reverse. Figure out where you want to end up and work backward.
The key is envisioning that you’ve already reached your goals. If possible, set a date for when you want to claim success. Now, shift into reverse to create your timeline. For example, do you want to retire early? Figure out how much money you’ll need and how long it will take to save it. If you plan this way, it will be easier to reach your ambitions.
Once you have your “Written Roadmap of Life,” don’t keep it to yourself. Tell your friends and family about your plans. Getting other people involved can have a lot of positive impacts.
If you share your goals with those you care about, you might be surprised. They could offer valuable advice or insights. Learning from their experiences may help you avoid stumbling blocks along the way. Plus, bringing others into the fold provides accountability. Knowing someone might check up on your progress will keep you focused and pushing forward.
Having a long-term plan is great. It only works, though, if you stay on track. Your life is not a “set it and forget it” type of thing. You must remain focused to accomplish everything you set out to do.
Set alerts on your calendar to do a spot check with yourself every three to six months. Remember you can’t control everything. It’s OK if you’re a little behind schedule or if you’ve had to reprioritize a bit. The important thing is that you keep working toward your goals.
Life is full of surprises — it’s one of the great things about living. Still, it’s important to have a plan for yourself that can help you avoid some pitfalls. With these steps, you can chart a more positive, productive life course.