"Life Planning is fundamentally about imagining a better future. It’s about breaking free of your limiting beliefs, tapping into your deepest desires, and standing in the realm of possibility."
Chances are good that if you are reading this summary you are interested in creating a more rewarding and fulfilling life. And, if you’re like me, it’s not that your current life sucks. It’s more a feeling that there’s room for improvement.
In Living Forward, Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy describe a planning process to help people zero in on what is important to them and commit to actions that will produce their desired outcomes. Many of the concepts they discuss are not new. Other authors have encouraged us to write our eulogy, identify our important roles and relationships, get specific about what success looks like, monitor our progress and adjust our execution to improve results. Hyatt and Harkavy have massaged these concepts into an easy-to-create-and-follow ‘Life Plan’ that should help even the most time-challenged of us take charge of our future and live our dream life today. They share their personal stories and ‘ah-ha’ moments along with sample Life Plans so we learn the process and see the end product. This attention to detail makes for an easy read and a generous dose of inspiration.
The Big Idea
Invest in the Important
"We’re convinced you can do almost anything if you are willing to clarify your commitments and make incremental investments over time to achieve them."
This quote is actually a magic wand in disguise. The proverbial silver bullet. First, you need to get clear about what you really want. Then you need to commit to making incremental investments over time to generate that success. Implement this idea consistently and the magic of compound interest does most of the heavy lifting.
At its most basic, your Life Plan requires you answer three questions:
- How do I want to be remembered (by family, friends, colleagues, community)?
- What matters the most (to me)?
- How can I get from where I currently am to where I want to be?
Hyatt and Harkavy use banking as an analogy to guide your planning. First you establish different Life Accounts (who and what is important to you), identify your account balance (your current situation) and outline your investment goals (your desired future). Then you consider different investment strategies (ways to reach your desired future) and decide what you can commit to do in order to realize growth in that account (daily/weekly action steps). It’s a great metaphor that reminds us we need to actively align our actions (our deposits) with what is important to us on a regular basis if we want to see progress (wealth creation).
Getting clear on who and what is important to you, along with the specific things you can do daily, weekly and monthly to achieve that vision will make it easier to take the next step – eliminating the tasks and activities that don’t support your identified priorities to make room for those that do.
"What we desperately need is margin – time to breathe, to reflect, to act."
I love the concept of creating margin – some buffer time in our day and week where we pause and reconnect to what is important so we can be more deliberate about our choices and decisions. Too often we are flying from meeting to meeting and task to task with barely time to eat lunch or grab a coffee. We react to what gets thrown at us instead of considering whether it’s actually worthy of our time and resources. To create margin, we need to adopt three essential practices:
- Triage our calendar.
- Schedule our priorities.
- Say no to more requests.
Triaging your calendar means taking a good hard look at what you do with your time and eliminating activities and commitments that don’t add value to your life accounts (that’s the saying no part). I have found Dr. Stephen Covey’s Urgent/Important matrix a useful tool for gaining some much needed perspective on where my time and energy is going. Next we have to ‘selfishly’ schedule time to work on our identified priorities first before agreeing to consider requests from others. This takes discipline and practice but is well worth the effort if you are serious about achieving your dreams.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that life won’t throw you curveballs. Successful people anticipate potential detours and have alternate routes they can choose if the need arises. They also make lemonade with life’s lemons.
Accentuate the Positive
"One of the best questions you can ask when something negative happens is: What does this experience make possible?"
For those of you who may not be naturally optimistic, this is the second magic wand hiding up your sleeve. Rather than using valuable and finite energy to lament and bemoan something ‘gone wrong’, stop and look for the benefit or advantage the situation offers you. Thomas Edison was a master at this. He and his team tried 10,000 different combinations of wire filament before discovering the one that made the incandescent light possible. They studied each setback to glean clues for how to set up the next experiment.
Michael Hyatt once broke his ankle at what he described as a crazy busy and most inopportune time. By asking himself, What does this experience make possible?, he was able to recognize it offered him an opportunity to slow down, recharge and regain some work-life balance. And, it provided opportunities for other team members to grow through new assignments and leadership opportunities.
Answering ‘What does this experience make possible?’ forces you to shift your focus from the past (which you can do nothing about) to the future which you can definitely influence. Looking for the hidden opportunities and benefits within our setbacks is the quickest way to turn those lemons into lemonade and harness the power of positivity. Remember, the rear view mirror is a fraction of the size of the front windshield for a reason!
Benjamin Franklin and Sir Winston Churchill are both credited with variations of the saying, “Those who fail to plan, are planning to fail.” Hyatt and Harkavy would say, “Those who fail to plan are doomed to drift through life.” Yikes! That’s not what I want my obituary to say! How about you?
While I do a reasonable job of setting goals and pursuing them, Hyatt and Harkavy have inspired me to strengthen my current planning framework by incorporating some of their Life Plan components into it. Whether you need to create a Life Plan from scratch or simply need to tweak your current system to gain better traction, Living Forward will provide you with the tools (and real life examples) to clarify where you want to go so you can develop a doable plan for creating the life you want. As the authors remind us: If you don’t have a plan for your life, you will end up implementing other people’s plans and priorities. Is that really the life you want for yourself?