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Published on September 18, 2020

How to Make a Life Plan That Works (With a Life Plan Template)

How to Make a Life Plan That Works (With a Life Plan Template)

Are you happy with where you stand in life right now? If yes, you’re extremely lucky. If not, welcome to reality.

Humans are (almost) incapable of being 100% satisfied with their current situation, no matter how balanced and successful others consider it to be. This is because we tend to get to specific spots in life without any meaning, aim, or direction. To avoid this haphazard lifestyle, you need to learn how to make a life plan.

What is a life plan? How will it give you a higher life satisfaction? If it’s so amazing, then how do you formulate one?

Well, you’re lucky because you landed on the exact page where you’ll find answers to all these. So, hold on and let the ride of life-changing secrets begin!

What Is a Life Plan?

There’s no living human who wouldn’t have a wish or dream. There’s also a high chance that most people consider their wishes and dreams wholly unrealistic and unachievable. Therefore, the unproven yet giant fear of failure keeps them from trying to reach for the stars.

Guess what? If humans can get to the moon, live underwater, and fly, anything is possible. What’s especially possible to realize is the idea that you have in your mind.

You may wonder how you can bring this idea, wish, or dream to life. The simple answer is a life plan.[1]

So, what is a life plan? Is it a booklet with a script of how your life is supposed to be? Or is it a defined outline of the exact steps you need to take every passing minute?

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A life plan is none of these things. Instead, it is a written promise to yourself to try ticking off the goals that you want to accomplish. It is your mind in the form of words on a piece of paper.

But what if you’re just in your early 30s, unsure if these are the same goals you’d want in your 50s? There’s nothing to worry about! A life plan is entirely under your control. In truth, a good life plan is — and should be — flexible. There needs to be enough room for changes to let you grow and succeed down the road.

Why Is Life Plan Important?

If you’re only writing down what’s on your mind, and it’s not even a fixed document, why is it necessary at all?

Look at it this way. How many ideas do you get each day? Probably hundreds. How many do you end up remembering, let alone implementing?

The only thoughts that become a reality are the ones that you transfer from your mind to a piece of paper. From your mind into this world. That is how your ideas come to life.

Similarly, your goals, even if they are long-term, need to be brought to life. The only way to get the opportunity to fulfill these goals practically is by taking them out of your head.

Aside from that, a life plan is sort of a commitment. It’s like signing a legal document, but you’re the law-making authority. You’re committing to your life plan, after all. If your goals or priorities change along the way, you have a valid reason to alter it.

But for the most part, a life plan keeps you on track. It gives you the direction that you need to follow throughout the years. You always have your vision in front of you, so whatever you think of doing is coherent to your long-term plans.

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How to Make a Life Plan

Now, let’s move to the best part: how to make a life plan.

There’s no defined strategy or hard rule when it comes to learning how to make a life plan. All you need to do is be true to yourself. On top of that, implement the following tips in the process so that you can have a realistic and achievable life plan that satisfies your needs.

1. Be Aware of Your Failures

Most plans require you to start with your strengths. Things that you have achieved in life, never messed up, are amazingly good at, etc. But that’s not the most authentic perspective of life.

The truth is, we all fail, and it happens more often than we’d like to accept. However, we need to be more accepting of our failures as they ultimately help us grow. Failures are proof that we’re trying.

If you start with your failures, you’ll instantly get a clear idea of which road you want to go down in the future. For one, failures show you the route that you’re genuinely making an effort on. Repetitive failures in one direction are a sign of your passion. On the other hand, consistently failing after many tries and changes is a sign that you need to turn away.

When you’re aware of your failures, you’ll get a clear direction to stick to right off the bat. Moreover, your failures will tell you precisely what you need to fix so that the rest of the journey becomes smooth.

Here’s an interesting article about overcoming failures: Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Overcome It).

2. Identify Your Long-Term Vision and Values

Whatever you plan for the future must satisfy your morals and beliefs. Thus, before planning anything, you need to identify your life values. Doing so will keep you from developing a life plan that clashes with your spirituality and mental stability. Being in line with your values is highly crucial for a happy life.[2]

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In case you’re a firm believer in empathy, you need to ensure that your long-term plans do not harm the people around you. An empathetic individual cannot work for a makeup manufacturer that tests on animals, for example.

3. Evaluate Yourself

Based on your failures in the past and clear vision of the future, take a look back. Think of the things and events that are most prominent in your memory. Learn from them by taking the good and figuring out how to fix the bad. Know what you never want to repeat while picking up on the things that you want to continue.

Your past should not haunt you. Therefore, an in-depth evaluation is necessary before you head into the future.

4. Prioritize the Future

This is the time to list down your future plans chronologically. You’re not precisely devising a goal or plan at this point; you just need to prioritize things in the order that you want to achieve them.

For instance, if you’re currently 30 years old, getting a house within the next two years is perhaps your first priority. You may then want to get married at 35 years old. After that, you may want to start a new business venture.

Plan Your Goals and Structure an Action Plan

By now, you have a vision, and you’ve also prioritized your future. It’s time to put everything in an actionable form.

Start with devising SMART goals for each of your future plans.[3] Once your goals are finalized, make an action plan out of them.

Basically, you need to break down your goals into small actionable and practical milestones. For example, to get a house, you need to save up money first. Your plan should include all the ways to save more money and get a suitable place for yourself.

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This guide may also help you structure your action plan: How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals.

Ask for Support

You’re planning your life. You are the only one in charge of it, the only stakeholder in this deal. This is exactly why you need a supportive family and group of friends around you.

These are the people who motivate you to live life to its fullest and bring you back up when you’re exhausted. Your life plan is useless unless you are surrounded by those you want to live for.

Life Plan Template

Fill in this template however you would like to. It will serve as a simple yet thorough life plan:

    Bottom Line

    In the end, it all comes down to you and your motivation to improve your life. If you want to be in a state of existence one day where you can be proud of your achievements based on your scales of judgment, a life plan is a way to go.

    You have a free, easily applicable template in front of you. You also have enough reasons to put this template to good use. If you want, you are free to alter it to your liking and preferences.

    There is no excuse to slack off anymore. Get on with your life plan right away so that you can look back and thank yourself for this very moment a few years from now!

    More on Making a Life Plan

    Featured photo credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Michael Hyatt: 7 Reasons Why You Need a Written Life Plan
    [2] Youth First: Values in Today’s Society
    [3] Sustainability: What are SMART Goals

    More by this author

    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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    Last Updated on September 30, 2020

    Why Intrinsic Motivation Is So Powerful (And How to Find It)

    Why Intrinsic Motivation Is So Powerful (And How to Find It)

    Motivation is one of the main reasons we do things — take an action, go to work (and sometimes overwork ourselves), create goals, exercise our willpower. There are two main, universally agreed upon types of motivation — intrinsic motivation (also known as internal motivation) and extrinsic motivation (external motivation).

    The intrinsic kind is, by inference, when you do something because it’s internally fulfilling, interesting or enjoyable — without an expectation of a reward or recognition from others. Extrinsic motivation is driven by exactly the opposite — externalities, such as the promise of more money, a good grade, positive feedback, or a promotion.

    And of course, we all know about the big debate about money. It’s surely an external driver, but is it possible that it can sometimes make us enjoy what we do more? A meta-analysis that reviewed 120 years of research found a weak link between job satisfaction and money[1].

    And what’s more — there is some evidence to suggest that more money can actually have an adverse effect on your intrinsic motivation.

    Regardless of its type, motivation is still important to get you moving, to improve, excel, and put that extra effort when you feel like you don’t have a single drop of energy left to keep going.

    So, let’s see some of the best things you can do to keep the fire going, even when you’d rather just indulge in pleasant idleness.

    Why Intrinsic Motivation Tops Extrinsic Motivation

    “To be motivated means to be moved to do something.”[2]

    Generally speaking, we all need motivation.

    An avalanche of research, though, shows that when it comes to finding the lasting drive to “do something,” internal incentives are much more powerful than extrinsic rewards.

    Why? It’s simple.

    There is a great difference when you engage in something because “I want to,” as opposed to “I must.” Just think about the most obvious example there is: work.

    If you go to work every day, dragging your feet and dreading the day ahead of you, how much enjoyment will you get from your job? What about productivity and results? Quality of work?

    Yep, that’s right, you definitely won’t be topping the Employee of the Month list anytime soon.

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    The thing with external motivation is that it doesn’t last. It’s susceptible to something psychologists call Hedonic Adaptation[3]. It’s a fancy way of saying that external rewards are not a sustainable source of happiness and satisfaction.

    When you put in 100-hour weeks in order to get promoted, and you finally are, how long does your “high” last? The walking-on-a-cloud feelings wear off quickly, research tells us, making you want more. Therefore, you are stuck on a never-ending “hedonic treadmill,” i.e. you can progressively only become motivated by bigger and shinier things, just to find out that they don’t bring you the satisfaction you hoped for, when you finally get them.

    Or, as the journalist and author Oliver Burkeman wonderfully puts it[4]:

    “Write every day” won’t work unless you want to write. And no exercise regime will last long if you don’t at least slightly enjoy what you’re doing.

    If you want to find out more about the different types of motivation, take a look at this article: 9 Types of Motivation That Make It Possible to Reach Your Dreams

    Benefits of Intrinsic Motivation

    If you are still unconvinced that doing things solely for kudos and brownie points is not going to keep you going forever, nor make you like what you do, here is some additional proof:

    Studies tell us that intrinsic motivation is a generally stronger predictor of job performance over the long run than extrinsic motivation[5].

    One reason is that when we are internally driven to do something, we do it simply for the enjoyment of the activity. So, we keep going, day in and out, because we feel inspired, driven, happy, and satisfied with ourselves.

    Another reason has to do with the fact that increasing intrinsic motivation is intertwined with things such as higher purpose, contributing to a cause, or doing things for the sake of something bigger than ourselves or our own benefit. A famous study done by the organizational psychologist Adam Grant is case in point[6].

    By showing university fundraisers how the money donated by alumni can help financially struggling students to graduate from college, their productivity increased by 400% a week! The callers also showed an average increase of 142% in time spent on the phone and 171% increase in money raised.

    Internal motivation has been found to be very helpful when it comes to academia, too. Research confirms that the use of external motivators, such as praise, undermine students’ internal motivation, and, in the long-run, it results in “slower acquisition of skills and more errors in the learning process.”[7]

    In contrast, when children are internally driven, they are more involved in the task at hand, enjoy it more, and intentionally seek out challenges.

    Therefore, all the research seems to allude to one major revelation: intrinsic motivation is a must-have if you want to save yourself the drudgery we all sometimes feel when contemplating the things we should do or must do.

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    6 Ways to Enhance Your Intrinsic Motivation

    So, how does one get more of the good stuff — that is, how do you become internally motivated?

    There are many things you can do to become more driven. Here are the ones that top the list.

    1. Self-Efficacy

    The theory of self-efficacy was developed by the American-Canadian psychologist Albert Bandura in 1982[8]. Efficacy is our own belief in whether we can achieve the goals we set for ourselves. In other words, it’s whether we think we “got what it takes” to be successful at what we do[9].

    Find intrinsic motivation with self-efficacy.

      It’s not hard to see the link of self-efficacy to higher self-esteem, better performance, and, of course, enhanced motivation. People with high self-efficacy are more likely to put extra effort in what they do, to self-set more challenging goals, and be more driven to improve their skills[10].

      Therefore, the belief that we can accomplish something serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy — it motivates us to try harder to prove to ourselves that we can do it.

      You can learn more about self-efficacy in this article: What Is Self Efficacy and How to Improve Yours

      2. Link Your Actions to a Greater Purpose

      Finding your “why” in life is incredibly important. This means that you need to be clear with yourself on why you do what you do and what drives you. What is intrinsically rewarding for you? 

      And no matter how mundane a task may be, it can always be linked to something bigger and better. Psychologists call this “reframing your narrative.”

      Remember the famous story of John F. Kennedy visiting NASA in 1961? As it goes, he met a janitor there and asked him what he did at NASA. The answer was:

      “I’m helping to put a man on the Moon.”

      Inspirational, isn’t it?

      Re-phrasing how your actions can help others and leave a mark in the universe can be a powerful driver and a meaning-creator.

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      3. Volunteer

      Volunteering is a great way to give back to the world. It can also help boost your internal motivation by making you feel important in supporting the less fortunate, learning new skills, feeling good about yourself, or linking to some of your inner values, such as kindness and humanitarianism[11].

      When you remove any external reward expectations and do something for the pure joy and fulfilment of improving others’ lives, then you are truly intrinsically motivated.

      4. Don’t Wait Until You “Feel Like It” to Do Something

      A great piece in the Harvard Business Review points out that when we say things as “I can’t make myself go to the gym” or “I can’t get up early,” what we actually mean is that we don’t feel like it[12]. There is nothing that psychically prevents us from doing those things, apart from our laziness.

      But here’s the thing: You don’t have to “feel like it” in order to take action.

      Sometimes, it so happens that you may not want to do something in the beginning, but once you start, you get into the flow and find your intrinsic motivation.

      For instance, you don’t feel like going to the gym after a long day at work. Rather than debating in your head for hours “for and against” it, just go. Tell yourself that you will think about it later. Once in the gym, surrounded by similar souls, you suddenly won’t fee that tired or uninspired.

      Another way to overcome procrastination is to create routines and follow them. Once the habit sets in, suddenly getting up at 6 am for work or writing for an hour every day won’t be so dreadful.

      5. Self-Determination, or the CAR Model (As I Call It)

      The Self-Determination theory was created by two professors of psychology from the University of Rochester in the mid-80s—Richard Ryan and Edward Deci[13]. The theory is one of the most popular ones in the field of motivation[14]. It focuses on the different drivers behind our behavior—i.e. the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

      There are three main needs, the theory further states, that can help us meet our need for growth. These are also the things which Profs. Deci and Ryan believed to be the main ways to enhance our intrinsic motivation—Competence, Autonomy, and Relatedness (CAR).

      If our jobs allow us to learn and grow, and if we have enough autonomy to do things our way and be creative, then we will be more driven to give our best, and our performance will soar. In addition, as humans are social beings, we also need to feel connected to others and respected.

      All of these sources of intrinsic motivation, separately and in combination, can become powerful instigators to keep us thriving, even when we feel uninspired and unmotivated .

      6. Tap Into a Deeper Reason

      Some interesting research done in 2016 sought answers to how high-performing employees remain driven when their company can’t or won’t engage in ways to motivate them—intrinsically or extrinsically[15].

      The study tracked workers in a Mexican factory, where they did exactly the same tasks every day, with virtually zero chances for learning new skills, developing professionally, or being promoted. Everyone was paid the same, regardless of performance. So there was no extrinsic motivation at all, other than keeping one’s job.

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      A third kind of motivation was then discovered, which scientists called “family motivation.” Workers who agreed more with statements such as “I care about supporting my family” or “It is important for me to do good for my family” were more energized and performed better, although they didn’t have any additional external or internal incentive to do so.

      The great thing about this kind of driver is that it’s independent of the company one works for or the situation. It taps into something even deeper—if you don’t want to do something for your own sake, then do it for the people you care for.

      And this is a powerful motive, as many can probably attest to this.

      Final Thoughts

      Frederick Herzberg, the American psychologist who developed what’s perhaps still today the most famous theory of motivation, in his renowned article from 1968 (which sold a modest 1.2 million reprints and it the most requested article from Harvard Business Review One More Time, How Do You Motivate Employees? wrote:[16]

      “If I kick my dog, he will move. And when I want him to move again, what must I do? I must kick him again. Similarly, I can charge a person’s battery, and then recharge it, and recharge it again. But it is only when one has a generator of one’s own that we can talk about motivation. One then needs no outside stimulation. One wants to do it.”

      Herzberg further explains that the so-called “hygiene factors” (salary, job security, benefits, vacation time, work conditions) don’t lead to fulfillment, nor motivation. What does, though, are the “motivators”—challenging work, opportunities for growth, achievement, greater responsibility, recognition, the work itself.

      Herzberg realized it long ago…intrinsic motivation tips the scales when it comes to finding long-term happiness and satisfaction in everything we do, and to improving our overall well-being.

      In the end, the next time when you need to give yourself a bit of a kick to get something done, remember to link it to a goal bigger than yourself, and preferably one that has non-material benefit.

      And no, don’t say that you tried but it’s just impossible to find internal motivation. Remember the janitor at NASA?

      Because once you find your internal generator, you will be truly unstoppable.

      More Tips to Boost Motivation

      Featured photo credit: Juan Ramos via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Harvard Business Review: Does Money Really Affect Motivation? A Review of the Research
      [2] Contemporary Educational Psychology: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions
      [3] Scientific American: The Science of Lasting Happiness
      [4] The Guardian: Is the secret of productivity really just doing what you enjoy?
      [5] European Journal of Business and Management: Impact of Employee Motivation on Employee Performance
      [6] Adam Grant : Impact and the Art of Motivation Maintenance: The Effects of Contact With Beneficiaries on Persistence Behavior
      [7] Grand Valley State University: The Effect of Rewards and Motivation on Student Achievement
      [8] Encyclopedia Britannica: Albert Bandura
      [9] Pinterest: Self-Efficacy Theory
      [10] Educational Psychologist: Goal Setting and Self-Efficacy During Self-Regulated Learning
      [11] University of Minnesota: The Motivations to Volunteer: Theoretical and Practical Considerations
      [12] Harvard Business Review: How to Make Yourself Work When You Just Don’t Want To
      [13] Richard Ryan and Edward Deci: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions
      [14] Richard Ryan and Edward Deci: Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being
      [15] Nick Tasler: How some people stay motivated and energized at work—even when they don’t love their jobs
      [16] Harvard Business Review: One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?

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