Sometimes, life guides us along. We land a new job, welcome a new relationship, or get an opportunity to move to a new city like it’s magic. We go with the flow, letting life take the reins.
But other times, we take stock of our lives and feel lost. We question why we’re in a particular career or partnership, why we live where we do, or why we can’t take better care of our physical and mental health.
It’s good to notice something’s off, even if we’re unsure how to fix it. Identifying an area of dissatisfaction with our lives is the first step toward improving our well-being.
This is where making a life plan comes in. This article outlines how coaches can work with clients to plan life goals so they feel confident taking scary steps.
What’s a life plan?
A life plan is a document that outlines what a person wants to achieve in life, based on what’s important to them. Making a plan helps people identify their core values, like family, career, and wellness, and ensure they thrive in these areas.
Life plans are living documents. Plans change and the concept of a dream life easily shifts. But having a general idea of where you are and where you want to be will help you make major decisions with future you in mind.
When working with a client on a life plan, remind them they can (and should) modify it over time.
The benefits of having a life plan
A client may ask you what the point is of making a plan that will inevitably change. Explain that they aren’t creating a blueprint to follow — they’re identifying priorities and finding how to fulfill their purpose. Here are some key benefits of having a life plan:
- Gives clarity on where one is satisfied (and not) in life
- Helps people identify what commitments they want to make to themselves and others
- Helps people prioritize goals and decide what they wish to focus on
- Guides people toward better decisions that help them reach their goals
- Provides motivation
- Gives people a sense of control over their happiness and future
How to plan your life
If you’re heading into a session with a client to start some life planning, you’ll have a more successful meeting if you, too, have a plan. Here’s how you can guide a productive conversation.
- Have the client visualize their ideal life. Ask your client to close their eyes and imagine their dream future. Have them describe what they see and are doing in the vision. Ask them if the vision takes place in the near or distant future. Encourage them to provide as much detail as possible. Asking them what their life looks like in five years and 25 years will help you both identify common themes.
- Have the client identify needs. Ask the client what stands in the way of having the future they envision. Do they need new skills or more resources? Are there relationships that must be developed further? Should they be thinking about changing careers?
- Ask the client to reflect broadly. Have the client consider all aspects of their life, like relationships, spirituality, home, finance, and health. This is an excellent point in the process to use the Wheel of Life tool, which helps clients chart their satisfaction in critical areas of their lives.
- Determine top priorities. Help your client prioritize the improvements they want to make and decide what they want to work on now and what can wait. If they want to be a marathon runner, setting a short-term goal of running five days a week might be the first step to get them to that long-term goal.
- Set goals. Assist your client in setting SMART goals: goal that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Define short and long-term goals as well as action items and time-frames for completing them. Knowing the desired result makes it easier to break down the major steps they need to get there.
- Implement an accountability plan. Check in with your client at intervals established together (like every session or every month) to discuss progress. Celebrate milestones and adjust the action plan for goals the client is having trouble reaching.
Life plan examples
Life plans look different for everyone. Let’s say you have a client who wants to hit a financial goal within five years but who’s otherwise satisfied with their life. Their roadmap will look very different from someone who wants to become healthier, find a partner, move to a new city, or tick 15 things off their bucket list.
You can help your clients outline each area of improvement on their life plan with help from the following examples. Remember that these lists feature broad goals for which you and the client could determine attainable action steps.
Don’t forget to consider your life holistically. If you’re happy with your fitness levels, make “Maintain current fitness levels” part of your life plan. Every detail contributes to your life satisfaction, and your life plan should acknowledge that.
Goal: Improve overall health over a year
- Eat healthier
- Drink more water
- Reduce alcohol intake
- Get better sleep
- Increase exercise
- Try therapy
- Decrease social media use
- Go for regular check-ups
Goal: Improve relationship with family members or loved ones
- Visit them at least once a week
- Call them regularly
- Help them run errands
- Include them in family activities
- Help them plan an outing or vacation
Goal: Save a specific amount of money in five years
- Open up a savings account
- Record your purchases
- Set a weekly budget
- Find areas where you can cut back
- Take on a part-time job or start a side hustle
- Set a monthly savings goal
Goal: Get a promotion
- Ask your boss how you can improve
- Find out what the route and expectations are for promotions
- Decide on a few tasks you can do to show your dedication
- Express your interest in moving up at the company
- Work through your fear of failure
Enjoy more productive sessions
While a life plan may have a pointed focus, encourage your clients to consider and include items from every area of their lives. It surprises the best of coaches how interconnected every interest is to a single goal.
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