All too often I meet clients who have been struggling to find their way in life. I have also had times when I wasn’t sure whether the path I was on was the right one. It’s not always easy to know what will be best for your future. Often, what we think will make us happy doesn’t. There are however compelling reasons to take steps as early as you can towards your personal vision for your life.
Meaning and a life filled with purpose keeps hope and motivation alive
Making a general plan for your life creates structure and purpose for your life. The plan can always change but having an underlying reason for everything that you do leads to a life well-lived. You don’t need to be achieving, it can be that you want to live a life feeling free or you wish to learn something new every day. Perhaps education is an underlying value.
Creating a life plan allows you to check in and check your progress. Ask yourself, “Am I on track? Is my life going in a direction that feels right for me?” Without a life plan, days merge into one another without any direction. A life without purpose often leads to an identity crisis, anxiety and depression.
People act as if they will live forever
No one likes to contemplate their own mortality but the sooner you do, the better. I have had a chronic illness since I was born and this has focused my life on getting the most out of each day as much as possible. The time limit on my life has always been present and has served as a reminder that I must live in the moment and not waste time with people who aren’t good for me or doing activities that make me unhappy. Many people live according to the phrase: “When I have…A B or C, then I will be happy”.
Why wait? Work being as happy as you can be right this moment. Happiness is a choice and we are responsible for our own happiness. If you aren’t happy – ask yourself what you can change. What do you need to do or who do you need to speak to in order to improve your mood? Accepting that life is hard helps too – when we accept the tough times and the things we can’t change or control, we can still work at being happy in spite of it. We will all experience unhappiness, sadness etc but know that this will pass.
Time passes quickly – make the most of each day
Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. Do the things you have always wanted to – be curious about the world and check whether you discount possibilities before you have even started. Do you tend to hold self-limiting beliefs about yourself or the world that might be holding you back? As Henry Ford famously said, “Whether you think you can or you can’t – you’re probably right.
You have nothing to lose by trying. If you fail, you can still pat yourself on the back for discovering and being curious. The more you discover the more you will understand about yourself. For me – time flies by when I spend time helping others or being around animals and nature. I also love travelling and do my best to integrate these values into my life. The greater the amount of values you add to your life – the happier you will be.
Act according to your values – always let them guide you
What is important to you? Do you value family and safety? Do you prefer to spend time alone in nature or with animals? Others may value learning and travelling. I have listed common values below – which ones are your top 10? Are you living a life in line with these values?
- Acceptance: to be open to and accepting of myself, others, life etc
- Adventure: to be adventurous; to actively seek, create, or explore novel or stimulating experiences
- Assertiveness: to respectfully stand up for my rights and request what I want
- Authenticity: to be authentic, genuine, real; to be true to myself
- Beauty: to appreciate, create, nurture or cultivate beauty in myself, others, the environment etc
- Caring: to be caring towards myself, others, the environment etc
- Challenge: to keep challenging myself to grow, learn, improve
- Compassion: to act with kindness towards those who are suffering
- Connection: to engage fully in whatever I am doing, and be fully present with others
- Contribution: to contribute, help, assist, or make a positive difference to myself or others
- Conformity: to be respectful and obedient of rules and obligations
- Cooperation: to be cooperative and collaborative with others
- Courage: to be courageous or brave; to persist in the face of fear, threat, or difficulty
- Creativity: to be creative or innovative
- Curiosity: to be curious, open-minded and interested; to explore and discover
- Encouragement: to encourage and reward behaviour that I value in myself or others
- Equality: to treat others as equal to myself, and vice-versa
- Excitement: to seek, create and engage in activities that are exciting, stimulating or thrilling
- Fairness: to be fair to myself or others
- Fitness: to maintain or improve my fitness; to look after my physical and mental health and wellbeing
- Flexibility: to adjust and adapt readily to changing circumstances
- Freedom: to live freely; to choose how I live and behave, or help others do likewise
- Friendliness: to be friendly, companionable, or agreeable towards others
- Forgiveness: to be forgiving towards myself or others
- Fun: to be fun-loving; to seek, create, and engage in fun-filled activities
- Generosity: to be generous, sharing and giving, to myself or others
- Gratitude: to be grateful for and appreciative of the positive aspects of myself, others and life
- Honesty: to be honest, truthful, and sincere with myself and others
- Humour: to see and appreciate the humorous side of life
- Humility: to be humble or modest; to let my achievements speak for themselves
- Industry: to be industrious, hard-working, dedicated
- Independence: to be self-supportive, and choose my own way of doing things
- Intimacy: to open up, reveal, and share myself — emotionally or physically – in my close personal relationships
- Justice: to uphold justice and fairness
- Kindness: to be kind, compassionate, considerate, nurturing or caring towards myself or others
- Love: to act lovingly or affectionately towards myself or others
- Mindfulness: to be conscious of, open to, and curious about my here-and-now experience
- Order: to be orderly and organized
- Open-mindedness: to think things through, see things from other’s points of view, and weigh evidence fairly.
- Patience: to wait calmly for what I want
- Persistence: to continue resolutely, despite problems or difficulties.
- Pleasure: to create and give pleasure to myself or others
- Power: to strongly influence or wield authority over others, e.g. taking charge, leading, organizing
- Reciprocity: to build relationships in which there is a fair balance of giving and taking
- Respect: to be respectful towards myself or others; to be polite, considerate and show positive regard
- Responsibility: to be responsible and accountable for my actions
- Romance: to be romantic; to display and express love or strong affection
- Safety: to secure, protect, or ensure safety of myself or others
- Self-awareness: to be aware of my own thoughts, feelings and actions
- Self-care: to look after my health and wellbeing, and get my needs met
- Self-development: to keep growing, advancing or improving in knowledge, skills, character, or life experience.
- Self-control: to act in accordance with my own ideals
- Sensuality: to create, explore and enjoy experiences that stimulate the five senses
- Sexuality: to explore or express my sexuality
- Spirituality: to connect with things bigger than myself
- Skilfulness: to continually practice and improve my skills, and apply myself fully when using them
- Supportiveness: to be supportive, helpful, encouraging, and available to myself or others
- Trust: to be trustworthy; to be loyal, faithful, sincere, and reliable
- Insert your own unlisted value here:
- Insert your own unlisted value here:
Self-awareness is key
When you know yourself well, understand your boundaries, strengths and weaknesses -you will be more efficient at designing a life that works for you. I am always amazed at the clients I meet who have very little self-awareness or those who rarely engage in self-reflection. Self-awareness is the only way to self-actualise and is the best version of yourself. If you don’t, you will merge into the identity of another and live as an adjunct to their lives. Carve out your own life with your values underpinning everything you do.
Know what you like and make time for what works for you, no one else – just you. Be ‘wise-selfish’.
Brainstorm ways to be true to yourself, follow your dreams a live a life that brings out the best in you. Focus on what you are good at and consider the talents you have when designing your life. We are all good at something. Think about your natural inclinations.
The earlier you make plans, the quicker you will begin the trial-and-error process
The path to success is never straight-forward. Every experience in life teaches you something. Take note and adjust your approach as you go. Don’t give up at the first hurdle – successful people face struggles too – bankruptcy, rejection from peers and colleagues. Keep you self-belief high.
Enjoy the journey – this is so important. Live mindfully
In conclusion – always have a long term plan. Create short term and long term goals and regularly check in to ensure that you’re on the right track. Your older self will thank your younger self for its wisdom, determination and persistence.