When I was younger (and, more importantly, single), I had a habit of typing up Bible verses, printing them out, and taping them to doors and walls in my apartment.
In retrospect, it was a pretty classy decorating technique. Photos of friends, posters of cultural events, objets d’art – these were all beneath my refined sensibilities. My elevated aesthetic sensibilities led to a stark minimalism: blank white canvases and rows of printed Bible verses.
Admittedly, this approach lacked an appreciation for beauty (and social graces). On the other hand, at least you could get some good reading in whenever you happened to look at my door.
At this point, however, marriage has fundamentally transformed the walls of my home (my friends assure me the changes are for the better).
So without Bible verses shouting their encouragement from the walls, how do I stay focused on my greatest priorities?
And assuming that you don’t have pages of neatly typed Bible verses on your walls, how will you stay focused on your priorities?
My immature past aside, let’s consider four serious benefits to having a personal life plan: greater clarity, deeper integrity, stronger friendships, and motivation to take action.
A Life Plan Gives You Greater Clarity
A simple, one-page life plan creates clarity.
It is one thing to say, “yea, I pretty much know what my priorities are.” But it is another thing entirely to write them down.
Until then, at best, you have a hazy sense of what’s really important to you.
You might have a vague feeling for how your values are changing or developing over time.
But unless you have an exceptional memory and mental focus, it is far more likely that you will not make your decisions and live your life according to your most important convictions. How can you? You not really sure what they are.
When you force yourself to write down precisely what is most important to you, then you will know what your main priorities really are. You will have clarity.
It Leads to Deeper Integrity
Dictionary.com defines integrity as “adherence to moral and ethical principles.” Well, obviously, without clearly stated moral and ethical principles, it is difficult to ‘adhere’ to them!
But when you know what you stand for, then it is possible to build a life of integrity.
This means you will be less distracted, less frazzled, less confused about what you should be doing or where you should be headed.
You will know what direction your life should be headed in. This will focus your efforts to actually go in that direction. This process, repeated daily, leads to integrity.
In general, friendships are based upon mutual enjoyment of one another. But the strongest friendships share something else: a deeply held set of common values.
If you want your friends to be people of unshakeable integrity and principled action, then it only makes sense that you seek to be the same kind of person. Because a life plan will clarify what your values are, and encourage you to put them into practice, a life plan will make it possible for you to develop stronger friendships.
Motivated To Take Action
Let’s say you come home from a long day at work. You’re tired. A good TV show is about to start. Your favorite Internet sites are calling out your name. A tasty bottle of beer is chilling in the fridge.
But one of your core commitments is to “build a strong and loving family.” You reviewed your commitments on the way home from work. You talked about them with a friend over an early breakfast two days ago. And you know you’ll review them with your spouse over the weekend.
Your life plan makes your choice clear: clean up the dirty dishes in the sink, get some laundry started, and play with your kids.
Maybe your life circumstances and priorities currently rules out “build a strong and loving family” as a core commitment. But you get the picture: when the easy, lazy choices are available, remembering your life plan can give you the focus and the energy to take principled action.
A simple life plan leads to four tremendous benefits:
- greater clarity
- deeper integrity
- stronger friendships
- motivation to act
Question for Reflection:
What benefits do you see to having a life plan?
The next post in this series will look at some of the other tremendous benefits that come from having and using a life plan.