Living Forward, a summary of life planning

Last year, I felt unsettled. One day, I came back from work with this feeling in my chest that my days were useless. I had the feeling that I was living my life without direction, just going through the motions of my everyday life, without a clear purpose. I would get up, rush through my morning routine, go to work, come back and read Facebook, then go to sleep. I was not achieving anything major during the day. I was drifting. At the same time, Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy released a book called Living Forward – A proven plan to stop drifting and get the life you want. Needless to say, the book caught my attention. I am a huge fan of Michael Hyatt and I was convinced that his book would be very powerful and inspiring. I was not mistaken. I rented an Airbnb to spend 3 days, in silence, to try and find a meaning to this drift I was experiencing and bring back purpose into my life.

I read the book in a very short time and soon starting applying its principles. I was very pleased with the results. On my last day at the Airbnb, I wrote my first life plan.

In this summary, I will share personal examples to illustrate Hyatt’s and Harkavy’s life planning method. There are 3 parts to this book. The first part is about the drift and explains what is a life plan, the main concept of this book. The second part explains how to write your own life plan and the last part is about implementation. Let’s dive in!

Understand your need

Most people are drifting. They are living their life on autopilot, without a clear direction. That is called the drift. That is how I felt during the last months of 2015, directionless, unfocused, lost at sea.

“When we are drifting, we lose perspective. Without a clear destination in view, the challenges on the journey seem pointless. […] Like a hiker without a compass or GPS, we walk in circles, lost in a forest of unrelated events and activities. We eventually wonder if our life has any meaning and despair of finding purpose.”

The answer to the drift that Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy propose is life planning. Creating a plan for yourself and mapping out your priorities to focus your actions and get the life you truly desire. A life plan is a written document that defines your priorities and the actions required to achieve your goals in the main areas of your life. This document evolves over time as you tweak it along the way.

A life plan is a written document that defines your priorities and the actions required to achieve your goals in the main areas of your life. This document evolves over time as you tweak it along the way.

Create your plan

Legacy : write your eulogy

Hyatt’s and Harkavy’s life plan starts with the end in mind. The first step to creating your plan is to imagine your funerals and write down the eulogy you would like your friends and family to read on your last goodbye. Stephen Covey had a similar exercise in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and I found this exercise most powerful. It may feel a bit macabre, but I like the idea of reverse engineering your plan by starting with the legacy I want to offer to my relatives and my readers.

Priorities : identify your life accounts

The authors define the life accounts as ”the various compartments that make up your life”. The life accounts are the priorities in your life, such as health, family, and career. They are equivalent to the areas of focus in David Allen Getting Things Done methodology. You can choose as many life accounts as you’d like. Select your life accounts, then prioritize them in the order that seems right to you. I personally chose 9, from most important to less important :

  1. Health
  2. Personal development
  3. Couple
  4. Friends
  5. Family
  6. Leisure
  7. Career
  8. Finances
  9. Home

Chart the course : the life plan

Now that your priorities are chosen, it is time to write your life plan.

Purpose statement

The purpose statement is a short phrase declaring your purpose for each of the life accounts. The purpose statement for my health account is ”Health is my priority because I want to live with energy and a quality of life allowing me to live fully in each other areas of my life”.

Envisioned future :

State your vision for the future for each of the life accounts. Write your statement in the present tense, as if you were already there. The envisioned future for my health account is : ” I am perfectly healthy and full of energy. I am healthy enough to hike in the mountains and reach the top. I live to an old age with energy, free of pain. My immune system is strong and protects me from viruses and infections.”

Inspiring quotes

The authors suggest that you choose a quote for each life account, like a mantra to inspire you to take action. Here is the quote I chose for my personal development account : ” Your highest self is the part of you that is always connected to the source. It is filled with love, compassion, and wisdom. It holds no judgment or fear. It is you in your purest form of light. ” – Laurel Bleadon-Maffei

Current reality

The next step is to write down your current situation for each of the life accounts. In this step, be very honest. It will be interesting to see the progress you’ve made when you look back at your plan a year from now.

Specific commitment

That is the most important part of the life plan. Define actions you can take to achieve your envisioned future. They represent the path to reach your goals. Use the SMART acronym to define your actions. SMART stands for

S : specific

M : measurable

A : actionable

R : realistic

T : Time-bound

The purpose statement, envisioned future, inspiring quote, current reality and specific commitments represent your action plan for each of the life accounts. You are now able to take action on each of your life’s priorities. Neat, isn’t it?

Dedicate one day

As you’ve probably figured out, writing your life plan is quite the task. That is why Hyatt and Harkavy suggest your dedicate one full day to writing your plan. The reality is, you probably couldn’t write your life plan in one sitting in a normal work day. And the danger is not to complete it if you try and do it in multiple sittings. Dedicating a full day to this exercise allows you to fully commit to the process and get the proper focus it needs.

“This is the biggest day of your year. If you’re going to assess every aspect of your life, it’s worthy of your full attention. Total focus means greater impact.”

Ideally, you would not write your life plan at work where you can be easily distracted. Renting an Airbnb in march for a silent retreat weekend and spending one full day working on my life plan was just what I needed. It was one of the most productive days I had in 2016. You don’t have to be as extreme as I was, you can choose any place you enjoy and any day that suits you.

Make it happen

The last part of the book is all about implementation. How do you put this plan into action? First, you need to schedule your actions into your calendar.

Your ideal week

The concept of the ideal week is so interesting, I will dedicate a full article on the subject in the productivity section of the blog. Shortly, it is the idea of mapping out your whole week as you would prefer it so that all aspects of your life are taken care of. Your priorities should have a place of choice in your calendar. Is family your priority? Family dinners and a weekend getaway might find their place in your calendar. Try to respect your ideal week as much as possible when scheduling appointments from now on.

Review your plan often

At first, Hyatt and Harkavy suggest that you review your plan daily, “The idea is to lock each aspect of your plan into your heart and mind and to avoid this exercise from becoming rote”.¬† After a ninety days period, review your life plan during your weekly review to keep it fresh in your mind.

Tweak quarterly and revise yearly

Every quarter, revise your life plan and adjust any part that is no longer relevant or can be improved. You can revise your action plans to reflect your current situation. At the end of the year, revise your plan and evaluate your progress, celebrate your successes and decide where you want to go next.

Productive happiness

Creating your life plan is the ultimate happiness productivity! It allows you to clearly define the outcomes you want in your life and create an actionable plan to create your envisioned reality. It will drive your everyday choices and your daily action plans. Instead of going through the motions of your life, you will create a present and a future that you truly desire.

My appreciation

Living Forward is a very short read, I read it in the course of a weekend. I appreciate books that are to the point, with very little fluff, such as this one. Also, in each section of the book, Hyatt and Harkavy shared personal stories from their lives to illustrate their points. They are great storytellers, which made the book more personal than just a dry business book. That made it so much more enjoyable to read. The authors included many examples of the different parts of the life plan to show you exactly how to do it. They also provided templates that you can download on their website to accompany the book. I personally used their template to create my own life plan. At the end of the book, there is a great summary that reminds you everything there is to know about life planning. It is great to go back to it once in a while, without needing to re-read the entire book.

Overall, the book and the life planning method it contains allowed me to gain great clarity on my goals and needs. The priorities I have chosen for my life are now the compass that guides my every decisions. I think that everyone will benefit from Living Forward and the life plan it proposes.

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What do you think of the life planning method? Is it something you would like to try? Let me know in the comments below!

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