In working with hundreds of career professionals each year to “dig deep, discover their right work, and illuminate the world with it,” I know this: Without a compelling, heart-centered life plan, and without fiercely protecting our priorities and boundaries, we simply can’t muster the energy, focus or power to craft our lives as we dream them to be.
To learn more about how to develop a life plan that will get you on track quickly, I was excited to catch up with Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy about their new book Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get The Life You Want.
In their book, the authors offer a proven, real-world and tested manual for drafting a compelling Life Plan — an empowering, self-composed, concise roadmap to living the life we truly want.
Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy share powerful insider secrets on this process, from their years of experience. Michael is the CEO and founder of Michael Hyatt & Company, an online leadership development company. An in-demand speaker and New York Times bestselling author, Hyatt shares thought-leading conversations through his widely read blog, and his This Is Your Life podcast, which consistently ranks among iTunes’ Top 10 Business Podcasts.
Daniel Harkavy is the founder and CEO of the elite coaching firm Building Champions, Inc., where he serves as an Executive Coach, and trusted confidant, and resource for Fortune 500s and other high-performing organizations, including Chick-fil-A, Pfizer, Infineum (an ExxonMobil and Shell company), Nike, Daimler Trucks North America, and Northwestern Mutual. Daniel is a sought after speaker on the topic of leadership and facilitates custom executive team retreats focused on leadership and team development.
Here’s what they share about the importance of your life plan to save you from “the drift.”
Kathy Caprino: What is the “drift” and how does it explain how most people approach work and life?
Daniel Harkavy: The drift describes how most of us go through life. It is a subtle but strong force that can cause us to focus on just a few areas of our lives while ignoring or neglecting others until we experience discomfort or crisis. For example, we may have real clarity as to where we want to end up in our careers or finances, but lack this clarity when it comes to our health, marriages or families. For many of us, we get such immediate and gratifying feedback when we perform well at work that we invest disproportionate energy and time into our career, neglecting other life accounts. As a result, we fill our days with decisions that are more reactive than proactive and then give our leftovers to these critically important life accounts. The drift can pull us along for months or years until we end up at destinations that can be filled with pain and regret.??
Caprino: What is the best way to get clarity about what you really want in life?
Michael Hyatt: One of the best ways to get clarity about what you want is to imagine you are an invisible guest at your own funeral. (I know it sounds morbid, but stay with us.) Your family and loved ones are on the front row. Your friends, neighbors, and work colleagues are on the rows behind them.
Now imagine that several of them take the podium to give a eulogy. What are they saying about you and what your life meant to them? If you are like most people, you’re probably not entirely happy with what you are hearing. Perhaps you had hoped you could have made a more positive impact. Perhaps you are now aware of a gap between what you intended to do and what you actually did.
The good news is that you aren’t dead yet! There is still time to make a difference—to have a significant impact on the lives of those who matter most. All you have to do is get clear on what you wished each of these people would say and then get busy making that vision a reality.
Caprino: I understand that you recommend taking a full day to create a life plan? Why is that critical?
Harkavy: In order for a life plan to be of real value, it needs to be something that captures not just our heads but also our hearts. What we are after in this process is real transformation or habit change. To create a life plan that has real pull power, we need to do the deep reflective work required to gain real clarity on what matters most in our lives. For the last 20 years, my team of coaches and I have made it mandatory for our clients to invest one full day at a location special to them to map out the best and most powerful plans for their lives. If we try to shortcut this process by doing a little here or there, the plan will not capture us in ways that cause us to be passionate and convicted enough to live it.
Caprino: I see with my own coaching clients that they often know what they want as their legacy, but have no idea how to specifically make that a reality. How do you believe we can build careers and lives that will fulfill our biggest visions? What are the best steps to take?
Harkavy: Once you’ve invested time to gain clarity on the legacy you want to leave and what you want in the areas of your life that are most important to you, you can begin to identify the specific steps that will move you from your current reality to the future state. When our days include the intentional disciplines that enable us to care for our health, attend to our spouses and kids and the areas of our lives that we are passionate about, we are freed up to be truly present in our careers. It allows us to work with more focus and energy instead of fretting and worrying about where we are not and what we are not doing. By having this level of clarity on how to succeed in the areas outside of our careers, we are best armed to fill our working hours with maximum energy, brain power and presence to succeed at work.
Caprino: Michael, you mention that it’s vitally important to identify and rank your priorities? How does a ranked list act as a filter for making decisions?
Hyatt: A clear set of ranked, written priorities can act as a filter for making the tough choices that all of us have to make from time to time.
In the midst of the Great Recession, after months of hand-to-hand combat, I decided I desperately needed a vacation. As the the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, I checked with my board, and they gave me the green light. I was looking forward to resting and reconnecting with my wife.
However, on the way to our vacation destination, I received an email from the Chairman of my board, asking me to turn around and come back to Nashville. He wanted to meet in my office to discuss some concerns about our strategy. My heart sank.
But then I remembered my priorities: my health, my wife, my kids, and then my career—in that order. It wasn’t easy, but my priorities gave me the courage to make the decision to say “no” to his request and continue with my original plans.
As it turned out, his concerns were handled by my staff, and he never brought them up to me again.
Caprino: Great, so now we are clear on our top priorities. But why do most people struggle in getting started in making the big changes that will let them fulfill those priorities?
Hyatt: Most people struggle with big changes for these three reasons.
First, they are not clear on what they want.
They might have some vague sense that they want their career to improve, for example, but they haven’t take time to create a written vision for how they want it to look. This is true for other areas of life: their health, marriage, finances, etc.
Second, they are not honest about their current reality.
Their point of reference might be their peers rather than a vision of what could be. Relative to others around them, they feel like they are doing okay. But the truth is, we have to assess ourselves based on the vision we have identified for ourselves in step one.
Third, they are hoping for some kind of big lottery win that will change everything in an instant.
That’s not how it works. Most change happens has a result of making specific commitments and harnessing the power of incremental change over time. You have to ask, “What are the simple steps I can take now to close the gap between my current reality and the life I want?”
And you don’t have to see the whole path. In fact, you rarely do. The most important thing is to start. Once you do that, the path has a way of unfolding, one step at a time.
Caprino: Why should corporations encourage — and even facilitate — life planning with their employees? What are the benefits to organizations?
Harkavy: There are several critical benefits. For those in leadership roles, there is the truth that self-leadership always precedes team leadership. When leaders are caring for all areas of their lives and are experiencing momentum in their life accounts such as marriage and family, health, faith, finances, hobbies and communities, they are able to be more present and passionate in their careers. It makes them more effective and easier to follow, and they have the chance to model this for younger teammates. It paints an inspiring picture for them to see you succeeding not just between the 9:00-5:00, but also the 5:00 to 9:00.
It’s also the right thing to do as we manage and lead today and build for tomorrow. If we can help our teammates build plans for success in all areas of their lives, we can impact them in uncommon ways. This helps us to create truly unique cultures that are positioned to get the best results. And impacting our teammates in ways that make a meaningful and lasting difference is at the core of all great leaders.
Read the original article on Forbes.