Life Planning 101: Image of a woman riding a scooter. Headline is the Mary Oliver quote: "Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

Life Planning 101: How to Make Your Life Great Again

I have a theory on life. 

Actually, it’s more like a set of rules. I call them my “Joy Rules.” 

  • Practice Gratitude
  • Examine Your Life
  • Pursue Your Purpose

In my opinion (and experience), if you apply these three principles, life improves. Since it’s the first month of a brand new year, let’s leapfrog over Joy Rule #1 to get to Joy Rule #2: Examine Your Life. 

But first a story. 

During my second pregnancy, I experienced difficulty in a relationship, one with another young mother. Unhappy in her life, this woman seemed determined to bring everyone else down too. 

At the park with our kids, she complained and criticized. As we sipped coffee, she strongly suggested I live my life—raise my children, keep my house, and navigate my marriage—exactly like her. 

At a Super Bowl Party, in front of dozens of people, this woman pointed to my tummy and loudly declared:

“You look ready to pop any minute! Are you sure you’re only six months pregnant?”

Consequently, I broke up with her right then. Drawing a line across my swollen belly, I said, “I’ve had it up to here with your Negative Nancy personality. The playdates end here!” 

In that moment, I felt strong, free, and honest.

It was Cheryl Richardson who gave me the courage to confront this faux-friend. Richardson wrote the book, Take Time for Your Life. Under Richardson’s direction, I examined and improved my life, area by area: physical, spiritual, relational, etc..

In the event you don’t have time to run out and buy a copy (or wait for Amazon Prime to deliver one), here’s my life planning “hack.”

  1. Take out a piece of paper and fold it in 4 quadrants. 
  2. At the top of each section write one of the following questions:

    What fills me with joy?

    Are there activities (or people) in my life that fill me with dread?

    What do I miss?

    Is there a fun activity I’ve been wanting to try?

  3. Then list your answers to each question.
  4. Set aside a lunch hour or Saturday afternoon to ponder how you can decrease the items in the dread column. After that, start figuring out how you can make some of the happy things happen.

When I did my first life makeover, I came up with a great solution for two problems. At the time I wasn’t getting enough sleep. I also really missed reading. I’d stopped reading because I feared my tendency to get completely caught up in books might cause me to neglect my family.

Solution? I started going to bed at 10 instead of midnight so I could read. In doing so, I gave myself two gifts: the extra sleep I needed and the reading time I craved.

Taking charge of your life feels great.

It is, after all, your one and only life. Where will you start?

Can’t stand your demanding boss with halitosis? Start job-hunting. Resent the time you spend volunteering for a poorly-run organization? Step down.

Don’t get sucked in by the thought: “If I don’t do it, no one will.”

That’s probably not true. If something must get done, someone will be found to do it after you leave.

And don’t believe other lies like: Because you’re a responsible adult, you’re not allowed to have fun. Or since you’re raising children or caring for aging parents, they always come first. 

Your life matters as much as anyone else’s.

Plus, you need to be healthy physically and emotionally in order to take care of others. It’s like when you’re on an airplane and the safety tutorial advises you to put on your oxygen mask before assisting others.

After you remove some of the things that bring you down, make sure to add in things that lift you up.

Is there an old hobby you miss? Kayaking? Calligraphy? Try it again. Do you have a secret desire to perform in community theater? Audition! Does the new person in your office seem fun? Invite him or her to lunch. 

You can’t simply hope your life will turn out awesome. You have to be intentional about it. Got paper?


What about you? Do you have some ideas on what needs to go, stay, or become part of your life in 2019? Let us know in the comments.

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