I have a confession. You know that idiot driver who impatiently drove way too close and then sped past you in a fit of rage when she found an opening? Yeah … that driver used to be me.
Being from Michigan, I was taught to mock Illinois drivers (aka FIBs) for their reckless and impatient driving. Now that I live in Illinois, I’ve become a much kinder driver than I ever was in Michigan … at least I hope that’s the case!
One Sunday morning, I was late to church and tailing a slow car in front of me like nobody’s business. We were both in the left turn lane, waiting for the light to turn. When the arrow was finally green the guy in front of me took his precious time turning. I figured I’d put a little pressure on him to speed up. As I got even closer to his bumper, he drove even slower. That’s when I knew he was trying to teach me a lesson.
I was relieved to see the church parking lot so I could finally get away from this jerk. Plot twist, he went to my church. As we both turned into the parking lot shame set in. I found the furthest possible parking spot to avoid walking in at the same time. Since we were both late, we ended up both sitting in the back pew. We awkwardly shook hands when it came time to pass peace. It’s not often that you get to apologize to the people you road rage against.
This story is funny because there was a disconnect between who I said I was and my actions. Followers of Christ are called to love. Being an angry, aggressive driver wasn’t very loving of me.
Most of us know what kind of person we want to be, but all the small, daily choices in life make it easy to deviate from that ideal. Hold this thought for a minute.
A few weeks ago I heard a talk about the importance of companies investing in a business plan. Since then, I’ve had this idea simmering in the back of my mind — if businesses need business plans to help them achieve their goals, why don’t more people have life plans?
Business and life are both risky, unknown, and beyond our control (even if we convince ourselves otherwise). They both require direction and focus to stay on track. They both go through tough times that either shape or break them. If businesses need plans to get them through, then I believe more people should make life plans.
There is a key difference between business plans and life plans. In the business world, cash is king. In the human world, kings are people. Therefore, relationships are king when it comes to a life plan.
What exactly is a Life Plan?
There are many things you could consider when mapping this out, but I’m going to focus on the most important elements.
Step 1: Know who you want to be.
What kind of person do you want to be? What characteristics do you value? How would your ideal self respond to unexpected hardship? How would your ideal self interact with a waiter or store clerk? How would your ideal self react when irritated or hurt by another person? What does your ideal self care about and invest her time, money and energy on?
Once you know who it is you want to be…
Step 2: Practice being more like that person through your actions, thoughts, and words.
In your life plan, come up with ways you can practically be more like your ideal self. Evaluate how you currently spend your time and money. Does that align with something your ideal self would do? What TV shows, music, and movies do you consume and do those things lead you towards your ideal? Who do you spend your time with? Are those the kind of people that encourage and support who you’re striving to be?
If you find disconnects between who you want to be and your current actions, thoughts, and words, make it a goal to work on those areas. Understand that change doesn’t happen all at once. It takes time and requires you to pay attention to your everyday choices, reactions, and behaviors.
Step 3: Find a benchmark to evaluate your life against.
Is there a meaningful and memorable saying that embodies your ideal? Is there a person who can be your role model? Find something or someone to use as a guide and inspiration. It’s hard to stay on track if there’s no way to track your progress and hold yourself accountable to your life plan.
What’s an example of a real Life Plan?
Circling back to my road rage story — being a reckless driver did not align with my life plan. When I created my life plan, it was based what Jesus proclaimed as the greatest commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself. To make this even more practical for my everyday life, I gave it a tagline: Make every encounter an encounter of love. In essence, my ideal self would show love in every situation she finds herself in. Even in the most challenging circumstances, my ideal self would find a way to show love to others.
The benchmark I use to evaluate my thoughts, words and actions comes from 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
I hope that when my time is up, people could confidently replace the word ‘love’ with my name: Lauren was patient and kind. Lauren always protected, always trusted, always hoped, always persevered. Lauren never failed to love.
That’s my ideal person. That’s my life plan. I haven’t perfectly achieved this ideal and probably never will, but it’s something I can strive for. When I’m having a bad day, in a grumpy mood, sick or tired, this plan motivates me to be kinder and more patient than I otherwise would be. My plan also guides me toward relationships that support and encourage love.
I said it once, I’ll say it again: in life, relationships are the ultimate goal. The strength and health of your support network makes or breaks your chance of reaching your ideal. That’s the value in creating a life plan.
Your plan should help you be more like the person you want to be. But more importantly, it will make room in your life for the kinds of relationships that support your ideal. Your plan invites people with similar goals to join you through the inevitable twists and turns on the road ahead.
What’s your life plan?