How To Make a Life Plan

Craft your ideal future with our guide on how to make a life plan. Practical steps for a purposeful and fulfilling life journey. Start today!

Young people face a lot of pressure to “make something of themselves” in a challenging and overwhelming world. They often find themselves at a crossroads, trying to bridge the gap between their aspirations and the realities of achievement. 

There may even be a social script that they feel urged to follow, such as checking certain boxes like traditional education followed by a ladder-climbing career. However, that scripted journey will feel hollow if it doesn’t bring a sense of authentic purpose. The journey to success is rarely a one-size-fits-all path, which is why the concept of a life plan is invaluable.

A life plan is not just a roadmap to success; it’s a personalized strategy that aligns with your unique values, passions, and goals. Let’s explore how to make a life plan that resonates with your individuality and sets you up for success.


The Power of Life Planning

Knowing what the next step is isn’t always perfectly clear. Life planning can help you get out of mental loops of uncertainty so that you can take action. Here are some of the transformative benefits of developing a life plan.

Overcoming the Fear of Failure

Embarking on the journey of life planning is a powerful antidote to the fear of failure. Instead of worrying and doubting yourself, you develop a growth mindset with clear and achievable goals in place. Challenges are no longer roadblocks—they become learning opportunities that allow you to let go of perfectionism and fear paralysis.

Clarity in Direction and Purpose

A life plan serves as a compass, offering clear direction and fostering a strong sense of purpose. By defining what you truly aspire to achieve, it provides a focused pathway toward your goals. This clarity helps in filtering out distractions and aligning your daily actions with your long-term objectives. 

Flexibility and Adaptability in the Long-Term

Even though a life plan offers structure, it’s also inherently flexible. It makes you more adaptable and accommodates the unpredictability of life, which makes you resilient no matter the situation. This adaptability ensures that when circumstances change, you and your plan can evolve accordingly.

Enhanced Decision-Making Skills

Not knowing what to do with your life can be paralyzing, but having a plan in place helps you make intentional decisions. More specifically, a life plan provides the framework for making decisions that align with your goals and values. This alignment minimizes the overwhelm and indecision that often accompanies significant life choices.

Broadening Perspectives and Priorities

Creating a life plan is also a great way to discover what truly matters to you and gain a deeper understanding of the world around you. A plan allows you to gain new experiences and insights, which can lead to the evolution of your aspirations and priorities. You can develop this self-awareness and broader perspective with opportunities like the immersive learning program Take Action Lab, which helps you explore what you’re passionate about and how you can use your agency to positively impact the world.

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See how Take Action Lab could align with your goals.

Step-by-Step Guide to Making a Life Plan

Now, down to business: how to make a life plan that works. It’s a process, but we’ve broken it down into the essential steps.


1. Identify Your Values

First, it’s important to know what motivates you and where your priorities lie, which is deeply informed by your values. Values inform the rest of your life plan. You can identify your values by:

  • Analyzing Past Decisions: Reflect on your past choices. What motivated these decisions? Understanding your motives can help reveal your core values.
  • Learning from Negative Experiences: Consider the lessons learned from experiences that didn’t go as planned. These can often highlight what you truly value as you determine what you would do differently moving forward and what matters most.


2. Create a Vision

Next, try and get out of that scripted life that others may expect and ponder what you want. You can start by:

  • Imagining the Dream Life: Allow yourself to dream without limits. What does your ideal life look like in different aspects — career, relationships, personal growth?
  • Detailed Vision Questions: Ask yourself specific questions about your ideal life. Where are you living? What are you doing? Who are you with? Why these circumstances, and what is most important to you?
  • Perform a Self-Assessment: It also helps to evaluate where you are currently in relation to your dream life. This will help identify the gaps you need to bridge and prepare you for goal-setting.


3. Reflecting on Achievements and Failures

Knowing yourself and your tendencies can be instrumental in setting realistic goals for your life vision. Take time to reflect on your life up to this point, especially to better understand yourself. You can try:

  • Identifying Strengths: You have skills and strengths that you can leverage—what are they? Try to think of specific examples of when you have met your goals or achieved something—what made you successful?  You may be a natural and empathetic leader, academically gifted, or have many other positive traits. 
  • Recognizing Weaknesses: You are also human and have blindspots like the rest of us. Do you struggle with focus or self-discipline? You may have low confidence, or you may overestimate yourself at times. Reflecting on your experiences and the feedback from people you trust can help here.


4. Establish SMART Goals

At this point, you know what matters to you, what you want, and both your assets and potential stumbling blocks. Now it’s time to create goals that are motivating and achievable. You can use SMART goals as a guide, where what you want is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. You can also work on:

  • Aligning Goals with Priorities and Values: Ensure your goals are in harmony with your core values and priorities.
  • Letting Go of Non-essentials: Identify and eliminate activities that don’t align with your values and goals. Your success will require some sacrifice and discipline, so it’s important to set your own expectations moving forward. For example, you may need to create a budget for your spending so that you have savings to supplement your goals.


5. Outline an Action Plan

Next, determine the steps you will take to meet your bigger goals. You can get as small and detailed as you need to stay motivated and not get overwhelmed. To do this, you can start by:

    • Exploring Each Step: Consider the resources, time, and steps needed for each task, even if they are small. Your steps should also be actionable, not passive, and each should have an established timeline.
  • Celebrating Milestones and Rewards: Having small, achievable steps also means you hit more milestones, which can be really encouraging! Plus, you are setting checkpoints that remind you how you are moving in the right direction. You can also create a system to reward yourself to acknowledge your progress.


6. Adjust as Necessary

Finally, a plan is a guide, but it usually isn’t linear. You are going to have ups and downs, so it’s important to be both realistic and resilient. You can develop this kind of attitude by:

  • Recognizing Setbacks as Part of the Journey: View setbacks not as failures, but as opportunities to learn and grow. Analyze what went wrong and how you can avoid similar issues in the future.
  • Flexibility in Life Planning: Don’t let your plan limit your life—be willing to adjust and regularly review your strategy. 


5 Key Areas to Include in Your Life Plan

Creating a comprehensive life plan involves considering various aspects of your life that contribute to your overall well-being and satisfaction. Here are five key areas to focus on.


1. Health and Wellness

Focus on both physical and mental health. Consider setting goals for regular exercise, a balanced diet, adequate sleep, and stress management techniques. You might also include goals for self-care practices and mental health, like mindfulness or therapy.

2. Relationships

Relationships, whether familial, romantic, or platonic, are crucial for emotional support and fulfillment. Reflect on how you want to nurture these relationships through actions like better communication, quality time, and understanding. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries where necessary, either.

3. Career

Set objectives for professional growth, skill development, and possible career advancements or changes. Be sure to also include goals for work-life balance to ensure your career growth doesn’t overshadow other life aspects.

4. Finances

Financial stability is important to realizing many life goals. Set realistic financial goals like savings, investments, debt reduction, or retirement planning. Ensure these goals align with your values, whether that means prioritizing travel, home ownership, philanthropy, or financial independence.

5. Community

Being part of a community provides a sense of belonging and support. Include goals related to community involvement, whether through volunteering, joining clubs or groups that align with your interests, or participating in local events.


Creating an Accountability Plan

Most of us can’t fulfill our goals completely on our own without any support or accountability. You can prepare yourself with an accountability plan, which starts with these three basic steps.


1. Find an Accountability Partner

Choose someone you trust and respect to be your accountability partner. This could be a friend, family member, mentor, or coach. Share your life plan and specific goals with them. The right partner will provide encouragement, keep you motivated, and offer honest feedback.

2. Measure Your Progress

During your check-ins, review the progress you’ve made toward your goals. Be honest and thorough in your assessment. It’s important to recognize both the successes and the areas where you’ve struggled. A journal or tracking app can help you make your progress more tangible.

3. Revise as Necessary

Life is dynamic, and your life plan should be too. If you find that certain goals are no longer relevant, or if you’ve encountered unforeseen obstacles, don’t be afraid to revise your plan. Use feedback from your accountability partner and your own reflections to make informed adjustments to your plan.


Enrich Your Life Plan with Tilting Futures

Life planning empowers you to venture beyond the conventional and scripted path, guiding you toward a life that is not only successful but also fulfilling and meaningful. The immersive learning programs offered by the nonprofit Tilting Futures provide an impactful way for students to start thinking about their future and creating a rewarding life plan. 

With hands-on experience through apprenticeships, Take Action Lab provides practical skills, real-world insights, and great networking opportunities. This experience can be pivotal in helping students formulate a life plan that is both personally satisfying and beneficial to the wider world.



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