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Planning Your Ideal Life
(When Life Itself Keeps Getting In The Way)

By Charlotte Burton

Big Changes, Little Changes
Magazines these days are filled with articles on how to plan your life well in advance, but which don't necessarily take the fact into account that LIFE can, and will, get in the way. What do you do when everything around is changing at a pace that even you can't keep up with and your life plan certainly can't? With all that has happened in the world economy and the decisions made by certain countries regarding terrorism and war, it is not a good idea to stick your head in the sand and ignore it all.

What about when change happens at a more microcosmic level - i.e. what happens if you are one of the casualties of the recent 'downsizing' of firms in the City so your life changes in a far more immediate fashion? Or what if your life changes in a positive way? You get married, get promoted, have a baby - you could even win the lottery!

Reactive to Opportunity
Life plans are a good idea but for them really to work, they must be flexible so that they can still be useful when situations change. It is important for them to be not quite so specific as to ignore any opportunity that just presents itself because it is 'not quite what you wanted,' or if you feel that the opportunity has come along too early or too late. There is a saying that "opportunities are viewed as more important with the vision of hindsight" but this can be flipped to say that opportunities when they first present themselves can be seen as risks too large to cope with.

Bring Your Dreams to Life
So how do you plan your life in the first place? There are so many techniques that you can use for planning your ideal life, but the one that works best is when you really and truly know inside and out what you want, how it would look and what it would feel like to be there.

Imagine Who You Want to Be
You can start simply by imagining what you want to be doing on a specific day in the future, for example 1st January 2020. Flesh out the daily tasks - where are you living, who with and how busy is your day? What do you look like, how do you behave with others and what are your relationships like? All the areas of your life should be included within your plan:

Career,
Friends and Family,
Physical Environment,
Health,
Personal Growth,
Money,
Significant Other,
Fun and Recreation
This is not an exhaustive list - if there is a significant part of your life that is not included above, add another category or rename one (or vice versa).

Pay Attention To Detail
Once you know what you want, it is essential that you break each goal down into smaller ones that you can work towards on a daily basis. For example, if you wish to be healthy enough to run a marathon next year, you could sign up to your local gym today and start going regularly - or find a local running group to join - and then start doing smaller sponsored runs until running is a daily part of your life. Of course, just doing the physical exercise is not the only thing you can do to make this dream come true - for a goal of being healthy, you must also eat healthily, sleep well and enough for you (sleep amounts vary from person to person), be able to manage stress, and many other things.

Other Strategies & Resources
If you need some ideas to get you going www.mindtools.com is a fantastic resource of tools that are completely transferable to help you plan pretty much any area of your life from the little things to the really big ones. Some books that can help you with strategies, once you have got the bare bones of your plan together, (and which both I and my clients have enjoyed) include 'Take Yourself to the Top' by Laura Berman Fortgang, 'Unlimited Power' by Anthony Robbins, 'Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway' by Susan Jeffers, 'Be Your Own Life Coach' by Fiona Harrold and 'Dejunk Your Life' by Helen Foster.

Life Comes Around To Play
But what happens when you get sucked into the day-to-day drag of life and end up realizing that a year has gone by and you haven't done anything towards your goals and you can barely remember what they were in the first place?

So what CAN you do with your plan when life gets in the way?

Be realistic
One way that life can get in the way is through sheer overwhelm: you may feel overwhelmed by the sheer size of each category when you do break each big goal from your life plan down into smaller ones. It is really important that you keep motivated and don't ask too much of yourself. If you are asking yourself to do 4 hours worth of work when you only have 30 minutes a day, don't be disheartened, be realistic. You may find that if you set yourself one thing a day to do, and get that done faster than you think then you can get another one done and get ahead of the plan.

Be Flexible
Another way that life can be annoying? is through unexpected twists: this is where keeping your plan flexible comes into play. Depending on what life has thrown at you, there are different ways of doing this. Firstly, you need to keep in control of your plan rather than letting it control you. Monthly, Quarterly and Annual Reviews are very useful ways of making sure your plan fits in with what is really happening in your life and this kind of prevention system can help you anticipate and handle unexpected situations in the best way for you.

Be Willing to Reconsider
What if you change your mind about sections of the plan? No problem - you can redesign your plan as many times as is necessary because it is YOUR plan. Just go back to the drawing board and rethink - you may realize that one change in your plan may impact more areas than the one area you want to alter. It is important to remember here that it is your life and anything is possible, so if the prospect of replanning is daunting, just imagine where you want to be and start taking some action!

Be Honest with Yourself
It is important to know that whatever you plan it must be right for you - if your goal involves actions that you are either not capable of or actions you are not willing to do, you must review what you want and be honest about the likelihood of you actually completing the actions you set yourself.

Contemplate a Coach
What if life keeps getting in the way and you get disheartened about ever having the life you want? Or if you don't have a clue what you want as every situation you try on in your head just doesn't feel right? Here you may have to address your more basic needs and the real situation you're living in. It may be the case that you would benefit from having a coach to help you out in sorting through the top layers of life to the real you underneath - the one which you have hidden away and ignored. A coach can help you realize what your true values are and help you figure out how you can translate this to your current life.

If you do decide to hire a coach, do try a few out to see what different styles are available - most coaches offer a free sample session where you can get to know the personality of the coach and their coaching style before deciding whether it is for you. Prices vary greatly, so this is where trying out many possible coaches can be extremely useful as you can decide whether the service you have just tried is worth the asking price.

Proactive & Adaptable
Life is all about change. How you adapt to that change and how proactive you are in chasing your ideal are what really makes the difference in having a fulfilled life. Having a plan can help you in being prepared for whatever life decides to throw at you while keeping you on track to achieving your dreams.

Charlotte Burton, BSc MAC, is a Life and Career Coach trained by the Coach Training Institute. She is a member in good standing of the Association for Coaching. A complimentary sample session is available to all those who are interested in finding out more about coaching and how it can help to improve your life. Please contact her by email or call UK (0)20 7837 5419 for more details.

Goals
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