Highlands Connect Training

Week 8 & 9 -MAKING A LIFE PLAN

There is a big difference between hopes/dreams and goals. These next two lessons will help identify key goals for our lives and help us create a life plan that serves to help reach those goals.

WHAT IS A LIFE PLAN?

A Life Plan is a LIVING document that is created by an individual to help them ASSESS where they are in life, prioritize GOALS and responsibilities, and outlines specific ACTION steps to achieving goals and maintaining those priorities.

Let’s break that down. A Life Plan…

  1. Is living – this means that it is constantly being edited by the creator to navigate life’s ups and downs while maintaining consistent focus
  2. Assesses your current life – this means that you have to be willing to take a brutally honest look at your life and admit to areas where you need improvement
  3. Prioritizes goals and responsibilities – this means that you will have to dare to dream while also taking control of your life. Goals are dreams and should not be easily achievable. Good goals require work. At the same time, though, it is important to take ownership of your life (the good and the bad) and maintain your responsibilities while reaching towards your goals
  4. Outlines action steps – this will require work. While we never want to “settle” in life, it is also important to be realistic in the goals that you set by making sure you can take specific steps to reach those goals.

WHY MAKE A LIFE PLAN?

As a parent, it is IMPORTANT to create a Life Plan to help keep you on track when LIFE tries to distract you. Having a child, especially one who was a SURPRISE, can easily take your focus off the long term and leave you narrowly focused on the PRESENT.

When you have a Life Plan, you should refer to it OFTEN to help ensure you are making choices that are leading you down your DESIRED life-path, down a path you DESIGNED and that you LOVE.

Of course, life isn’t always that SIMPLE. Curveballs are inevitable and often throw us into a state of “SURVIVAL” or crisis-mode. When we are functioning this way, we often make POOR decision either out of haste or out of convenience without considering its FUTURE impact. This is where a Life Plan can help! A good Life Plan anticipates those CURVEBALLS and prepares you navigating DETOUR in a calm, thoughtful way.

As a parent, it is IMPORTANT to create a Life Plan to help keep you on track when LIFE tries to distract you. Having a child, especially one who was a SURPRISE, can easily take your focus off the long term and leave you narrowly focused on the PRESENT.

When you have a Life Plan, you should refer to it OFTEN to help ensure you are making choices that are leading you down your DESIRED life-path, down a path you DESIGNED and that you LOVE.

Of course, life isn’t always that SIMPLE. Curveballs are inevitable and often throw us into a state of “SURVIVAL” or crisis-mode. When we are functioning this way, we often make POOR decision either out of haste or out of convenience without considering its FUTURE impact. This is where a Life Plan can help! A good Life Plan anticipates those CURVEBALLS and prepares you navigating DETOUR in a calm, thoughtful way.

OVERWHELMED? Don’t worry, you DON’T have to do this alone! This training will walk you through making a great Life Plan for you and your children.

Grab a journal (or find a device to type on), sit back, relax, and let this training (and the LORD) guide you through the PROCESS.

IMPORTANT: Creating a Life Plan is NOT a 1 day event. It may take several days or weeks to finish your Life Plan. Take this TRAINING at your own pace and be sure to SEEK the Lord’s guidance as you go. Finally, don’t give up…the devil may try to DISCOURAGE you as you start creating a Life Plan. Take BREAKS as you need to but ALWAYS come back. Finish STRONG so your life can have a STRONG finish!

CREATING A LIFE PLAN

STEP 1: Reflect and Assess

When it comes to creating a Life Plan, it is IMPORTANT to start with an assessment of your current life. Often, this means REFLECTING on your childhood and RECOGNIZING not only where you are in life, but how you got there.

For some of you, this part of the Life Planning process may be PAINFUL. Allow yourself to grieve, if needed, but don’t stay STUCK there. Reflection is a crucial part of LEARNING. Reflection helps us gain insight into our past and UNLOCKS things we may have originally missed or forgotten. It also allows us to incorporate GOOD things from our past into our Life Plan or create ALTERNATIVES to things that weren’t so good.

Assessment is a second step of reflection. Without a life assessment, we can get STUCK in a rut, trapped by our routine and current situation in general. ASSESS both the good and the bad. Remember to assess a variety of aspects in your life such as how you spend your TIME, your best AND worst parts of the day, your strengths and weaknesses, etc.

Let’s practice!

PRACTICE POINT

Steps to Reflection and Assessment:

  1. Get alone, away from ALL distraction (no cell phones, no internet, no tv, etc)
  2. Begin to think through (or write out) a NARRATIVE of your childhood
  3. As each memory passes through your mind (or is written on your paper), label it as something you would like to REPEAT or RE-ROUTE in your life
  4. Slowly begin making 2 lists in your Life Plan journal – Create a list of things you want to REPEAT from your childhood, either for yourself or for your child, and create a list of things you want to deliberately RE-ROUTE (not repeat) for yourself or your child
  5. Create a life ASSESSMENT list on the following page by answering the following questions
    1. What part of my day do I enjoy the most? What part of my day do I dislike the most? Why?
    2. 5 words that define my life are…
    3. What is going well in my life? What is not going well? Why?
    4. On a scale from 1-10, how would I rate my professional life, personal life, finances, spiritual life, health?
    5. What, if anything, is missing in my life?
    6. What are things in my life that I no longer need?
    7. What do I love about myself? What do I dislike about myself?
    8. What does a typical day look like for me?
    9. How do I spend the majority of my time? What things do I spend the least amount of time on?

EXAMPLE

Here is an example of the REPEAT/RE-ROUTE lists:

Repeat:

  • Family dinners on a weekly basis
  • Saying prayers at bedtime each night
  • Grilling hot dogs on the 4th of July
  • Opening 1 present on Christmas Eve
  • Growing a garden each Spring
  • Attending church
  • Parents read to me every day

Re-route:

  • Getting drunk around kids
  • Swearing
  • Using spanking as a punishment
  • Not having enough food
  • Fighting in front of the kids
  • Not keeping the house clean
  • Moving a lot

CREATING A LIFE PLAN

STEP 2: Goals

Now that we have an IDEA of what we want to repeat from our past and what we don’t, it’s time to THINK about goals. A goal is a desired FUTURE outcome that a person COMMITS to achieve. The difference between a goal and a hope/dream/wish is that the person SETTING the goal COMMITS to the goal and puts ACTION STEPS in place to achieve it.

There are many DIFFERENT types of goals. There are personal goals, financial goals, parenting goals, relationship goals, health goals, career goals, educational goals, and spiritual goals.

Setting NUMEROUS goals in each one of these categories can get overwhelming quickly. We suggest picking 2 goals in each category. Once a goal is reached, REPLACE it with another one.

Also, remember to have 3-5 ACTION STEPS per goal so that the goal is broken down into manageable and attainable pieces.

PRACTICE POINT

Steps to Goals:

  1. In your Life Plan journal, designate 8 pages to GOALS. The pages will be Personal Goals, Financial Goals, Parenting Goals, Relationship Goals, Health Goals, Career Goals, Educational Goals, and Spiritual Goals.
  2. On EACH page, write 2 goals that fit in that category.
  3. For each goal, write a TIME FRAME in which you would like to meet that goal. Ideally, this should be 1-5 years from right now.
  4. Under each goal, write 3-5 ACTION STEPS that you will take to meet that specific goal.

**IF YOU AREN’T SURE WHAT GOALS TO SET, LOOK BACK AT YOUR REPEAT/RE-ROUTE PAGE FOR IDEAS**

Here are questions to consider in each category:

Personal Goals – What is a skill I would like to learn? What new habit would I like to develop? What habit would I like to get rid of? What value would I like to develop and how could I do that?

Financial Goals – What debt do I have and how can I pay it off? How can I spend less every month? What things should I plan/save for? Will I financially be able to retire when I am old enough?

Parenting Goals – What tradition do I want to start with my kids? What do I want my house to look like/feel like/smell like/sound like? What discipline technique do I want to use more/less? Is there anything I want to make sure I teach my children?

Relationship Goals – What kind of relationship do I want? What are non-negotiables in my next relationship? What boundaries can I put into place to protect my heart? What kind of partner do I want to be?

Health Goals – What is a healthy habit I would like to develop? What change can I make to lead a healthier life? What is one thing I can do every day to improve my mental health?

Career Goals – What is a passion of mine? What do I want my co-workers/boss to think of me? How can I do better/be more productive at work? Do I feel fulfilled?

Educational Goals – What is something new I would like to learn? Are there classes in my local area that focus on topics in which I am interested? What kind of education do I need to get where I want to go? What is one new book I would like to read?

Spiritual Goals – How can I have more peace in my life? Am I connected to a good church? Do I talk with God on a daily basis? How much do I really study the Bible? What questions do I have about God/my faith/the Bible?

EXAMPLE

Here is an example of what each page should look like:

FINANCIAL GOALS

  1. Pay off my 3 credit cards(2 years)
  2. Save $1,000 (18 months)

PARENTING GOALS

  1. Get in the habit of reading daily to my kids (1 year)
  2. Stop yelling (1 year)

EXAMPLE

Here is an example of what each page should look like:

HEALTH GOALS

  1. Feel more energized (1 year)
  2. Reduce my stress/anxiety (1 year)

PERSONAL GOALS

  1. Find good friends (2 years)
  2. Have a large garden (3 years)

CREATING A LIFE PLAN

STEP 3: Find accountability and support

Although your Life Plan is a very PERSONAL thing, staying on track requires ACCOUNTABILITY and SUPPORT.

Accountability is necessary because we are far too good at making EXCUSES to ourselves. When we have no accountability, we make small ALLOWANCES that become big allowances. Before we know it, we find ourselves farther away from our destination than when we started.

When we set out on our Life Plan, we also need SUPPORT. Support is important for curveball planning, as we will see in the next section, and for STRENGTH. Support comes in a variety of ways. There is emotional support, spiritual support, physical support, and financial support.

Emotional supporters are always just a phone call away. They are great listeners, show unconditional empathy, and aren’t afraid to give you truth, no matter how unpleasant it may be.

Spiritual supporters are those that encourage you in your faith. They are prayer partners and will do everything in their power to make sure you are growing in Christ.

Physical supporters are those that are there to help with physical needs. They are there if you have a flat tire, need an emergency babysitter, or you have a leaky faucet in the middle of the night.

Financial support is found by having plans in place if you were to fall on financially hard times. This support can be an accessible line of emergency credit, parents who would help get you back on your feet in a crisis, or community resources you could accesses if you found yourself in need.

PRACTICE POINT

Steps to Accountability and Support

  1. On the next page in your Life Plan journal, write the word ACCOUNTABILITY on the top of the page. On the following page, write the word SUPPORT.
  2. Under “Accountability”, divide your paper into 8 different SECTIONS. Label those sections “Personal Accountability”, “Financial Accountability”, “Parenting Accountability”, “Relationship Accountability”, “Health Accountability”, “Career Accountability”, “Educational Accountability”, and “Spiritual Accountability”.
  3. In each section, list at least 2 ways you will be held accountable to your goals in that category. For financial accountability, maybe you cut up your credit card so you are no longer able to use it. Or, have a financially savvy friend look over your bank statements every month. For health accountability, consider joining a health support group or only buying groceries online so you don’t impulse buy junk food.
  4. On the page labeled “SUPPORT,” create 4 sections on the page. Label these sections “Emotional Support”, “Spiritual Support”, “Physical Support”, “Financial Support”.
  5. In each section, list 2 people or organizations that you can count on for support in these categories. Examples will be listed on the following slide.

EXAMPLE

Accountability:

Personal

  1. I will share my personal goals with my best friend
  2. I will set aside 1 hour each week to practice a skill

Financial

  1. I will freeze all my credit cards
  2. I will find a financial advisor to help get me out of debt

Parenting

  1. I will find someone who has raised kids to mentor me
  2. I'll take a parenting class online or in person every 3 months

Relationship

  1. I will date in groups/pairs for the first 6 months
  2. I will download an accountability app on my phone to keep my conversations appropriate

Health

  1. I will sign up for a fitness class
  2. I will buy groceries online to curb impulse buying

Career

  1. I will ask my boss for monthly evaluations
  2. I will practice my interview skills once a quarter

Educational

  1. I will find a tutor for classes in which I am struggling
  2. I will meet with my academic advisor monthly

Spiritual

  1. I will join a life group/discipleship group at my church
  2. I will keep a prayer journal to track my progress

EXAMPLE

Support:

EMOTIONAL

  1. Jenna
  2. Kary (therapist)

SPIRITUAL

  1. Pastor Jennifer
  2. Laurie (my life group leader)

PERSONAL

  1. My neighbor, Stacy
  2. Hank, my brother-in-law (a plumber)

FINANCIAL

  1. The Gathering Place (free food, clothes, and paper goods to whoever needs them)
  2. I have an emergency credit card with a high limit that could cover 3 months of my expenses

CREATING A LIFE PLAN

STEP 4: Curveball Planning

The FINAL PHASE of creating a Life Plan is to plan for the unexpected. Life is full of TWISTS and TURNS. If we are not careful, these twist and turns can send us spiraling out of control. But when we can ANTICIPATE some of these curveballs and PLAN for them accordingly, we are far less likely to find ourselves in a crisis.

Curveballs can literally hit us in ANY area of our life. Planning for every potential CURVEBALL is not realistic but if we can create curveball plans for MAJOR areas of our life and those with the potential to be most devastating, we have the greatest chance for SUCCESS.

The areas that we will focus on in our Life Plan journal will be as follows:

PRACTICE POINT

Steps to Curveball Planning

  1. Turn to the next page in your Life Plan journal. Label the top of this page “Curveball Plans”
  2. Create 3 SECTIONS on your page and label the three sections as “Relationships/Family”, “Health”, and “Financial”
  3. In the “Relationships/family” section, answer the following questions:
    1. In the event of a divorce/break-up with your child’s father, would you be ready to be a single mother? Would you be prepared to negotiate things like sharing custody, child support, division of assets?
    2. If you experience an unplanned pregnancy, are you aware of all the options for your child? Do you know about the Safe Haven Law? How much do you know about adoption? Can you parent/financially support another child?
    3. If you experience domestic abuse, are you aware of resources to help you and your child find safety? What would your escape plan look like?
    4. Do you have a WILL or LAST WISHES statement drawn up for the care of your child should something happen to you?
  4. In the “Health” section, answer the following questions:
    1. If you became ill, do you have insurance and/or disability benefits to support you until you got better?
    2. If you became ill, do you have back up plans for the care of your child(ren)?
    3. Are there healthy practices you need to implement to stay healthy? Are there unhealthy habits you need to break?
  5. In the “Financial” section, answer the following questions:
    1. If you lost your job, do you have a resume ready so you can start applying for new jobs?
    2. Do you know what your minimum pay needs to be to cover all your bills? What expenses could you cut?
    3. Do you have a savings account you could draw from if you had to miss work due to a sick child, etc?

EXAMPLE

An example of Curveball Planning:

Relationships/Family

  1. If my boyfriend and I broke up, I would want my child to spend the week with me and the weekends with my partner. I would definitely need help with child support but I know he would be unreliable so I would have to be able to survive without it. We would probably have to split everything in the house since we purchased it together so I would have to be prepared to purchase some household items. I know my boyfriend’s name is on the lease so if we broke up I would have to live with my parents until I found a new place.
  2. If I got pregnant again, I know I couldn’t afford another child. I don’t know much about the Safe Haven Law so I want to spend some time researching it. I have thought about adoption, but I don’t know much about it. I will contact a local adoption agency so I have a better understanding of what that looks like.
  3. My friend had to get away from her husband because he was violent. She told me about Peaceful Pastures. I will get some information from them to have in case my boyfriend ever becomes too aggressive.
  4. I don’t have a WILL. I need to contact a lawyer to help me draw one up. I know I want my child to live with my mom and step-dad, definitely not my dad and step-mom.

Health

  1. I have insurance through so I would have a lot of help with my medical bills should I become ill. I don’t have disability insurance. I will ask my employer if they offer that and how much it costs. I have heard it is affordable.
  2. If I became really ill, I know my mom and step-dad could help care for my child. I know that Nancy, my next door neighbor would be willing to take my child to and from school each day.
  3. I take vitamins every day and work out so I feel like I am preventing a lot of health complications with those habits. However, I know I need to quite smoking because I have seen the damage it can cause. I also plan to stay away from people at work who drink so I can continue my sobriety and not be tempted to fall into my old ways.

Financial

  1. My resume is old and outdated. I will update my resume this week and will update it every 3-months so I am prepared if I should ever lose my current job.
  2. I know my monthly budget, thanks to my accounting friend. To keep up my current lifestyle, I need to make a minimum of $19/hr ($40,000/year). However, I know there are some places I could cut my budget. I could cancel cable, I could lower my cell phone bill by choosing a lower plan, I could stop eating out, and I could carpool to work to save money on gas. If I made these cuts, I could survive on $14/hr ($30,000/year). I couldn’t accept a ob that paid any less than that.
  3. I just started putting money away in my savings account. I have some sick time at work but if that ran out, I could afford to take 4 days of unpaid time off. I really need to get more money in my savings account in case I need to take more days of unpaid time off in case my child is ill or I have any other type of major life event.

WRAPPING UP

You have done A LOT of great work creating a Life Plan. Be sure to keep this plan “ALIVE” by keeping it updated and by holding yourself ACCOUNTABLE to it. This is a life you desire; a good, SUCCESSFUL life. It is achievable if you WORK hard and visit this plan OFTEN to keep it fresh in your mind.

Don’t allow yourself to get distracted by TEMPORARY things. This is a MARATHON, not a sprint. Taking this Life Plan from DESIGN to DESTINATION is a long journey. Don’t get discouraged; remember to CELEBRATE the small victories along the way.

You can do this!

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