If you don’t know what you want out of life, then it is quite hard to set out to get it.
The ultimate shortcut to your ideal life – getting to where you want to go in the shortest possible time – can only really be taken if you know where you want to get to in the first place. If you don’t know what your ideal life is, then this idea introduces you to a simple process to discover it and plan to achieve it.
In my experience many entrepreneurs have a long term plan for their business, but not many of them have a plan for life after their business. Some of them don’t even have a life, let alone plans for time spent outside of work. Is that you?
I am constantly amazed that so many entrepreneurs have not given these parts of their lives – the huge parts beyond work – any thought whatsoever. This is not ideal because with that single oversight entrepreneurs can become enslaved to the plans of their business at the expense of their quality of life. In many cases, the business consumes all their thoughts and energy, such that they lose sight of the fact that it is supposed to be a means to an end – enjoying life – rather than an end in itself.
Working slavishly year after year for a telephone number payout is not necessarily smart thinking, and neither is working to create a business for the sake of creating a business. Smart thinking, to me, is thinking deeply about what you would do with the riches you hope to get from your business and understanding what elements of that you can do TODAY without those riches. It can be quite surprising how much is actually achievable in the near future – even immediately – if you know what you want to achieve.
If your planning is all about business, then how are you going to create time for other things? How are you going to achieve all the things that you want to achieve? Should part of your planning not be about developing your business in a way that it fits into the bigger picture of your whole life? I believe that this is something worthy of serious consideration. The truth is, the people who spend the most time planning the big picture have the most chance of creating a balanced and successful life.
Planning your ideal life will keep your eyes open on the journey; so you can avoid going in completely the wrong direction. Discovering what your ideal life actually looks like should help you understand why you are doing what you are doing. When you know why you are in business, and what your business is for, then you find the ultimate shortcut to your ideal life is at your disposal. You can now plan your route in the most efficient way.
So, put your business plan to one side for a moment and try writing an ‘Ideal Life Plan’ instead. Applying this little technique can save you a lot of time and effort, which is why I call it it the ultimate shortcut to an ideal life.
So what exactly is an Ideal Life Plan?
To me an Ideal Life Plan is a simple map showing a way to realistically achieve your ideal life. A well thought out Ideal Life Plan can be applied to all your decisions. It can serve to guide you through all the challenges, frustrations and successes of business. An Ideal Life Plan focuses on your whole life, clearing your mind, maintaining your passions, ensuring your next day is as good as your last. In an Ideal Life Plan, sums of money are just numbers, just a means to an end. In themselves they mean nothing. It is what you do with money that counts.
The Ideal Life Plan helps you to balance success across all areas of your life. Success in business needn’t mean failure in relationships or failure in family life or failure anywhere. You do not need to sacrifice your entire life to business in order to achieve success. Unless you consider the whole of your life, the chances of success in all aspects of your life are much lower. If you make time to plan for success in all areas of your life then you bring in focus and attention, which are required to make success a reality. It is just too important to leave to chance.
An Ideal Life Plan should take time to create and it should be constantly revisited and updated. The Ideal Life Plan should guide your decisions about work, and help you to do work you love, and are happy to do. If you are doing what you enjoy doing, you might find you get through challenges more easily, and if problems are placed within the huge context of your life they are more likely to shrink to their real size. It’s partly just about getting perspective in the grand scheme of your ideal life.
Most of us do not live and work alone so if you have a business partner, husband, wife, children or significant other then it is important you try to involve them in this process as well. Find out how they view their own lives; see how they envisage their lives in the future. Your life is a journey shared with those around you, so it can be quite critical that you know each other’s dreams, hopes and plans ie. you ideally need to know where they think the journey is leading as well.
Their Ideal Life Plan may just surprise you. You may have some simple solutions that they have been searching for. Whether you have or not, and whether they surprise you or not, if you are plotting your journey through life you need to involve those that are on the journey with you.
5 Steps to building an Ideal Life Plan
1. Where are you now?
The first step is to work out exactly where you are to find out where you want to go. This helps you establish clearly where the big gaps are in your life and where you need to consider developing solutions to improve things. Start by looking at all the important areas in your life – relationships, finances, health, business etc and grade yourself out of ten on each one.
Ideally you want and need an honest appraisal of your current situation. You can’t really deceive the man in the mirror anyway; try not to waste any time and energy in deceiving yourself. Make sure you look yourself in the eye and take any bad scores on the chin. It is fair to say that very few people ever got anywhere by imagining they were already perfect and had life all sewn up. Think of it as a starting point, this “snapshot” of your life now.
I like to think that to live an ideal life every number you give yourself out of ten should be as high as humanly possible and that every number can be improved in some way. Improving numbers needn’t be difficult, cost money or be time-consuming. Some of this may just be about the simple act of raising awareness that you have a problem in an area and that your life is out of balance. If you can change and improve on that basis then great, get going. If you find that you need a greater drive or purpose behind what you are doing then you need to consider looking beyond your current horizon and working out what your ideal life actually looks like.
2. Where are you going?
More often than not it is best to start with the end rather than the beginning – that’s the whole point of an Ideal Life Plan. For this next step it helps to be bold and daring when you consider what your ideal life would be. First ask yourself: How would you want your relationships, finances, health and business to be in a perfect world? Dare to dream and really push yourself for perfection. It is really worth considering because even if you only get halfway there, you will still surely have achieved far more than you have achieved to date.
This is not the time to think about the “what ifs” and potential problems. Try Ignoring them for now and dream big. Consider looking beyond the artificial barriers that we create for ourselves. Avoid saying “I can’t do it because I don’t have the money,” or “I have a mortgage or the kids are at school.” Try visualising that you do have the money, you have paid the mortgage or that the kids have left home.
If you take a little look, many of the great things you are inadvertently holding yourself back from might actually be achievable, right now. It’s really eye-opening when you ask yourself; “when I have done this, what will I do next?” The shortcuts to the answers that you come up with are quite often right under your nose. All you have to do it is spend the time thinking about what they are.
For example, if money is your current goal then imagine you’ve got £10 million, or even a billion, in the bank. You have achieved the big goals you set yourself to achieve. You have acquired your status and your leisure time. Everything seems to be in its rightful place as life rolls freely along. So: What would you like to do next? Okay, get the spending spree over and now ask yourself seriously: What would you like to do? You are writing about your ideal life here, so you are allowed to put into it exactly what you want. This is about thinking far beyond today. Keep asking the question – what would you like to do? – until you get to the end; until you have described your ideal life.
The other way to look at this is to think about your 100th birthday party or your funeral if you don’t think you will live that long. I know it seems a long way off but think about the speech that reflects on your life. What would you want it to say about you and what you have done? What would you want it to say about how you have lived?
This is about changing your perspective on today; about understanding what is important to you today. It can change as your life changes, but keeping that speech in mind should yield good guidance. It should reveal what you should and should not be doing. “I got a telephone number payout back in 2020,” is not the stuff of a great centenary speech. A life well-lived may dwarf any deal that you are focussing on today. So write that speech. It could convey a raw sense of what is really important to you – and it could pleasantly surprise you.
What you may notice after doing the exercise is that you can reach for many of the achievements in your centenary speech today, and perhaps with little effort. Coming up with the Ideal Life Plan, fully explaining to yourself why you have chosen to live this life, can sometimes let you see that much of the life you want is already there, just waiting for you to choose it. Ask yourself: ‘What can I have today?’ There are likely to be some decisions that you could take this very day and/or some new behaviours to get you closer to the life you want?
When you do this exercise you may also notice how much of what you are currently doing adds nothing to where you want to get to. If this is the case then try asking yourself the simple question: If it is not helping you get to where you want to go, why on Earth do it? Why waste your life pursuing matters in which there is no purpose? Ask yourself: ‘What do I not need to do today?’ With your eye firmly set on the prize of the ideal life, there may be a lot of fast progress if you just free up time by abandoning needless tasks and insignificant goals.
It really is worth visiting that endpoint – that Ideal Life Plan – to see that sometimes people do things the wrong way round. They put off living, they miss opportunities, next thing the time has passed and it’s too late.
What barriers are there today which you haven’t yet looked beyond? Where are you really trying to get to? How much will knowing the answers change what you do today and tomorrow?
3. What will you use to get you there?
Your three greatest tools for achieving the personal success you desire are likely to be your experiences, your talents and your passions. If you are going to try and achieve great things, then my advice would be to start with these. They can be harnessed to help you create and shape the life you want and they may just hold the key to finding the ultimate shortcut to your ideal life.
Try thinking really carefully about what they are. Look beyond the obvious and get under the skin of each experience, talent and passion. In doing this you are making sure you understand what you have in your toolbox. The more in-depth your understanding of what you know, what you are good at and what inflames your passion, then the better you can use these tools to fulfill your Ideal Life Plan.
Firstly, think about your experience of life; from your earliest memory until now. It could be a colourful picture with its ups and downs. Think about the successes that you may have already had, what they taught you, and how to adapt that success to your current life. Think of the things you have observed in others, in friends and family, what they have taught you, what has served you well, and what wrong assumptions you once made in your innocent youth. Similarly, think of the things that may have gone wrong, and what you learnt from those occasions too. Patterns can emerge from this process. You may have learned how to handle some aspects of life rather well. The trick is to try and play the game of life to these strengths.
Secondly, look at identifying your talents. They can vary wildly from one person to another. You ideally need to identify what talents you have, and maybe the talents you used to have, and how they might be revived in order to help achieve your ideal life. So just ask yourself: “What am I good at?” “What was I good at?”
These are tools that could help you achieve your ideal life so it is worth exploring all avenues. When listing your talents try including everything and anything – be it delegating work, luring investors, pitching to a potential new client, designing a new concept, playing in a squash league, spending Saturday afternoon with your family, screaming at the referee during football matches, making your partner giggle at your transparent inadequacies, getting down to the intellectual level of your two year old, winging it on the phone when you have royally messed up, and on and on. These are all good things. If you can, leave nothing out and when you analyse your list, ask yourself, “Why do I like it?” Even better; “Why don’t I use it more?”
When undertaking this exercise, it can be just as important to identify what you are not good at and what you don’t like to do. Doing this will reinforce what you like. Likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, it’s yin and yang; they feed off each other and into each other. Recognising them can hold the key to working with them or avoiding them.
Thirdly, passion. For me, this is crucial. This can be the real driving force behind what you do. What are your passions? Flying? Beachcombing? Coaching the local football team? Whatever your passion, it’s always uplifting to try and get in touch with it.
In my view, clarifying your passions boils down to a few very simple questions, such as: Do I love each day? Do I love the people around me each day? Do I know my passions? Do I make decisions to help me live my passions fully? Do I have a clear direction or purpose?
The idea of articulating your passions is to get them to the forefront of your mind, so they guide you to a life which is enjoyable and fulfilling for you. In other words, these simple questions can serve both as a useful guide towards your end goals and as a more immediate guide about the steps to take to get there.
Your passions come into this in two ways. One, as your driver behind your success. Two, as a big part of your life, to make your life great. It can be inspiring to revisit your passions as often as possible – and by that I mean passions outside of work; loved ones, particular games, favourite music, hobbies, places. To me, these are what life should be all about, and if you can get a healthy quota of them then you may get the feeling that this is a fine life – a life well worth the effort of work.
And that is the second role your passion plays – in your work. It can be a great thing to relish your passions outside of work, but in your ideal scenario work may not be just about work. It could be that to make your work really enjoyable an element of passion is required too. You have to try to work out how you can achieve that.
In a nutshell, these three tools can be distilled down to: learning to do what you do best. You may already have the experience, talents and passion you need; tools for you to pick up and use to carve out your ideal life. It might just be only a matter of seeing them clearly, of examining them and thinking about how you might use these invaluable and highly individual assets, to help you get to where you want to go.
How will you use the tools that you already have to get you where you want to go? How can you play more to these strengths and inject more passion into your daily life?
4. How will you do it your own way?
We live in the electronic age and therefore, in very many scenarios, you can reasonably choose how you structure your business, whether you have staff, what your hours are, where your place of work is and even how you communicate with others. With that in mind, it might be worth considering how you would structure your business in an ideal world? There are many ways you can achieve the same result so the important thing to consider here is what is your ideal way to achieve your end result as it may significantly improve your chances of success over the long term.
The important thing is to plan to get to your ideal life your own way; the way that uses your strengths and avoids your weaknesses; the way that leverages your experiences, your talents and your passions. That way, chances are you will enjoy the journey so much more, as well as increasing the likelihood of arriving somewhere close to your ideal life. The more you compromise on getting there your own way, the harder your journey to your ideal life could be.
Firstly, try asking yourself if you had the choice, what would be your perfect business scenario? To work part-time or full-time? To work from home or an office? To work in your current location or travel around the world? Would you want to talk with customers or cook up developments in the backroom or nurture employees, or all of the above? Would you want to stay small and hands-on or grow into a huge company with trusted lieutenants? Would you want to do it all on a mobile phone whilst getting a massage on a beach in Thailand?
Now flip the coin. What is your worst nightmare scenario? To work until you are 65? To be saddled with routine day in, day out? Being forced to play “office politics”? To act as arbitrator with bickering employees? To be at the beck and call of all and sundry? As with skills in the previous section, listing the negative – what you don’t want, in this case – helps to clarify the positive: what you do want in your ideal work life.
This is the point where you bring together all the information about yourself and you try applying your entrepreneurial thinking. Be as creative as you can, use your imagination and compromise on your ideal life to the absolute minimum. If you now know what you are good at and you now know how you want to work, then use this as a guide to structuring your work and life in the way that suits.
Try thinking about what is the lowest cost, most time-efficient way of achieving your ideal life? For instance, a good income may be easier to achieve than a pot-of-gold sale price. If you shuffle things around and think creatively about what you want then a good income may be all you need.
If it helps, try applying some of my other ideas to help you get closer to your ideal life. In my experience there is more often than not a way to get most or all of what you want in a relatively short period of time; it all starts with a clear view of where you are going, followed by a bit of smart thinking. It might be about a series of changes but it all adds up to taking that ultimate shortcut. This simple planning process may just get you to your ideal life quicker than you previously thought possible.
I believe you can, and even should, have it all. It requires the use of your imagination and some smart thinking. Ask yourself how you can build your business in a way that delivers all this? As an entrepreneur you can consider yourself 100% in control. You work for yourself so, realistically, you have the choice to do what you want in the long term. Since that is the case, ask yourself why would you follow the same path as everyone else? Why can’t you make money doing what you want in the way that you want? If you expect nothing less, and actually believe it can be done, then your creative, entrepreneurial talents may just start to address this interesting problem for you.
5. Now start doing it…
Knowing exactly where you want to go is a big, personal discovery, as is knowing the route that you are going to take. Even if you can only do it step by step then you can still get to the ideal life you want, over time. The important thing is to start today and not let fear hold you back.
If fear is holding you back from just getting on with it then try thinking about it this way. Much of the fear of failure can be attributed to the pressure we can place on ourselves to get everything right. The reality is I have never met anyone who has got everything right. Many of the great achievers even attribute their success to the fact that they made some whopping mistakes along the way.
As Churchill said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” In other words, mistakes are great ‘look and learn’ experiences, not to be feared at all. I say revel in your mistakes. Be wrong and try to be grateful for being so. Consider laughing at yourself and perhaps think, ‘Okay, things have fairly gone south with bells and whistles. I won’t do that again!’
Try to strive on towards that ideal life without fear of failure. Expect mistakes and problems along the way, and perhaps even try to enjoy them at some level. Few things in the end matter as much as they seemed to at the time. Few actions and events have deep, irrevocable consequences. They are part of the journey; punctures, wrong turnings and gridlock – all temporary, small features in the big picture. There is real value in learning, adapting and then moving on from these moments.
Just in case you only get one life, it’s probably important to try to make the most of it without fear of failure. Try not to waste your life on the things you don’t want, or things you don’t need to do. Try not to let yourself be held back by the barriers that we create for ourselves.
I truly believe that you can start building that ideal life TODAY and that it may be a lot closer than you think. If you are doing things correctly your business plan and your Ideal Life Plan should mirror the same priorities. Consider letting it evolve and change, as you change through life. It’s your baby, your dreams, so I say dare yourself to go and get it right now. Enjoy it. Go for gold each day. Refer to to your plan often, to see how you might build your business in a way that delivers your perfect life.
Hopefully you can glimpse this wonderful shortcut already and you see how your Ideal Life Plan can help you. Hopefully you can achieve more of what you want to achieve today and less of what doesn’t really matter in the long run. Hopefully you can focus all of your time on getting the things you want and need out of life, using your strongest tools to get them – doing it your own way. Hopefully you get going today and find that ultimate shortcut to your ideal life.
If you are interested in working with me to go through this process and create an Ideal Life Plan then contact my lovely assistant firstname.lastname@example.org
If the above topic, or indeed any of my blogs are of interest to you, then contact me and let’s talk! Drop me an email at email@example.com.