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How To Make A Life Plan: First Steps


Updated May 15, 2014

Have you ever felt that you need to cut out some of the stress in your life, exercise more, or change your diet? Or make bigger changes like making a career shift or getting into (or out of) a relationship? Many people have things they'd like to change in their lives in the areas of stress relief and wellness, and wonder how to make a life plan. Here are simple and effective steps to take to take stock of your life and start on a new life plan.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: Varies

Here's How:

  1. Look At What's Not Working:
    When you're figuring out how to make a life plan, it helps to know what you want to change, and in what areas of your life. Here's where it helps to get out a journal and assess different areas of your life. This can be in list form, narrative form, created as a mind map, or in another format, but should cover the areas of life that are most important to you. For most people, that means job, family, wellness, finances, other areas of stress, and even home environment. Think about what your values are in life, and assess how those areas of life are currently working for you.
  2. Assess Your Values:
    When you're making a life plan, you should work around your values--what's important to you, and what you hope to maintain in your life. Do you value family, but find yourself spending too little time with your family because you're working overtime at a job you hate? Do you value fitness, but find yourself watching too much t.v. instead? Oftentimes, people include activities in their lives that have little value to them without realizing it. To be sure you're spending your time wisely, assess what you value the most in life, and be sure you include activities that fulfill those values.

  3. Look At The Future:
    As you make a life plan, it helps to plan not only months into the future, but years. Looking at your values and thinking about how you want the next few months, year, and 5 years to be (even up to 10 years!)and then working backwards can really clarify what next steps will bring you a payoff, and can help you decide where to put your time. For example, if you want to be working in a new field, maybe now is time to make connections and look for work experience that you can gain in your off-hours; you can take small steps to build up for a bigger change in the future.

  4. Plan Your Steps:
    Looking at where you'd like to be, and at where you are now, you can break down the path from "here" to "there" into small, manageable steps that you can more easily take. This way, you can more easily experience successes that can sustain your motivation, can look at where you may need to change your plan as you go, and can consistently put one step in front of the other and move yourself forward. (See this for more on setting goals.)

  5. Eliminate Road Blocks:
    As you plan steps forward, review your list of "what's not working" and think about what's holding you back from your goals, from experiencing less stress, from feeling that you're where you want to be. Then make some cuts. Cut out commitments, relationships, and other aspects of your life that drain you and that aren't absolutely necessary. Minimize what you can't cut out. Look at every "drain" as a trade-off--do you want these things in your life, or do you want to be able to take steps toward the things that are really important to you? When you see these tangible choices, changes are easier.

  6. Set Up Structures:
    Create systems in your life that will support your desired changes, so you don't have to supply all of your own momentum. If you want to start working out more often, join a gym, find a workout buddy, and make it part of your schedule. If you want to relive stress, commit to a regular stress relief practice and add it to your routine. If you want to spend more time with your spouse, start a regular date night. Setting up structures in your life helps you to follow through on those, "I should start..." plans in your head, and make them part of your reality.

  7. Get Ongoing Support:
    Asking for help from others to keep you on track, delegating tasks that are overloading you, even signing up for free newsletters (like this free stress management newsletter or joining Facebook groups (like the About Stress Management Facebook Page) are ways you can get ongoing support with changes you'd like to make and maintain in your life. Ask yourself what resources you need to make your plans stick, and do what you can to get those resources in your life.

What You Need

  • Motivation.
  • Willingness to review your current lifestyle.
  • Desire for change.

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