2024 has been officially declared as the year of strategic planning and growth by the good people of Develop Your A-Game. But planning is not just about making to-do lists. It is about having a holistic approach to crafting your life design which builds a strong foundation for a happy and successful life. “To fail to plan is to plan to fail,” an age-old wisdom that shows the significance of having a map for your journey, avoiding both getting lost and feeling stuck in place.

It is certainly a good thing to plan, but being over-prescriptive can also have its downsides impeding creativity and spontaneity. On the other hand, just going with the flow too often can leave us feeling lost and without direction. The key is to find a balance! Think of it like making clay into a sculpture. We give it shape with purpose, but if we squeeze too hard, it breaks. Life is the same – plan with a guiding hand, but leave room for surprises and adventures!

As we begin to plan for the year, we can begin by answering some important questions: This is a practical article to help you plan your year ahead so kindly grab a notepad or your planner and answer the questions below. It should take about 45 minutes to complete.

1. What does an ideal life look like to you?

There is a reason why we start with this question because overall one needs to have a visual map for the type of life you want to live. This question is effectively like a compass, pointing you toward a life that matches your aspirations, mission, values, and objectives. Imagine it in detail: how much money you want to earn, what type of career you envisage, your ideal state of fitness and health, what type of family unit you want to create, and all the new hobbies you have been thinking of trying out. Think of it as a bucket list of your life ambitions, which form the building blocks for the foundation for a meaningful journey.

Tip – Create a mind map or vision board of your ideal life. Paste it somewhere you can see it daily – https://slidesgo.com/theme/mind-maps.

2. What is my purpose, and am I living it?

A fulfilling life hinges on discovering and fulfilling your purpose. Ask yourself: what makes you feel truly alive? That is your “why,” the reason you get out of bed each morning. Next, you are to ascertain the ‘How’. Then you put the why and the how together. Aligning your daily actions with this inner calling infuses every day with meaning and purpose. We touched on finding your ikigai in an earlier edition of the newsletter. The meeting point is where your skills, passions, career goals, interests, and vocational interests all come together. How can you get closer to living out your purpose?  Try volunteering more this year, sign up for career internships, join some boards, or play a new team sport, there are many ways to shift closer to your purpose. 

Photo: Pixabay

3. What is my vision?

What is your mission and vision? Your vision defines the big picture of your life. Whilst your mission could be defined as what you want to be known for or associated with. You need to have goals and aspirations to support your vision. Break them down into smaller, achievable steps, per quarter and give yourself timelines. These will act like stepping stones on your path to that bigger vision. I advise that you do not set yourself up for failure by having too many goals that you cannot manage. 

Tip – In the words of Warren Buffet, practice the 5/25 rule. Write down 25 different goals then narrow them down to the top 5. These goals can be your main focus for the year. 

4. Where do I intend to be in five years?

Where do you see yourself in 2, 3, 4, or 5 years? This is a time to bridge the gap between present and future!  Imagine your future self, full of accomplishment and joy. What steps can you take today to pave the way for that future? Remember, every choice counts, so align your actions with your vision, purpose, and goals. Consider writing out what you want to do and where you want to be in five years. 

Tip – You can keep a short description in your notes app on your phone and share this goal with an accountability partner or Life Coach if you choose to. I recommend using Notion. These are some Habit Tracker recommendations are Habit trackerHabitShareWay of lifeStickK.

5. What am I doing daily to get me closer to my ideal life?

A question to ask yourself every day is: Am I taking steps towards my dream life? Are my choices leading me where I want to be? This helps you make sure you are moving in the right direction, not just staying stuck in place. 

A good tip for the year is to strengthen your decision-making skills. Making life choices can be a delicate process and though it often feels like there is a constant need for speed, it’s still considered wise and prudent to adopt a conscientious approach when it comes to making important life decisions. 

Tip – Find yourself a reliable accountability partner this month you can bounce things off with. Don’t forget to schedule periodic catch-ups in your diaries to have constructive conversations.

Photo: Unsplash

Life Design in Various Spheres:

Let us start with you: We have a mind, body, and spirit. Prioritising your well-being means taking care of all three aspects of you. Neglect one part and the others most likely tend to suffer.  It is important to adopt a holistic approach to wellness. Do things that nourish your mind, what’s on your reading list this year. Keep your body healthy by nourishing it and exercising, and don’t foster your spiritual growth. A well-designed life starts with a balanced and harmonious you.

Professional – Job and Career

Cultivating a satisfying career means aligning your skills and passions with your chosen path. When last did you update your resume or dust off that CV? 

Tip – Create/Update your profile on social media this year and you can even book a new headshot to reflect the image you want to put out. Appearance is certainly still important as many people are visually stimulated but it’s most important to be comfortable in yourself. 

Don’t forget to create a portfolio of all your major accomplishments and achievements. It’s easy to gloss over wins but keeping a record is a great way to remind yourself that you are on the right track and when you are pitching for work you can easily reference back to your portfolio.

Vocational – Giving Back to Community

Life is bigger than just ourselves! Contributing to your community is another vital part of life design. Whether through volunteering or advocacy, giving back adds purpose beyond your own pursuits, making the world a better place. Volunteering remains very underrated. Through volunteering, you can sharpen many transferable skills, – communication, analytical, negotiation skills, etc. It is also a great way to network with people outside of your usual group.

Tip – Join a volunteer group this year. It can be faith-based, work-based, or lifestyle-based.

Relationships – Family, Friends

Don’t forget the people who matter! Nurturing strong relationships with family and friends is key to a well-designed life. They’re your support system, adding depth and joy to your journey. Make time for those who make you laugh,  listen with open hearts, and celebrate your victories along the way. Why not invest more time this year in relationship building? 

Tip – Make time to have scheduled catch-ups with friends and loved ones over coffee or a drink or Zoom or frankly whatever suits you.

Interests and Passion

Don’t neglect your passions or try to mask them unless they are illegal or harmful of course and then I would say give that up immediately! Ensure you dedicate time to the things that make your soul sing. Whether it is music, sports, teaching, or anything that sparks your creativity, make time for your hobbies and interests. They add vibrancy and richness to your life, fueling your inner fire. I recall reading about the amazing Carla Harris, a top African American banker on Wall Street, and how she was able to secure a massive deal at her investment bank thanks to her passion for singing in church. Her personality outside the office gave her an edge.

Life design is an ongoing process, not a one-time project. Embrace the journey, make adjustments as you learn and grow, and always focus on what makes you happy and fulfilled. With intentionality as your brush, you can paint a year filled with meaningful accomplishments and personal fulfillment. Make this year your best one yet!