The Benefits of Life Planning
Updated: Apr 11
Last fall I sat in a conference where several presenters (a little advanced in years) kept talking about the benefits of understanding their own life mission, their values, and intentional investment in their leadership. It was a series of messages reminiscent of Rod Stewart's Ooh La La song, "I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger." You know what they say, "hindsight is 20/20." As seasoned leaders, these men were challenging everyone in the room to be intentional about their lives as leaders. Especially in ministry.
So what's the big deal about knowing your own life mission? Or planning out your life?
We've all heard the quotes or read the books about intentional leadership. One of my favorites is:
"People do not wander around and then find themselves at the top of Mount Everest." - Zig Zigler
Nothing happens by accident. We have to be intentional as leaders to pursue the future to which God has called us. So why is the idea of life planning and leadership development not taken more seriously?
Life planning is a crucial aspect of achieving our goals and fulfilling our purpose in life. It involves seeking God's will and intentionally investing in our leadership development. As John Maxwell says, "Everything rises and falls on leadership." By aligning our lives with God's purpose and developing the skills and qualities of a strong leader, we can have a positive impact on the world around us and leave a lasting legacy.
What is Life Planning?
Life planning involves setting goals and creating a roadmap to achieve them. It's about identifying our purpose, values, and priorities and aligning our lives with them. Life planning is not just about achieving material success, but about living a fulfilling life that brings joy and meaning.
Leadership experts have emphasized the importance of life planning in achieving success. Tony Robbins says, "Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible." Stephen Covey emphasizes the importance of starting with the end in mind and creating a personal mission statement. He says, "The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule but to schedule your priorities."
There are lots of ways to go about it.
Often, we get caught up in the trap of making ridiculous declarations full of goals that we really have no control over. When life planning, we do well to remember the difference between lead measures and lag measures. Too often we focus on the results (lag measures) rather than the behaviors (lead measures) that affect the results.
For example, it's one thing to say "I want to lose 30 pounds this year." That's great! However, you can't really affect that goal. What you can control is your diet and the amount of time you exercise. Rather than saying, "I want to lose 30 pounds this year," we would be better served to set a goal like "I will work out for 30 minutes four days a week." This is a discipline that we can affect that will eventually lead to losing weight.
So intentional life planning is the process by which we dream, set intentional goals that change our behaviors as leaders, that will eventually lead us to the lives we envision.
A Biblical Approach to Life Planning
As Christians, we believe that God has a unique plan and purpose for each of our lives. We are called to seek His will and align our lives with His purpose. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 16:3, "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans."
Along with that, it's good to keep in mind what is said just a few verses later, "In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps." - Proverbs 16:9. We don't have a clue where God will lead us, but that shouldn't keep us from dreaming and planning. God is sovereign, so every dream we articulate, we articulate it in faith. Every plan we lay, we commit that to the Lord. And we trust that He will make our paths straight. We dream with open hands with seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness.
To discover God's will for our lives, we need to spend time in prayer, meditate on His word, and seek wise counsel from trusted mentors. It's important to surrender our plans and desires to God and trust that He will guide us in the right direction. As we seek His will, we can be confident that He will establish our plans and bring them to fruition.
God's Will for Your Life
This isn't rocket surgery. We exist for the Father's glory. When tested by a man of the law, Jesus sums up the entire Old Testament by saying we should simply, love God and love people. Bringing glory and honor to God for who He is and what He has done is our foremost responsibility in life. The second is like it, it echos the promise to Abraham in Genesis 12, we are blessed to be a blessing to the nations. To love our neighbors as we love ourselves. This is God's will.
We could go to several places in scripture as Paul and others lay this out. Paul tells the us in Romans 12:2 that we should be transformed by the renewing of our minds, then we'll know God's will. Paul was called to be an apostle "by the will of God," Ephesians 1:1. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3 Paul tells us "it is God's will that you should be sanctified..." Later in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 he admonishes us to "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." In 1 Peter 2:15, Peter tells us that it's "God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people."
Seeking God's will for our lives is nothing new (Exodus 18:15). Since the beginning of time, we were created to be in relationship with God. Surely there can be no greater purpose for our lives.
But the question remains... "what is God's will for my life?"
For some of us, God pretty much speaks audibly calling us into this ministry or that opportunity. Like Paul getting knocked off his horse in Acts 9, there can be no mistaking the call God gives you.
For the rest of us, we're left to the good work of discerning his unique call on our lives. God's will for our lives is like a treasure map. Just like a treasure map guides us to the hidden treasure, seeking God's will guides us to our purpose and fulfillment. It's important to have faith and trust in God's plan, even when we don't understand it.
In Psalm 37:4, it says, "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." When we delight in the Lord and seek His will, our desires align with His purpose, and He grants them.
But knowing God's will and living it out is very different. As leaders, whether in ministry or in the marketplace, God's call in our lives remains. We have to take the time necessary to discern his will and develop our leadership around it. Yet few of us take time to actually do that.
Intentionally Investing Time and Resources in Developing Your Leadership
Leadership development is like planting a tree. Just like a tree grows and bears fruit over time, leadership development requires intentional investment of time and resources to bear fruit. It's important to plant the seed of leadership and nurture it to grow and flourish.
One way to invest in our leadership development is to read books, attend seminars and workshops, and seek mentorship from experienced leaders. Some of the discernment is to simply try stuff. We can take on leadership roles and responsibilities in our organizations or volunteer in our communities and see where our hearts are lifted. But it takes time.
Another essential aspect of leadership development is self-awareness. We need to identify our strengths and weaknesses, our values and beliefs, and our leadership style. All of which are a gift from God! By understanding ourselves better, we can become more effective leaders and align our leadership with our purpose and values.
Often times, life design processes will move straight from investigation to implementation. Basically, we take an assessment, read about how great we are and learn our blind spots, then we hit the road. We never really take time to sit in the knowledge and interpret that discovery through our story and experiences.
We need to slow down, take time, and invest in our lives in such a way that we will be forever changed by what we discover. But again, it takes time and resources to invest in this kind of self-discovery and leadership development. Every single aspect of this is critical when beginning to draft a Life Plan. We can't know where we're headed unless we get a firm understanding around where we're at. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Life planning involves seeking God's will and intentionally investing in our leadership development. By aligning our lives with God's purpose and developing the skills and qualities of a strong leader, we can achieve our goals and fulfill our purpose in life. Life planning is a journey, and leadership development is like a path. As we walk on the path, we need to trust the journey and enjoy the scenery along the way. Let's plant the seed of leadership, seek God's will, and leave a lasting legacy that bears fruit for generations to come.