I’m in the middle of my life purpose/planning retreat. If I went home now it would have been worth it. And I have one more day left. When I posted about why to get away and work on a life plan, I promised to share more on what I do when I’m on a retreat. So let’s get practical and tactical.
It all starts with why. If you don’t know your “why” then spend all your time on that. Years ago, I worked with a life coach to create a life purpose statement and some core values. I read those statements all the time. It fires me up—I really care about those ideas. And it helps me say no—if an opportunity I have isn’t aligned with them then I won’t pursue it, no matter how cool it is.
I don’t just read the statement. I ask myself:
- How well did I live these out last year?
- What could I do next year that would make me at least one step closer to living them out fully?
After grounding myself in my why, I look at who. Before anything else gets planned, I evaluate my relationship with God and the state of my heart. And then I think about my marriage, then my kids, then family and friends. I ask questions like:
- What character quality does God want me to work on (there is almost always just one trait He’s calling me to work on)?
- What kind of man have I been when I’m all alone?
- How is my relationship with my wife? How can I love and serve her better?
- How is my relationship with each of my kids? How can I love and serve each better?
- What kind of friend have I been?
Finally, I work on what. I look at the professional options I have. I ask:
- What projects could I pursue?
- What would success look like?
- What do I want to do less of next year?
- What do I want to do more of next year?
When I’m done with all of this, I have a long list of ideas—way too long. There’s no way I can do everything there. (I’ve tried that a few times, never worked.) That’s okay. Phase one is listing out options, not making final decisions. Now it’s time to whittle down the list to the handful of things—sometimes only one for each area of my life—that I will actually do next year. Questions I use to help with that:
- If I could only get one thing done, what would it be? What’s most important?
- How much time and effort would each project take?
- What does God want me to focus on? (I ask Him and listen.)
- Who can I collaborate with on these ideas?
- What has time limits on it? (Example: choosing to delay showing up as a father could cause me to miss their childhood.)
- What most aligns with my life purpose and values?
Let me offer one last encouragement. Don’t wait until you have all this perfect to sit down and work on your life plan. What I’m describing is a process I’ve worked on every year since 2002. It didn’t always look like this. And your retreat doesn’t have to be this intense to be worth doing.
In fact, I think finding life purpose is like sculpture carving. Bit by bit, you go from raw rock to clear image. Tweet This I started off with a raw chunk of material, no idea what I wanted to do or why. One hammer strike at a time, I’ve knocked off a piece that doesn’t belong. Bit by bit, I get more clear on what I’m making. In the early days I just knocked off big pieces, trying to get to the general shape of a man. Finding arms and legs in the rough stone was a big challenge for a long time. These days I’m able to work on making the fingers clear. But that’s only possible because I started with the basics years ago.
You don’t have to be in the same spot on the journey as I am to have a productive retreat. It won’t be perfect the first time, or even the tenth time. But each time you work at it, your life will become more clear. Each time you’ll become a better version of yourself.