Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Creating a Life Handbook

My Life Handbook
A big part of my Be Authentic month is creating a Life Handbook. It sounds cheesy, I know, but hear me out first.

I got the idea of starting my own Life Handbook from Personal Excellence. The website is basically a self-help blog encouraging and helping readers to reach their potential.

On the site, Celes discusses a Life Handbook and how creating such a book can guide you along the way to living the best possible life.

“A life handbook is your guidebook to live your best life, consisting of everything from your life purpose, to life adages, to long-term goals, to short-term goals, to action plans to realize said goals. Just like the Bible reflects the doctrine and creed of Christianity, your life handbook reflects the essence of what it means to be you and what it takes to live your best life. Think of it as your GPS for life.”
A GPS for life. Amazing.

I was sold, so I decided that I should create one to help me Be Authentic.

Made up of goals, desires and action plans – my Life Handbook aims to guide me through the next few years of my life. The aim is to figure out who you are now, and where you want to be. But more than that, you can start planning out how to get to where you want to be through action plans.

It made me think of the Ghandi quote - "The future depends on what we do in the present."

By creating a Life Handbook now, I could help shape my future.

I have tweaked some of what Personal Excellence suggest for a Life Handbook to make it more – well, more me. And I’ve added in some of what the other texts on Be Authentic include too.

One of these is Mike Jaffe’s ‘Wake Up Your Life is Calling’ that I looked at when defining my values earlier this week. Rather than a Handbook, Mike calls his life planning a ‘Life Vision’. And he includes a list of helpful questions for when it comes to mapping out your Life Vision.
For example;
What’s important to you in your work?
What constitutes a wealthy life for you?
Who is important to you with regard to your family and your friends?

Through these questions, if you answer honestly like I did, you end up with a list of what’s important to you, and a vision for how you’d like your life to be. These questions helped to inform my 1, 3 and 5 year goals.

So combining all of this learning, I felt I could start making my own Life Handbook.

I have divided the sections of the book into the following:

Mission Statement
Personal Excellence define a mission statement as your life purpose, or vision for life. I envision it as one sharp, witty but well fitting sentence that sums up everything I stand for and strive for. Not asking for much is it? This is the hugest task involved in the Life Handbook. And considering this, I haven’t managed to come up with one that fits yet. Stay tuned for a post on my Mission Statement over the next few weeks.

As discussed in my last blog post, I’ve been finding values that I possess and that guide my everyday living.

My strengths are my personal assets – what I have going for me. And I don’t mean my youth and gorgeous looks. I found it difficult to differentiate from my values and skills, and brainstormed similar findings like diligence, empathy and passion. But when I started looking at specifics I thought about my college education, my years of relevant work experience in the area I want to work in, and my strong support network. Strengths aren't just personal skills, they are part of a much wider picture too.

Areas for Improvement
Nobody is perfect, but identifying the areas of your life that do need improvement informs your goals and action plans. I chose my lack of confidence and my difficulty socialising as two key areas that I’d like to improve. While it can be tempting to include things like, ‘I want to improve my attractiveness so I can find a husband’, areas for improvement should be achievable.

Year 1 Goals
Out of my three sections of goals, Year 1 was the easiest to fill in. I liked thinking about what I wanted to achieve this year, and how what I do in the next 12 months will impact on my future years too.

Year 3 Goals
How scary is it that I wrote down I want my own apartment in three years? My growing up suddenly feels so real! It’s easy to feel comfortable with where you are at present. But I have to face facts, and I we all have to move on eventually. I still struggle with seeing Year 3 as the not-so-distant future. But thinking about in terms of ‘when I am 26’ made it easier to plot out what I want to have done by then.

Year 5 Goals
Staying relatively blank so far this month, my Year 5 Goals section is a little under filled. While thinking about being 26 made my Year 3 Goals simpler, being 28 is a scary thought. I’m hoping that the rest of my self-improvement research over the next not only month, but year will allow this list to expand.

Some inspiring words fill out my quotes section. They not only inspire how I live my life, but feel appropriate to the entire Life Handbook concept. This is a section that I will always be added to. Take a look at two of my favourites below:

“It doesn’t do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” – JK Rowling

“I always begin with the last sentence; then I work my way backwards, through the plot, to where the story should begin.” – John Irving

(Okay I lied, these are actually the ONLY two I have included in my Life Handbook so far.)

Year 1 Action Plan
Breaking down the long term goals into shorter ones and developing action points for achieving them, establishing how I want to

Life Goals (section at back)
This section is more of a draft, but I thought it would be nice to record little things I’d like to do or achieve in my life time. Some of them are more long term and may not fit into the categories of a Year 1, 3 or 5 Goal. Things like, one day I’d like to get married. But there’s no way I’m setting a time frame on that just yet. Others are fun, and I must say, I was very tempted to steal Jen Ronan's life goal...

A Life Handbook is an extremely detailed plan for your life. So detailed in fact, that I’m not finished. Truth be told, we can never really finish our Life Handbook. The more we discover and learn, the more we add into the book. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

And I’ve actually found it very helpful to look at the bigger picture. As Meg Jar points out in ‘The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of them now’, twenty-year-olds aren’t great at planning for the future as we don’t have a fully developed frontal lobe yet; the part of the brain responsible for planning.

So developing this handbook and thinking about where I want to be in five years’ time makes me feel like a more organised and more ‘together’ person. As in, I think I finally know how to have my shit together.
However, I do worry about the impending disappointment if I don’t achieve my long term plans. But that’s just me; the cautious optimist.

Now I just need to figure out my Mission Statement and what one sentence I want to live my life by.

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