Over the course of my life, I have worked with a lot of planners. As a corporate executive, I worked with strategic planners. As a speaker, I work with event planners. And, as the father of five daughters, I’ve worked with my share of wedding planners.
But I have met very few life planners—people who have a written plan for their lives.
Instead, most are passive spectators, watching their lives unfold a day at a time. They may plan their careers, the building of a new home, or even a vacation. But it never occurs to them to plan their life.
As a result, when they get into their 40s, 50s, and 60s, many of them are left wondering what went wrong. Perhaps:
- Their health is failing;
- Their marriage is broken; or
- Their career is stalled.
Maybe their relationship with God seems distant and unfulfilling.
They have become a victim of the drift.
Years ago, Gail and I went to Maui to celebrate our anniversary. On the second day, we took snorkeling lessons. We started in the swimming pool, then progressed to the coral reef next to our hotel. We loved it. It was like swimming in a huge aquarium.
Later that same day, we rented some snorkeling gear and determined that we would venture out on our own. We had discovered a new sport that we could do together.
The next morning we ventured down to the beach. There wasn’t another soul around. It was like a scene from Blue Lagoon—pristine, tranquil, and stunning. We couldn’t wait to get into the water.
As we paddled about in the lagoon, facing down in the water, we were mesmerized by the aquatic life teeming just a few feet below us. We saw brightly colored fish, gently swaying plants, and, of course, the coral reef itself—alive with activity. It was truly a wow experience.
At some point, I decided to lift my head out of the water and look around. I gasped. Caught in a riptide, we had drifted more than a mile out to sea. The shoreline looked impossibly far away. Our hotel—all the hotels—looked like toys in the distance.
I immediately shouted to Gail who, fortunately, was still just a few feet from me. She looked up, saw our predicament, and then looked at me in near-panic. “Oh my gosh. What are we going to do?”
Fortunately, we had a “boogie board” with us, on which we could place shells and other items we hoped to find on the ocean floor. We both grabbed on to it and started paddling for our lives—literally.
We swam for more than an hour. Eventually, as we neared the shore, we stood up in the shallow water. We trudged up to the beach and collapsed in the sand. We were utterly exhausted.
We realized just how close we had come to disaster. This was not the outcome we had intended when we innocently slipped into the water that morning.
Many people experience this with their life. They look up and find themselves far away from where they thought they would be at this point in their lives.
You can avoid the drift, by following these three steps:
- Become aware of your current location. Wake up. Where are you in relation to where you know you should be? Don’t beat yourself up. Simply acknowledge your current reality. You can’t go somewhere else until you acknowledge where you are right now.
- Decide where you want to go. The essence of life planning is envisioning a better future. Let yourself dream. What kind of health do you want to possess? What kind of marriage do you want to enjoy? What kind of career do you want to have? Why settle for drifting to a boring—or even dangerous—situation.
- Start working toward your destination. Once you have acknowledged where you are and decided where you want to be, you can begin paddling in the direction of your goals. Yes, it will take work. But, when you have a plan, everyday becomes an opportunity to move toward your destination.
You may feel that you’ve drifted too far off course to get back. This is simply not true. It’s never to late. You can harness the power of incremental change over time and get back on track faster than you think.