How To Create a Life Plan and Control Your Destiny

Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.

Having a plan makes everything easier, from budgeting to moving to managing a project at work. The sage wisdom also applies to life.

If you want a happy life, you need a life plan.

What’s a Life Plan?

A life plan keeps us on track to accomplish our goals. It gives us something to constantly strive for, a reason to keep going.

It helps us outline our next steps and live a life true to our own desires.

Why Do I Need a Life Plan?

Achievement is an essential ingredient to happiness. Stagnation breeds discontent. We’re not supposed to live in perfect comfort but to seek constant improvement and growth.

A life plan helps us keep our eyes focused toward that growth. It gives us something to work for, and the sense of accomplishment when we check giant goals off the list gives us even more fire to keep going.

These achievements make life. A plan ensures you constantly have one to work toward.

 Here’s how to make yours.

Determine Your Vision

The first step to any life plan is to know what you want.

Remember, it’s not what your parents, teachers, or society want – it’s what YOU want.

It’s your life. You must live it true to yourself.

The soul-searching to understand what you desire takes time, and that’s okay. You don’t have to come up with your entire life plan overnight.

Start with the next year or so. Dabble in new things. Talk to people. Take a journey of self-discovery.

When you’re done, you’ll have a generalized vision of your life plan.

Embrace Realism

When you’re developing your life plan, you must be realistic. Despite the propaganda, we can’t do anything and everything.

Most of us won’t be rock stars, athletes, or astronauts.

That’s okay. 

But there are other things you can do that align with your passions. Maybe you can’t be a rockstar, but perhaps you can teach a high school band class or take a side gig performing at a local pub. Design your life around your love of music, and you’ll find a path that works for you.


The harshest truth about life is you can’t have it all.

You can’t be a stay-at-home parent while enjoying a prestigious career. If you weren’t born with a silver spoon, you probably can’t live in a mansion while working part-time and traveling around the world while raising kids.

Our time is precious and limited, so we must decide what’s most important.

You may decide parenthood is the most important thing to you, which means you may have to sacrifice your career and potential earnings to be the best parent you can be. But you may decide you want to be the best in your field and realize that having children may hinder that goal.

There’s no right or wrong answer, but you must decide what matters before you get trapped in a life you never wanted.

Make an Action Plan

Now that you’ve prioritized what you want, it’s time to make your plan!

You must outline the steps you must take to achieve your goals.

For example, if you want to be a lawyer, you must complete an undergrad program, attend Law School, pass the bar exam, score an internship, and find a practice.

Determine your path and define an estimated timeline for each significant milestone.

Break it Down

The action plan showcases the giant leaps you must take on your journey, but some items may seem out of reach. These massive goals create mental barriers to accomplishment – they seem too big and overwhelming to achieve.

It’s time to break those massive ideas into smaller, achievable goals.

Start with the first step. In our lawyer example, you need an undergrad degree. Focus on that.

Break down everything you need to do to get that degree, including the field of study, choice of schools, application deadlines and requirements, and how you will fund your education.

Set SMART Goals

A SMART goal is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based.

Now that you know all the steps you must take to achieve this goal, set SMART goals to help you achieve each one.

You will want to set SMART goals for each of the small steps you broke down. For example, your SMART goal for determining your field of study may be “Research the top 3 undergrad degrees with the best law school admission rates in the next two weeks. Decide on a field by X date.”

This goal meets all the SMART criteria, as it’s specific (you’re researching based on data), measurable (three), achievable (anyone can do this type of research on a computer), relevant (the research will help you decide what to study in undergrad) and time-based (you have two weeks and an ultimate completion date).

Track Your Progress

A life plan isn’t something you create once and then forget. You must constantly check in to see how you’re doing.

Have a quarterly check-in with yourself. Reflect on what you’ve achieved or what you could have done better. Learn from your mistakes. Rework things that no longer fit in with your ultimate goal.

These progress check-ins are essential to ensure you stay on track.

Allow for Setbacks

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go astray.  

Life throws curveballs. Things pop up that push us off our path. We can’t let these setbacks deter us. 

It’s tempting to give up when faced with challenges, but the beauty of a life plan is that it forces you to adapt and overcome.

You know what you want and can achieve it regardless of the obstacles thrown in your way. Victory will be even sweeter when you reflect on how much you’ve accomplished despite the adversity.

A graphic showing three life plan lines. The first is a straight lline, the second has a few ups and downs, and the third, which represents reality, has loops, squiggles, and setbacks.
Image credit: WhiteDragon via

But you must accept that fate oft has other plans if you want to create a successful life plan. Don’t let the stress of failure or a minor setback prevent you from achieving your dreams. Write contingencies into your plan to account for possible setbacks, but also maintain the understanding that anything could happen.

The more you prepare for these curveballs, the better you’ll handle them.

Adjust and Refocus

Think back to when you were 18 years old. What did you want to do with your life?

Do you want the same thing now?

The tricky thing about life is that our plans change as we learn and grow. You may have wanted to be a lawyer when you were 18, but by the time you finished college, you realized you hated law and would rather work in academia.

That’s okay. You don’t have to stick to a life plan that no longer serves you. You can change your plans to match your new dreams.

A life plan is a guide, and you’re the writer. You get to make the ultimate decision about where to go and how. 

Adjust your plan to suit your life; don’t adjust your life to suit the plan.

Make a New Plan

Life plans are popular with kids heading to college and designing their careers. They stop planning once they achieve their goal.

That’s a mistake.

Life doesn’t end when you start your career; it’s just beginning! Make a new plan to guide your next five to ten years. Adjust it when you learn new things, and make a whole new plan whenever you decide you are on the wrong path.

Get Help

Sometimes, the options are overwhelming, and you don’t know what you should do with your life.

You don’t need to find the answer alone.

Find a mentor in a career you’re interested in to get an inside look at their day-to-day work. Ask people you trust to give honest opinions about your strengths and weaknesses.

If these options don’t work, hire a life coach—a trusted professional who can help guide you toward your path. A life coach can help you create your plan and make adjustments whenever life throws you curve balls.

Your Best Life Awaits When You Have a Plan

You won’t stick to your life plan. As you learn more about yourself and your place in the world, your plan will change, and you’ll adapt.

Despite the changes, making a plan is crucial to a happy life. It will keep you focused on your goals and motivated to succeed. It will also give you something to strive for and a sense of accomplishment upon achievement.

A life plan also helps because it provides clarity when you need to change course. When something isn’t working, you can change your plan, but it’s easier to spot the problems when you have everything laid out.

If you want to live your best life, you need to make a plan.