Since we began teaching our Intentional Life Planning Workshops, we’ve learned so much from our participants. It’s been inspiring to hear what people who have life plans say about their value – here’s what 177 people told us.
However, we’ve also been interested to understand the perspective of the many people who are resistant to the idea of planning their lives. A survey done for us by DHM Research in 2017 showed that two-thirds of Americans do not have written plans for their lives. We think that’s low, and more likely about 90 percent of people don’t have written life plans.
Here are some reasons we’ve found for people resisting having Intentional Life Plans:
1. “My life is not a project, it’s a journey.”
Some people want to approach life as it happens—without a plan. That’s A-OK. We do want to be sure to leave life open to the magic, the challenges and the changes that can happen. That being said, time goes by fast, and you don’t want to be laying on your deathbed saying to yourself, “I wish I would had gone to Paris,” learned guitar or sung in a choir.
2. “I’m not sure I want to answer those questions. I don’t have answers for them.”
Some of the questions we ask people are difficult or downright scary to answer. We’ve had top CEOs absolutely terrified to look at some of these questions. My friend Kelly writes, “I realized the process might be sensitive for some people. Doing the life expectancy calculator might feel a little close to home.”
It can be hard and frightening to answer questions like, “What do you view as your purpose here on earth?” or “How do you want your obituary to read?” On page 47 of my book “Write, Open, Act: An Intentional Life Planning Workbook,” there are tips for getting at some of the answers—for instance, starting a meditation practice or journaling.
If you’ve not read Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet,” I highly recommend it. As he advised, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
One of our readers gave us some great input on the value of answering the tough questions in the book, writing, “This workbook is not going to solve your problems for you. It is a guide for YOU to do the work and find out what you want in life. I am excited to make my life plan and all of the hard questions that will challenge me in many ways. This is not a feel-good cozy self-help book. This process is for people who want to face the tough questions in life and live fully and intentionally.”
3. “I don’t want to do this process with my partner.”
There is value in doing your life planning either on your own or with a friend, spouse or partner.
For those of us who are introverts (yay, introverts!), you may need quiet or space to do your internal work. Mythologist, writer and lecturer Joseph Campbell encouraged us in his workshops to go into our caves and seek answers. “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek,” he said.
We’ve also heard from many people whose wives, husbands or partners just don’t want to participate. One male friend admitted his pre-workshop trepidation: ”I’m the guy! My life is working. I’ll only do it if it works.”
If you and/or your partner are resistant or skeptical, try examining that. Why are they resistant? Where is that coming from? See if your partner is open to discussing the issue. Some people need to be in a workshop setting to do this process with their partner or spouse. Inquire if that’s a possibility.
We encourage solo participants at our workshops who are in committed relationships to return home and share their Intentional Life Plan timelines with their partners. Don’t expect anything—your partner way not be interested or think the process is fine for you but something that’s just not for them. That’s OK. In some cases, we’ve had disinterested partners chime in on things they are interested in, or add Sticky Notes with their own ideas and plans.
This shouldn’t be a tug of war. If you’re in a relationship, there are two lives that need to be honored. If you want an Intentional Life Plan, create one. It’s your life. Make it happen!
4. “I don’t want to do this alone.”
For some people, doing this work alone is a barrier. Some friends recently told us about their friend who had a relationship end and was having a hard time looking ahead. There may be emotional blockages or personal trauma that are part of one’s resistance to life planning. Again, journaling might help, or consider engaging a therapist.
While Intentional Life Planning can be done alone, we do highly encourage finding a partner and doing this work together. Ask each other questions, go for walks, and discuss the avenues you are considering, the issues you may be facing or the help you need. Discuss your life goals, build your action plan and talk about first steps. It’s also fun to stay in touch with your friend after you’ve built your life plan to talk about how your plan is going, or to ‘high-five’ each other each time you’ve accomplished a life goal.
Tackling Your Life Plan
What else is causing your resistance to creating your Intentional Life Plan? Share your experiences and questions with our community on facebook.com/writeopenact.
If you’ve fallen off track with your plan, see page 104 for advice. Stay focused––relentlessly––on your life goals. It’s the big things that matter. Life is short, so live your life with intention and give it everything you’ve got!
“Write, Open, Act: An Intentional Life Planning Workbook”, a winner of a 2018 Living Now Book Award for the year’s best world-changing books, is available on Amazon and at writeopenact.com. It’s also now on Kindle, iBooks and Kobo.