What to do when you’ve recognized you’re drifting
If you haven’t read the first post in this series, Stop Doing This One Thing Today, you owe it to yourself to start there. Then, come back and keep reading.
You and I are meant for great things.
I recently figured out what I’ve been doing with my life, and why I’m so frustrated. Maybe I should say I figured out what I’ve NOT been doing with my life and why I’m so frustrated.
The hardest part of the whole thing is that I know better.
I’ve done this.
I know how meaningless it is to be drifting through life.
Yet, here I am.
I planned to live an intentional life. (Yes, like one of those high-and-mighty success gurus.)
Literally. I literally planned it.
You see, several years ago I was working as the president of a bank, and in spite of all the apparent success I had attained, it just felt empty. I was proud of myself for having attained this all before age 40, but I knew this was not all I wanted out of life — or even my career. As I looked around, all of my peers were much later in their careers. Then it occurred to me. This is a terminal position — there’s nowhere else to go from here.
There had to be something more.
So, I decided to take time off work and devote one entire day to creating a life plan. Which is both more and less than it sounds.
More in that just two words seem insufficient to represent how impactful this document can be. If used correctly this document can set you on an intentional course for your entire life.
Less in that, well, it both is and isn’t a “plan”.
That sounds confusing but stick with me.
Imagine you wanted to have a great vacation to a faraway place. You could dream about all the great things you wanted to do on that vacation, you could write down what you wanted to say about it when you got back home, but unless you knew how to get to your destination, all that dreaming and visualizing wouldn’t get you there.
Having a destination is great. What I didn’t realize is that a destination — and even a plan for what to do when you get there — is nothing without a map.
Let’s start with the life plan.
The idea of a life plan is not mine, it came to me in the form of one of the most impactful books I’ve ever read — and the book I’ve gifted most to others. In their book, Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want (affiliate link) (non-affiliate link), authors Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy talk about how most people are drifting through life — a concept we’ve touched on and will get into more later — and that the way to correct this drift was to be more intentional about the way we live.
The key to this intentionality, they claimed was to create a life plan — a document that would help you set the direction for your life and ensure that you “Stop drifting and get the life you want” as the book’s subtitle states.
After reading the book, I was certainly motivated. I knew I needed a life plan.
Let’s take a side trip and I’ll tell you a little about where I was at this point in my life.
I was a married, father of two young girls (ages 10 and 4 at the time) who was just coming through a very tumultuous time in my life.
In early 2010, Nicole Akers and I left behind all that we had known in Indiana, where we were both born and raised, to Austin, Texas. Our daughter had just turned 4, she and I were in our early thirties and we were off on an adventure.
In late 2011, our second daughter was born. It was about that time that my company announced that in 2012 it would re-start its tuition reimbursement program — which would fully pay for me to get an MBA.
So, in August of 2012, I matriculated to Texas State University as a graduate student, taking up to three classes per semester with the goal of finishing in two years.
Which I did.
All the while, my responsibilities at work were increasing and I was promoted into a role where I traveled about 50% of the time. (Nevermind that I was promised no more than 30%.)
It was an exciting job. I loved it.
Unfortunately, my family was suffering and I was too busy to see it.
In mid-2014, just as I was finishing my MBA, my wife told me, in no uncertain terms, that I needed to be home more. Because, in her words: “[She was] tired of being a single parent.”
And, maybe worst of all, she said I was “unreliable”.
That part hurt. That’s when I realized how much stress my hectic work schedule put on my family, and how much Nicole had to do to make up for my absences.
So, I found the bank president job that would allow me to be home about 95% of the time. It was a good job. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that this was not where I wanted to be for the next 25 years.
It was time for a plan. A life plan.
I knew I needed some time alone, but I also knew how much my prior absences had stressed the family, so Nicole and I found a compromise. We took the family to Great Wolf Lodge where they could go play all day while I sat in the room writing and planning the direction of my life.
During the planning, I realized that I was in the wrong job. I hated what I was doing, and the life plan was really some encouragement to help me get clarity on life and set some things to which I could look forward.
I got the clarity that I really wanted to spend more time with my family — being a better husband to Nicole and a more attentive father to my girls. I also realized that something Nicole and I both wanted was to incorporate more travel into our lives. That was awesome! And it translated into two trips to Europe in three years — one of which was a three-month stay in Spain that almost saw our family permanently moving to the beautiful Spanish isle of Tenerife. (That’s still on the bucket list.)
I also realized that there were some other things I wanted to do and to be. I wanted to learn to play guitar. I wanted to mentor others.
This time of life planning helped me to have the clarity I needed to see my life from various aspects and to decide how I wanted each of those aspects to look at the end of my life.
The one downside to creating a life plan was that I checked it off the list. As in: Need a plan. Check. (Read: Done. Period. That’s all I need to do.)
So here, I’m looking up three or four years down the road and realizing what has happened. And it occurs to me that I did the equivalent of putting a pin in a destination on the map and jumping in the boat without ever taking the wheel or looking out over the bow.
Next time, we will get more into how easy it is to drift through life without even realizing it.
In the meantime, if this is impacting your life, please share how in the comments below. Or if you have a story about going through life with or without a plan, share that too.
You are meant for great things!
Other Pieces in this Series
Part 2: How to Stop Drifting and Start Succeeding (current post)