Life Navigation – Using a Rudder to Aim Your Life

Is there a way you could have a sense of greater focus and connectedness during this upcoming school year and beyond?  I think so.  In this post and the next post, I’m going to share two great resources that have helped simplify and focus my life.

In my work in education, I advocate the idea of every child developing career navigation skills – the skills that help a youth learn about, choose, manage and adapt in their career path.

Of course, I’ve had to navigate my own career too.  But more than just navigating a career, I’ve felt the increased need to get better at my Life Navigation Skills.

Last fall, I did some pretty intensive goal setting, and that has helped this year be very meaningful.  But I realized a few months into the year that I still wanted to have a bigger picture perspective so I could see how these short-term goals help contribute to my longer-term life success.  That’s when I discovered Living Forward  by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy.  Living Forward shares the process for creating and implementing a “Life Plan” so that all the important parts of my life are integrated.  This is not the notion of “life-balance” but “Life Integration.”

The word Integrity is related to integration.  We often think of integrity as meaning moral uprightness.  It also means “the state of being whole and undivided.”  That’s the kind of life I want – where the relationships, work responsibilities, and other interests and commitments aren’t constantly battling against one another, but are working together in harmony.

First, I listened to the book through Audible, then I got a hard copy of the book because I was so intrigued by it.  It took me a couple days of up-front work, but the process was well worth it.  In short, you spend time identifying the “accounts” (as in bank accounts) that matter in your life.  There is no right or wrong way to create accounts and the book suggests nine accounts that most people will want to have.  But you have to identify the accounts that are important to you.  I have 12 of them! Maybe that’s too many, but that’s what I came up with.  They are: spiritual connection to God, my wife Lisa, my kids and their spouses plus my grandchild, my work in education, physical health, financial, friendships, mentoring, other family members, service, travel, my home, and music.

That’s a lot, but it’s the reality of what my life – and the life I want to live – entails.  So I have two options – try to keep all the plates spinning at all times, and hope to avoid them crashing to the ground.  That creates a lot of stress.

Or – as I’m doing through the Life Plan, make long-term commitments across all the accounts, and then determine on a regular basis, what are the limited number of short-term goals and actions that I’m going to pursue.  I’m not actively spinning all the plates in every account every day, but for me, it really helps think about my total life, stretching over the next few decades.  Then I can proactively plan how I can maintain my focus on what’s really important at the moment.

Think about the Life Plan as a rudder.  A craft without a rudder just drifts.  A craft with a rudder goes where the pilot aims.

Of course, I can’t control external circumstance or other people.  But I am responsible for living my life in a way that is “whole and undivided.”  That’s why a tool like the Life Plan helps me stay on track.

As a busy leader, I know you are pulled in multiple directions all the time, and our hyper-connected world also offers endless distractions from what really matters.

Give it some serious thought.  Maybe it’s time for you to step back, envision who you want to be and what’s important to you, and create your own Life Plan.  Finishing it up in these last few weeks of summer would be a great way to launch into the next school year!

Stay tuned for my next post with the other great resource for creating better focus in your life!

Hans Meeder is President of NC3T, the National Center for College and Career Transitions (  NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance and tools to help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education.

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