Your 10 Year Plan for a Remarkable Life

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

People tend to overestimate what they can get done in a day.

Have you ever seen the naively optimistic person who makes their first to do list and it has about fifteen items on it? (or have you ever been that person?)

As much as we overestimate what we can do in a day, we tend to underestimate what we can accomplish over longer periods of time.

A month.

A year.

A decade.

The fact that the future is always uncertain and that we are bad at forecasting what we can accomplish leads to a devastating near nearsightedness on our part.

For the longest time I never had any specific long-term plans. I had plenty of vague ones, become successful, make a lot of money, all the standard stuff. The problem is that without an honest, specific direction as to what you want to accomplish you will tend to drift aimlessly, which is what I did for most of my 20’s.

If you want to really succeed in life, the first step is being really honest with yourself about what you want and writing it down.

The writing it down part is incredibly important. If you just think about it in your head there is no physical document that can hold you accountable. You can just keep coasting by with the same level of inaction that you’ve always had. When it’s written down you can no longer hide from the fact that the only thing you can do to make it happen is to start working towards it.

Creating a 10 Year Plan for a Remarkable Life

On January 25, 2017, my wife and I drew up our 10 Year Plan For a Remarkable Life. We went out on a date to Outback Steakhouse and I brought a Moleskine pocket notebook and a pen. During the time we spent waiting for a table/our food (and for some time after we finished dinner), I asked her questions that I had written down about how we wanted life to look in ten years. Where we would be living. What we would be making. What a typical day would look like from beginning to end.

The disclaimer at the beginning is that we weren’t answering what we thought life might look like in ten years, its what we would want it to look like if we knew we couldn’t fail at creating the life we really want. What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? That’s the question that undergirds all the other questions.

Here are the questions that we asked, transcribed straight out of the moleskine I had with me that night (the questions originally come from Debbie Millman who shared them on this podcast. She learned the exercise from her mentor):

  • On this date in (10 years from current year), what does your life look like?
  • What are you doing?
  • Where are you living?
  • Who are you living with?
  • Do you have pets?
  • What kind of house are you living in?
  • What kind of clothes do you wear?
  • What is your home like?
  • Your furniture?
  • Your bed?
  • What is your career like?
  • What are you reading?
  • What are you making?
  • What excites you?
  • What is your health Like?
  • On this date 10 years from now, what does one day look like from waking up to bedtime?

You can obviously add questions or get more detailed as needed. These questions are just inspiration to guide you into dreaming about your future. They are trying to tease out your deepest desires and hidden expectations.

If you aren’t married, you can grab a notebook and start doing some introspection. If you are married or in a serious relationship, you definitely want to include your partner in this.

Using the 10 Year Plan for a Remarkable Life

Once you’ve created your plan, the first step that I recommend is organizing the answers and writing them out long-form in a notebook.

I have mine written out in my Bullet Journal. Every time I need a new Bullet Journal, I’m going to take the time to re-write the whole thing into the front of the new journal.

You can type it up if you want and put it in Evernote or Google Docs, but in my opinion there’s a level of concentration that writing something out by hand adds to the equation. Plus in this instance, it’s actually a good thing to re-write the whole thing every year as it helps reinforce it in your mind.

Beyond writing it out, you need to make sure you come up with a schedule to review it. This could be as infrequent as twice a year or as often as every day.

If you select a time that’s too infrequent to remember, set a calendar reminder to remind you do do it.

Read the whole thing, out loud, with your spouse (if applicable).

Putting the 10 Year Plan into Action

I really think that even the act of thinking through what you really want and writing it down is beneficial by itself, even if you don’t consciously do anything with it.

Of course, it’s going to work out much better if you take conscious action in making it a reality.

Where you need to start is by identifying the initial steps that will get you to where you’ve just said you wanted to go. Usually big finishes have humble beginnings.

For me, I started to see some results almost immediately. I had never been on a diet before and was starting to slowly put on the additional pounds year after year, you might know the feeling.

When I was answering the question about my health I realized that I would be almost 40 in ten years and would probably need to be eating better by that time.

So I said that I wanted my diet to be healthier, with more home cooked meals, raw vegetables, and salads. Not long afterward I started reading The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss and read about the slow-carb diet. It sounded doable, and since it was in the back of my head that I had committed to start eating healthier, I took the plunge and started the first diet of my life.

I’m still on the diet and loving it. I’ve lost 30 pounds since my peak weight, and it’s all been fat. I weigh roughly the same as I did in college but with a smaller waist and more muscle definition in my chest and arms.

This is part of the power of the 10 year plan, it causes you to see area’s where you have the opportunity to make a positive change and encourages you to go for it. I had realized that if I wanted to be healthy at 40 (which I do), that I needed to get started well ahead of time.

Look at the things that will take a long time to get done and figure out how to get started.

My 10 Year Plan

It might be useful for me to share some of my plan with you so that you can see some of the things my wife and I thought about. Sometimes examples provide useful direction and inspiration.

One of the things that my wife and I wrote down is that we want a screened in back porch. Right now, we have a lot of fun playing in our back yard with the kids, but there are certain times of the year where it is just unpleasant to be outside. Between the heat and the bugs, we could use a screened in porch.

One interesting thing than came from that was that my wife made a point of pointing out that she wanted decorative lighting. If we hadn’t done this exercise, I wouldn’t have thought of that and I wouldn’t have known that about her. Now I know, my wife wants decorative lighting.

Here’s another one that came out about our home that was interesting: we both want a set up for our T.V. where the T.V. can stay out of sight when not in use. We want a set up where the T.V. is not the center of the room, with everything oriented towards it like some kind of shrine. We want television to play a reduced role in our lives. We still want a T.V. and to have time when we stream movies as a family (another part of our plan is we want to switch our physical media out for digital streaming media), but we like the idea that our families time is more characterized by books than television.

One ambitious goal that we came up with is one of three vacations a year. We both anticipate that our lives will be good and not something that we need to escape from, but we think we will still enjoy vacation! The idea is to have at least one vacation just for Sarah and myself, a husband and wife get away. We’ll have another one for just us and the kids, and then a third that will include extended family (We even listed out the particular destinations of each of these vacations for 2027).

Your 10 Year Plan

You might want different things than I do. That’s perfectly fine.

What’s important is that you really come to terms with what you actually want and start pursuing it.

I urge you to do this as soon as you possibly can. Grab a notebook and a pen, sit down (with your spouse if you are married), and start answering the questions. You don’t need to answer them in order and you don’t need to finish one question before moving on to the next. Give your imagination room to roam. You can consolidate your notes later, the important part at first is making sure that everything gets written down.

Once it’s written up in a way that you are happy with, set some time aside periodically to review it. How often you review it is up to you, but I would suggest at least once a quarter.

It’s up to you whether or not you tell anyone. Sometimes telling people can be helpful since it gives people the opportunity to encourage you and provides a soft level of accountability. Sometimes it can backfire and threaten to sink your progress if they are critical. If you do plan to share it with others, prepare yourself for the snarky reactions and be grateful for the supportive ones.

You can change your plan at any time. The plan is there to serve you, not the other way around. Having a written plan however means that any changes are going to have to be intentional. Plans that stay in your head can be cancelled passively due to laziness.

The most important thing about your plan is that you have one. Having a plan like this drives you to action. I’ve already seen it happen in my own life. If you want to stop drifting in life, this is the single biggest step you can take at this exact moment.

In ten years I’m going to have a post that describes how my life is different thanks to my ten year plan for a remarkable life. I hope you will too.

Here’s to your remarkable life!