How to Live a Better Life

My resolution for 2018 is to live a better life.

Bam. Nailed it.

But also, how do I do that?

Well for one, try adding bourbon to your normal routines. (I’m doing that now!)

That is the question (how to live a better life, not how to drink bourbon) I have spent the last month exploring, and the one that I would like to explore with you here.

Where to Start

In November I wrote a post highlighting my weaknesses. I noted that I have had a tendency throughout my life to follow the path of least resistance. That I did not take the time to create plans for my life. That I did not do things that scared me. I said that I wanted to address that in 2018.

So I set about figuring out how to do that.

My conclusion was that I needed to take a more intentional approach to my life. I needed to analyze all aspects of my life and map out a way forward in each. I needed to look at the big picture rather than approaching each day or week as a separate challenge.

I needed to plan my life.

Diving Head First Into Life Planning

Turns out, there’s an entire life planning industry. A whole niche of people that want to teach exactly what I wanted to learn.

I read an absurd amount on life planning and prioritization. I read all sorts of life coaching exercises. I took a course on living life with intention. I went way overboard. (It’s kind of my style.)

I learned a lot.

The first thing I learned is that there is a whole bunch of unhelpful information out there. There are a whole bunch of people saying things that sound deep but are not really useful.

I also found that there are really two different types of life planning approaches and most people fail to distinguish between them.

The Two Types of Life Planning

The two types of life planning address two fundamentally different questions.

The first question is: What type of person do you want to be?

This includes similar questions such as:

  • What are your values?
  • What do you want people to remember about you?

The second question is: What do you want to achieve in your life?

This includes questions like:

  • What do you hope to accomplish?
  • Where do you want to go in life?

Basically, “What do you want to be?” versus “What do you want to do?”

These are obviously related. The things that you want to accomplish are informed by your values. The type of person that you become is shaped by the things that you achieve.

However, I don’t think you can truly make a plan to move your life forward without recognizing and differentiating between the two separate ideas.

A Road Map for January

With that in mind, I’d like to outline where I plan to go with January (life planning month!) and the rest of 2018 in general.

First, we’ll address the question of what type of person you want to be. We’ll explore some exercises that I have found useful and dive into the topic a bit more. We’ll learn how to figure out what our values are, what virtues we want to strengthen and grow, and how to actually become the person we want to be.

Then, we’ll move onto the question of what type of things we want to achieve. We’ll learn how to break down the various areas of our lives. We’ll figure out how to map out a route from where we are to where we want to be. We’ll explore how to prioritize all the different things we want to do.

For the rest of January we’ll figure out the best ways to plan our lives and to prioritize our different goals. After that, we’ll spend each month looking at different issues in more detail.

Planning and Growing Throughout the Year

Many of the life planning tools that I researched suggested taking a single day, analyzing every aspect of your life, and creating a comprehensive plan to address everything.

We’re not going to do that here. Mostly because I don’t think it’s the most effective approach, but also because it would not provide me with very much content to write about. 🙂

Instead, each month we will dive deep on a specific topic. We’ll address time management, money, happiness, health, and productivity in phases throughout the year. With each topic we’ll analyze where we are, where we want to go, and how we get there.

Throughout the course of this experiment I will provide you with useful information where I have it, talk you through my struggles where I have them, and ask for your help where appropriate.

Join the Conversation!

So that’s the plan going forward. If you have anything that you’d like to see covered, let us know in the comments. Any area of your life that you’d like to improve? Anything you’re struggling with right now? Just excited that 2017 is finally over? Join us in the comments section!

If you want to get the super-secret exclusive content, join the new email list! I also plan on asking for help from the list, so if you’d like to join my circle of advisors, please sign up here:

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Either way, I’ll see you on Thursday when we will figure out what type of people we want to be.

28 thoughts on “How to Live a Better Life”

  1. I love this! I’ve learned there’s a lot of value in making plans with your end result in mind. After all, if you aren’t actively pursuing your goal, what are you doing? It makes sure that we’re taking actions to get the results that matter to us.

    Most of my 2018 resolutions are also hard to measure, like practicing self-kindness and prioritizing positivity. That’s hard to measure versus, y’know, “pay of X amount of debt” as a goal. But some of the best goals in life can’t be measured. I’m excited to see where you go in the new year!
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…What A Frugal Christmas Week! December 29My Profile

    1. This will be in an upcoming article, but I am trying to create an evening journal exercise to help with the hard to measure goals. I think if we can take some time out at the end of the day to think through how we did and where we could have done better it will be a lot easier to stay on track and succeed on those goals.

      Thanks for the comment!
      Matt recently posted…Stepping Off the Path of Least ResistanceMy Profile

  2. I’m excited to follow along. I tend to overplan but not about what matters if that makes any sense. I’m pretty excited that I found a planner that is perfect for me (I hope). I can make a map of each week, but it also has a section where I can list celebrations. I like that a lot! I’m hoping that will help me stay focused on what actually matters. Cheers to 2018! Can’t wait to follow along as your plans unfold!

  3. I cannot wait to see what you have in store for us. Glad your back Matt. Your first line really did nail it. Don’t we all want to live a better life? By nature, I’m a problem solver. I find a problem and try to fix it. For me, this started with money. Now I’m focused on time. I think my biggest flaw is not stopping to smell the roses often enough. My life is pretty terrific and it took a Thanksgiving gratefulness post to realize it. All that said, I’m also focused on living a better life while trying to recognize more often how great my current one is. Here’s to a fantastic 2018.
    Jason@WinningPersonalFinance recently posted…What Will They Say at Your Funeral?My Profile

  4. Good stuff as always Matt!

    Life Planning is certainly a good thing. More recently Financial Life Planning (essentially what I do) has grown in popularity too. The reason being that finances are so tightly integrated into all aspects of life – it’s hard to separate them.

    Managing money in alignment with your life goals might mean spending less and investing more (as so many bloggers like to write) but it could also mean spending MORE now and enjoying life through the process. Having a comprehensive plan to understand the impact of the (almost unlimited) options can be extremely valuable.

    BTW I wrote a long time ago on three very important questions to ask yourself before financial planning. These are excellent and worth everyone considering.
    Brad – recently posted…Highest Paying Jobs Without A College Degree – 2017My Profile

    1. That’s great! My approach to my blog came from a similar idea, but applied in reverse. I liked writing about money and finances, but expanded the subject-matter of the blog because ultimately life and money are intertwined. Why earn/save/invest more if not to live a better life?

      (Also, I was in the camp that needed to loosen up and spend more. I think I’m at a better balance now, but you definitely need to look at life and money simultaneously to get any value out of planning.)

      Thanks, Brad!
      Matt recently posted…Stepping Off the Path of Least ResistanceMy Profile

  5. “There are a whole bunch of people saying things that sound deep but are not really useful.”

    ^This. I went through a period where I did a similar deep dive. I found that introspection on the deep and not really useful things was useful in applying to the “Who you want to be” but not so much the achievement. And it wasn’t the deep things, really, that created the usefulness. It was me dedicating the time to sit down and think about them. It was the self-exploration.

    I’m glad you separated the who to be vs. what to do–so true that they’re two different things, and that the first so heavily influences the second. Excited for Thursday!
    Femme recently posted…My 2018 Savings GoalsMy Profile

    1. This is a great point. The most important part is taking the time to think and reflect. Different methods and tools are all useless if we don’t spend the time and only marginal improvements if we do.

      Thanks for stopping by!
      Matt recently posted…Who Do You Want to Be?My Profile

    1. That’s fair. I tend to view our nature as a starting point and everything is improvable from there. Realistic expectations are important with that approach, though. I can get more fit, but I’ll never be a professional athlete.

      I find that on the “What kind of person” question it makes more sense to try to improve bit by bit rather than set a concrete goal and strive for it. If I’m a naturally brusque person I can become more friendly and charismatic, but I’ll probably never be the bubbliest person in the room.

      Thanks for the comment, Prudence!
      Matt recently posted…Who Do You Want to Be?My Profile

  6. Awesome idea, Matt! I have been working on realigning life and actually executing on priorities recently. Baby steps so far but I’m hoping to take some time for deeper thinking and more reflection. Good luck and I look forward to following along!

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