The Whole Life Plan – How to Have One

The Whole Life Plan

What is the whole life plan you might ask?  Well, a whole life plan is basically having a well rounded life.  It’s where you don’t work 80 hours a week or live simply for pleasing your spouse or just shuttle your kids to one event or the other.  The whole life plan is consciously working to ensure you have a variety of areas in your life that give you pleasure and you enjoy doing.  The goal is to be nurtured and fulfilled by a number of great influences on your life

Look Around

Take a long look at the guys standing around you.  Look at your brother, your friends, your father, your coworkers.  Then see if you can get some insight into what makes up the fabric of their lives.  I’ll tell you what I see more often than not.  Middle aged guys like myself who robotically go to a job that pays the bills.  Monday through Friday, 8AM – 5PM.  Get up, get ready, and head out the door to work.  Then they go home and run around doing things for their kids.  Sometimes they play golf for a  1/2 day on the weekend.  Dinner at a restaurant once or twice a week.  Mow the yard, clean out the garage, coach baseball.  That’s pretty much it.  This is what I refer to as the hamster wheel of life.  Work to pay bills.  Do laundry to have clean clothes for work.  Eat to have energy to go to work or do chores.  Go to the grocery store to buy food to consume.  Get up and do it all over again.  On and on and on and on….

It doesn’t have to be this way.  The purpose of this site is to provide resources, tools, ideas, dialogue to create a whole life plan.  To create a rich and full life consisting of a wide variety of pieces that each in their own way provide value to the total picture that is yours and my life.  I got this idea from the wonderful book “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” by Susan Jeffers, Pd.D.  This book was written in 1987 and besides being a great all around inspirational book also introduced me to the 9 box concept as a way to build a rich and full life.  It helps you to have a whole life plan.

How whole is your whole life?

Chapter is #8 and it’s title is “How Whole is Your Whole Life?”.  In this she goes on to discuss how many men and women who spend their entire adult lives emotionally tied to their work  fall apart when they retire.  Or women who make their children the totality of their existence then feel lost and empty when their children leave the house.  Or the spouse that puts 75% of their energy into a marriage and then has their partner divorce them.  In each of these situations the major factor in someone’s lives ends and they are forced to deal with a massive black hole in their life.  And it can be devastating.  So the way to combat this is to have 9 categories that make up the major components of your life.  Put your energy into these different boxes and if something horrible happens to one of them and it goes away you have many other things in your life to be thankful for and engage in.  It impacts you but so much less.

The Boxes Of Your Life

She uses the following categories:  Contribution, Leisure, Family, Alone Time, Personal Growth, Relationships Friends.  This is her example and works well for her.  When I made my own several years ago it looked something like this:  Work, Kids, Health, Self Improvement, Marriage, Friends, Family, Fun, Volunteer (my version of contribution).  Now I’ve always been good at Health and working out so that I actually cut back on to some extent.  I’ve always been a very engaged father to my 2 daughters so nothing had to be tweaked there.  Same thing with self improvement and marriage, I’ve always put consistent ongoing effort into both of these.  Now where I was lacking was developing and strengthening male friendships, spending more time with my family (specifically mother, father, and brother) and was kind of on autopilot at work.

So I consciously reached out to some of my guy friends to do things on a more consistent basis as well as worked to develop new male friendships.  I started having lunch and/or coffee with my mom and dad on a regular basis.  My brother and I stay in touch much more often.  And I took control of my work environment and created something much more satisfying to me both on a personal contribution as well as a monetary level.  I defined what was important to me, identified where I felt I needed to make changes, and made them.  Now sometimes I try to do too much but that’s always been a problem of mine.  But the end result is I have a very well rounded and full life in a wide range of areas.  If any one thing goes away for one reason or another, I’ve got many other areas I enjoy and engage in.  I’ve created a whole life plan for myself.  In your own 9 box you may have some things that I do and probably different ones.  I strongly encourage you to give good thought to what your own 9 box (or 6 or whatever works for you) looks like and make the changes requirement to round out your life to have a more whole life plan.

If you are familiar with the band The Faint one of my favorite songs of theirs is called “Agenda Suicide”.  My favorite lyrics go like this:

As I lay to die the things I think

Did I waste my time, I think I did

I worked for life

As I lay to die the things I think

I don’t want to regret what I did – and work for life

The Human Existence?

Sadly that is what many, if not most of us do.  We get into a haze of sorts and just sort of coast through life.  We do the things that are expected of us – go to college, get a job, get married, have kids, work, retire, die.  And as middle age men it’s easy to look up and suddenly become aware all you have in your life is to do things so you can work so you can do things and keep the hamster wheel of life spinning until you realize that wheel isn’t leading you anywhere inspiring. So take a look at your life and ask yourself – how whole is it?

All my best!

Mat A.

Mat A.



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  1. HI there, this is really interesting piece for me as I have just retired. In the past I got divorced too.
    During my divorce my job, where I was working 60+ hours became the crutch for my survival: it provided money to see me through the divorce; it also was a source of help from colleagues who had been through a divorce themselves. That worked for me until time allowed me to re-shape my life. I left my job and emigrated from UK to China. I also got closer to my family and they became a true help too, I even got closer to my sister whereas in the past I had been distant for many years.
    As for retirement, it is new for me at the moment, and I am in China. Initially I do not seem to have enough time to fit in what I want to do: hiking, more exercise and a new kind of job in internet marketing. We will see how things shape up.

    Thanks for this post it is really interesting. Alan-C

    1. Hi Alan,

      Thank you so much for reading the post and sharing your thoughts.  I am glad that it resonated with you.  This is a great example of why having multiple “boxes” in our lives help us during times of duress.  Thanks for sharing & I look forward to hearing more!

      Mat A.

  2. thanks for the thought provoking post Mat.

    i actually heard about the Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway book. i never read it, but listened to it once. the title is the main thing i took out of it though. and it’s something i try to actively apply to my life.

    i’m a big fan of the picture at the bottom of the article as well.

    i think post graduation till wheel chair, is where the magic should be happening. during that time i feel we should accumulate as much power as possible in various forms and see how much of it we can put to good to good use.



    1. Hello Jerry,

      Really appreciate you taking the time to read the post and great to hear your thoughts.  That book is a really good one.  I’d got so far as to put it in my top 10, maybe even my top 5 impactful books.  Another big idea that hit me was that there are no “wrong” decisions.  We spend agonizing hours deciding whether to do something or not and actually we will learn and grow from the choice either way.  There is no wrong decision!

      I like that picture as well!  Have a great one and thanks again!

      Mat A.  

  3. Mat. your article is one that is very needed at this time. The human cycle does not have to be the picture you give us. We are so brainwashed to get a job, any job and once we are in we seem to be stuck. We also look at retirement as just a time in death’s waiting room. When we break the 9-5 work tradition, by whatever means, a whole new life of experiences is starting and we need to learn how to embrace it. There is so much more out there.

    1. Hi Warren,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, I really appreciate it.  You are right, it does not have to been that depressing cycle we see every day.  The trick of course is to be aware of it and to make a conscious daily effort to break that vicious cycle and live the full meaningful life we are searching for.

      Thanks again!

      Mat A.  

  4. It is really interesting to see our lives are so program and what you have said is all so true our lives have become so routine that it is very boring. I believe that the time has come for us to get away from how we do things on a daily basis and seek to bring about change so that life can take on a whole new meaning for us causing us to get more out of life and really live life to the fullest.

    1. Norman, thanks for stopping by and the note.   It’s true, we can tend to get so caught up in a routine that the days and weeks slide by without us living life to the fullest.  Thanks so much!

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