What is your life plan?

In times of great uncertainty, it can be tempting to fall for emotional responses rather than calm reasoning and cautious planning. But these are also opportunities to take stock and readjust one’s inner compass. After all, we have only one life to live — our own.

Looking forward, of course, is a tricky business. The only thing that can be predicted about the future is that it will happen, but not what will happen. All we can do is adapt to ever-shifting realities.

We all have at least a vague idea of how our lives should look like. Most goals we set for ourselves are short- or mid-term. A long-range game plan or grand design is much harder to follow. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take a closer look at what’s in the cards for us from time to time 

Our hopes and aspirations can be high or low, impulsive or carefully thought out, trivial or consequential. They all change over time, with and without our own doing. Some outcomes are entirely in our control, most are not. Realistic intentions have better chances to survive than utopian ones. But there is no guarantee that they do. And some seemingly crazy dreams do actually come true.

What we want for ourselves is mostly derived from our experiences, memories and convictions. Generally speaking, we want to get away from pain, suffering and disappointment. We want joy, pleasure, satisfaction, and happiness. Often the paths to the latter are unclear or get cut short and lead to more frustration. Too often, all that remains are regrets and what-ifs. 

Of course, some people pursue goals that go beyond the personal, try to make a difference in the lives of others, leave a mark through their contributions, and make the world a better place. Such commitments are the best and noblest humans are capable of. But for most of us mere mortals, our prospects improve when they don’t depend on the support and facilitation of too many outside factors, according to Dr. Harlich Stavemann, a psychotherapist and author of numerous books on behavioral psychology and a specialist on the subject matter of life goals and life planning. 

That doesn’t mean one cannot obtain personal fulfillment from a wider perspective. Far from it. In fact, looking beyond the here and now can be extremely therapeutic and bring its own rewards. But whatever our focus at any given time may be, it must rest on a solid understanding of who we are and strive to become. 

In my own life, the time for overarching plan making and far-reaching projections has likely passed, replaced by a general sense of contentment – a positive outcome in the scheme of things, I like to think. Instead of looking much to the distant future anymore, I’m now mostly busy keeping track of where I’m going day by day. 

Those who read my column regularly may be familiar with my “categories of well-being,” something I not only apply in my work as a health counselor but also try to implement for myself as a guiding principle.  

It goes somewhat like this: Good health and overall well-being consist of many things, not just the absence of illness or pain. It includes more than physical intactness. 

Yes, I feed my body the nutritious food it needs. I work on staying fit through daily exercise. But I also stimulate my mind, nurture my emotions, work on my relationships and social life. If I’m neglectful in one area, I know, it will eventually affect all others. 

I call this a balancing act because that’s what it is. And achieving that balance as much and as often as possible is what I consider my life plan. It is the foundation of everything I can still hope to accomplish, regardless of what may come.

TIMI GUSTAFSON, a registered dietitian and health counselor, is the author of “The Healthy Diner — How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun.”