Have you finished your One Page Life Plan? Perfect! Now let it rest for a few days, and then pick it back up again. If you are still happy with it, print it out and put it in a place where you can see it regularly.

Creating your One Page Life Plan for the first time can take a while, but updating it yearly shouldn’t take much time. When you have new experiences, learn new things, meet new people, and gain new insights, you change as a person. There is a chance your core values and personal mission will be different one year from now. This is natural.

My personal evolvement

My personal values and beliefs changed drastically over the last couple of years as I gained new insights on my personal ecological footprint. I’ve switched to a plant-based diet, cut down on air travel, and made changes in what I consume.

With these changes in my personal values and beliefs came a mismatch and friction in my work environment. I worked at a fantastic company for almost 10 years, but now, I felt a gap between my personal values and the company’s values. It was a very emotional time, but saying goodbye was the only logical option — and now I had to find something new that fit me better.

Because my personal values had changed, I had to re-do my personal plan. By doing so, I gained clarity about what professional environment would work for me — one that not only fit with my changed values, but also my new long-term personal goals.

It’s natural that your One Page Life Plan will look different a year from now — and that is a good thing. Keep on reviewing and revising. Are you currently in the best possible place in life? If not, make the changes necessary to reflect your personal happiness and development.

Stumbling on happiness

Philosopher Joshua Knobe once posed an interesting question about the nature of the self: “If the person you will be in 30 years — the person for whom you plan your life now by working toward career and financial goals — is different from the person you are today, what makes the future person ‘you’? What makes them worthy of your present self’s sacrifices and considerations?”

Daniel Gilbert has written a classic on the subject called “Stumbling on Happiness,” one of the essential texts on the importance of happiness. Gilbert argues that we are tormented by a “fundamental misconception about the power of time.” At any point along our personal journey, we tend to believe that who we are at that moment is the final destination of who we will become. Which, of course, is not only wrong, but a source of much of our unhappiness.

Gilbert says: “Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished. The person you are right now is as transient, as fleeting and as temporary as all the people you’ve ever been. The one constant in our lives is change.”

Gilbert explores this paradox in strangely reassuring detail He writes:

“What would you do right now if you learned that you were going to die in ten minutes? Would you race upstairs and light that Marlboro you’ve been hiding in your sock drawer since the Ford administration? Would you waltz into your boss’s office and present him with a detailed description of his personal defects? Would you drive out to that steakhouse near the new mall and order a T-bone, medium rare, with an extra side of the really bad cholesterol?

The things we do when we expect our lives to continue are naturally and properly different than the things we might do if we expected them to end abruptly. We go easy on the lard and tobacco, smile dutifully at yet another of our supervisor’s witless jokes, read books like this one when we could be wearing paper hats and eating pistachio macaroons in the bathtub, and we do each of these things in the charitable service of the people we will soon become.

We treat our future selves as though they were our children, spending most of the hours of most of our days constructing tomorrows that we hope will make them happy. Rather than indulging in whatever strikes our momentary fancy, we take responsibility for the welfare of our future selves, squirreling away portions of our paychecks each month so they can enjoy their retirements on a putting green, jogging and flossing with some regularity so they can avoid coronaries and gum grafts, enduring dirty diapers and mind-numbing repetitions of The Cat in the Hat so that someday they will have fat-cheeked grandchildren to bounce on their laps.

Even plunking down a dollar at the convenience store is an act of charity intended to ensure that the person we are about to become will enjoy the Twinkie we are paying for now. In fact, just about any time we want something — a promotion, a marriage, an automobile, a cheeseburger — we are expecting that if we get it, then the person who has our fingerprints a second, minute, day, or decade from now will enjoy the world they inherit from us, honoring our sacrifices as they reap the harvest of our shrewd investment decisions and dietary forbearance.

But our temporal progeny is often thankless. We toil and sweat to give them just what we think they will like, and they quit their jobs, grow their hair, move to or from San Francisco, and wonder how we could ever have been stupid enough to think they’d like that. We fail to achieve the accolades and rewards that we consider crucial to their well-being, and they end up thanking God that things didn’t work out according to our shortsighted, misguided plan. Even that person who takes a bite of the Twinkie we purchased a few minutes earlier may make a sour face and accuse us of having bought the wrong snack.”

In the remainder of “Stumbling on Happiness,” Gilbert, argues, “The mistakes we make when we try to imagine our personal futures are also lawful, regular, and systematic.” He explores the sometimes subtle, sometimes radical changes we can make in our everyday cognitive strategies in order to avoid ending up unhappy and disappointed, which can happen when we set goals for the people we are when we set them — rather than the people we become when we reach them.

You cannot stop change; you can shape it.

Daniel Gilbert

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