The tagline for the Plan Well website is: ‘to live well and to die well, you need to plan well’. As the creator of the Plan Well website, let me tell you about why I chose that phrase and why it is so important to me personally. 

One of the most influential people in my life taught me the importance of thinking ahead. In the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen Covey exhorts us to “begin with the end in mind.” He further explains:

“Begin today with the image, picture, or paradigm of the end of your life as a frame of reference or the criterion by which everything else is examined. Each part of your life – today’s behavior, tomorrow’s behavior, next week’s behavior, next month’s behavior – can be examined in the context of the whole, of what really matters to you most. By keeping that end clearly in mind, you can make certain that whatever you do on any particular day does not violate the criteria you have defined as supremely important, and that each day of your life contributes in a meaningful way to the vision you have of your life as a whole. Beginning with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are right now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.”

One of the exercises that Covey encourages readers to do is to write in detail about their own funeral and eulogy.

Think about it. What do you want people to say about you at your funeral? How do you want to be remembered? When you pass the finish line of life, what feelings and thoughts do you want your loves ones to have? 

This ‘thinking ahead’ has had a profound effect on me personally. I want people to remember me as someone who strived to maintain “connections” with others, particularly my God and family; as someone who “contributed” to the betterment of society through the use of my unique skills and talents; as someone who “collaborated” with and built “capacity” in people and in organizations and institutions. Connection, Contribution, Collaboration and Capacitation- 4 words that reflect my personal mission statement and have served as an anchor to me as I have lived out my life plan. 

I frequently review my daily life to be sure that I am in line with this vision. I used the Franklin daily planner for many years to be sure that my daily tasks were linked to my long-term goals, until it became an ingrained habit. 

In a sense, I am following Tim McGraw’s advice and ‘living life like I am dying.’ I have a constant vision of my end game and am striving daily to achieve that vision. It is not some ‘ethereal concept’    it demands daily planning and frequent reflection to make sure you are on track and that your life is well lived. 

So, to live well, you need to plan well, both on the short-term (daily) and intermediate to long-term. To die well also requires planning. We call this ‘advance care planning (ACP).’ ACP has been shown to increase the quality of life of dying patients, improve the experience of family members, and decrease health care costs. 

The more that you engage in ACP, the more likely you are to get the care that is right for you.  Your surviving family will also have a better experience and will be better able to manage things and make decisions if you are not able to speak for yourself. 

Stay tuned for more on this in my subsequent blogs!

By Daren Heyland

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