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Book Summary: Living Forward – A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want

Living Forward” is a journey toward understanding the need for a life plan, and then creating one, with plenty of encouragement along the way. This book summary provides the tools that will empower you to make decisions that will allow you to live an intentional and proactive life. If you decide to fully engage with the processes laid out here, you will find the peace that comes with filling your days with actions that enable you to get on the road to the life you have always wanted.

How to create a life plan that will result in living the life you truly want.


  • Want to get on track to the life you have always dreamed of
  • Wish to leave a lasting and compelling legacy
  • Feel the need to get your priorities in order


One beautiful morning on a trail in the Colorado Rockies, surrounded by wildflowers and the scent of pine trees, Michael Hyatt realized that he was lost. He had taken a wrong turn somewhere and ended up deep in the woods. Fortunately, he had been using an app on his iPhone to track his hike that provided him with a map that showed him how to get back to where he needed to be. Wouldn’t it be great if we could open a GPS app every time our lives veered off course? With a life plan, you can. A life plan is the app that will help you chart a path to the life you want.

Book Summary: Living Forward - A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want

Both Hyatt and co-author Daniel Harkavy have benefitted from creating a life plan, and helped many others to do so as well. In Living Forward, they provide everything you need to articulate a vision for your life and get on the path toward it. You will get a sense of what is truly possible and find opportunities to change your own story.

Don’t worry — you have more control than you realize, and you can do this!

Understand Your Need

Harkavy has a little cabin on the Oregon coast where he goes to enjoy the ocean and surfing. On a day when heavy winds were creating currents and chaos in the water, a friend of his, new to surfing, got caught in a riptide and was swept out to sea. Harkavy paddled out to him and helped him change course into calmer waters. They then swam together, exhausted, back to shore. Life is like this experience: You can find yourself swept away by the current, dragged off course, and in serious danger. If you are far from where you want to be, you have become a victim of the drift.

Drifting can happen under any number of circumstances. Sometimes you may simply be unaware that you’re drifting, unable to process what is happening in your life. Drifting can also happen when you are distracted; perhaps, for example, you have been so caught up in your career that you have neglected your children. It can also occur when you are overwhelmed by life, having taken on more than you should. No matter how it happens, drifting can have terrible consequences, such as confusion, loss of perspective, financial cost, pain, and regret. It is inevitable that you experience the consequences of your choices. But there is an answer to the problem of drifting. That answer is life planning, which is about envisioning a better future and moving toward it.

What is a life plan? It is a short document, written by you and for you, that describes how you want people to remember you, what your priorities are, and the actions you will need to take to get you from where you are to where you want to be in every area of your life. The format is driven by three questions:

  1. “How do I want to be remembered?” How do you want friends and family to remember you when you are gone? What will your legacy be?
  2. “What matters most?” You most likely know what is important to others in your life — your spouse, your children, your boss. But what matters most to you? What are your priorities in life? No one else can decide what they are — only you can do so.
  3. “How can I get from here to where I want to be?” If you are going to change your life for the better, you need to know where you are now and what it will take to get you to where you want to be.

There are at least six benefits to writing and implementing a life plan. First, it provides clarity. During the recession, the publishing company Hyatt worked for was struggling, and he and his team were under immense pressure. As the grind took its toll, Hyatt chose to take a much-needed vacation to reconnect with his wife and gain perspective. In the airport, he received an email from his boss letting him know that he planned to visit Hyatt on Monday morning and expected him to be there. In that moment, facing two competing priorities, Hyatt’s life plan gave him the clarity to see that work was not the only thing in life. He mustered the strength to reply that he was on vacation and they would need to find another time to meet.

A life plan also helps to maintain the balance that you might lack by helping you devote the appropriate attention to all areas of your life. It’s also a great way to filter opportunities. There is only enough time in the day to do so much. If you have a plan, it is easier to know when to say yes, and when to say no.

Create Your Plan

After visiting a dying friend, Harkavy saw a beautiful sunset, which reminded him of having seen that morning’s sunrise. He realized that the cycle of sunrise and sunset was like life: The setting goes along with the rising, and what matters is what happens in between. What will happen between your “sunrise” and “sunset”? What will your legacy be?

When planning your life, it’s best to start by imagining the end. Visualize your own funeral and ask yourself how you want to be remembered. What would those closest to you say? What highs and lows would they reflect on? Now write two eulogies for yourself, one as it would be delivered today, followed by one that could be read in a future where you have accomplished everything you hope to accomplish. What is the difference between the two? What do you still hope to do that would be included in the second one? You will leave a legacy; make sure it is the one you want to leave. Begin shaping it early.

To shape our lives well, we must examine our priorities: What matters most to you? Start by identifying what Harkavy and Hyatt call life accounts: the various compartments that make up your life. The nine most common are:

  • vocational (work)
  • avocational (hobbies)
  • financial
  • marital
  • parental
  • social
  • spiritual
  • physical
  • intellectual

Yours may be different, and some of these may not apply to you at all. Make a list of your life accounts, and name each one whatever you like. For example, your vocational account may be teaching or medicine, and you may have multiple avocational accounts such as pets and making music. Perhaps you have one account for family, or separate accounts for each family member. The most effective lists have about eight to 12 accounts. Once you’ve listed your life accounts, evaluate how you are faring in each of them. Determine the “balance” of each. Is the account growing, stable, or declining? Are you doing well at work, but neglecting your health? Have you made MVP on your soccer team, but haven’t seen much of your children?

You want to strive for a positive balance in all accounts. But when some of them, or perhaps most of them, are in the red, it can be hard to know where to start. A good starting point is to think back to the second eulogy you wrote: What do you hope to accomplish in your life? Once you’ve made a decision, list your life accounts based on their relative importance — they are all important, but some are more important than others. Use this list to help guide the decisions you make. If your children are at the top of the list, it will be much easier for you to decide on whether to take that promotion that would take you away from home for months at a time. This list is the beginning of your Life Plan.

If the goal is to have every account full and growing, but your accounts aren’t quite there yet, ask yourself: “How do I get from here to where I want to be?” This is where you chart a course. Harkavy participates in the largest relay race in America — nearly 200 miles — every year. In one of his early years of participating (before GPS), he studied the course map before setting out on his run. Three other runners passed him at a considerable distance into the race, and bypassed a turn he intended to take. When he shouted at the runners to tell them they had missed a turn, they convinced him that they knew the way, and he followed them. Predictably, miles later, it became apparent that they were off course. Clarity about where you are going is crucial if you hope to avoid ending up in the wrong place like Harkavy and the runners. In your life, this clarity can be found by evaluating your life account, and by creating an action plan in five steps.

First, determine the purpose of your life accounts, and write each purpose down. Next, try to imagine a future in which the life account is so full it’s overflowing, and then record what you see using the first-person perspective and the present tense. Find an inspiring quote that will encourage you to reach that future. Next, assess where you are now. Make a simple bulleted list detailing where you currently stand — don’t overthink it. Finally, commit to specific actions that will take the life account from where you are now to your envisioned future, using bullet points once again.

Make It Happen

You’ve committed to a full day of life planning and drafted your life plan. Now it’s time to act. But how do you act on a life plan when you have a work project due tomorrow, your kids need help with homework, it’s your turn to drive carpool, and you still haven’t folded the laundry? The solution is what Hyatt and Harkavy call margin: time to breathe, relax, reflect, plan, and act on what is important to you. The creation of margin is best approached as a three-step process in which you triage your calendar, schedule priorities, and learn to say no to demands that will cost you time.

“Triage” is a military term used by medics in which they determine which wounded to treat on the battlefield. Some soldiers will be OK without immediate medical attention, and some will die even if they receive it. To triage is to focus on the others, who urgently require medical attention and have a chance at surviving — it is to prioritize based on urgency. This is what you need to do with your schedule. Get out your calendar and assess the commitments you’ve made.

Protect the basics that help you move toward your envisioned future, eliminate the nonessentials, and reschedule the rest. Next, schedule your priorities. Consider what your ideal week working toward your goals would look like and plan accordingly. Finally, learn to say “no.”

We all know what happens to our schedules and lives if we say “yes” indiscriminately. To prevent this from happening, employ the yes-no-yes formula. First, say yes to yourself, and thereby protect what matters to you. Second, say no in a way that sets clear boundaries. Finally, say yes to the relationship by affirming it and suggesting alternative possibilities. Protecting your schedule and your life with these three steps is critical to the implementation of a life plan.

If you are to implement your plan with success, it must be visible. You cannot draft a life plan and hide it away. Begin by reading it daily for three months, preferably aloud. This will help you stay connected to your plan. At the end of three months, review it weekly. This will help you maintain control of your life and propel you toward your goals. After your weekly review, you should plan your schedule for the coming week. You should also tweak your plan on a quarterly basis. Make sure you are on track, and make any adjustments necessary to stay on track. Finally, you should revise your life plan on a yearly basis. Life can change, and your plan should change with it. Is there anything you want to delete? Do you have a new life account to add? Does anything need to be reprioritized? Be sure your plan is up-todate and reflects your life as you want it to be.


Do not be a victim of drifting now that you have the tools to create a life plan. Without one, the odds are not in your favor; instead, you are likely to end up far from where you want to be. So start now — get serious about getting the life you want and schedule a full day to draft your plan. Ask yourself three questions: “How do I want to be remembered?” “What matters most?” “And how can I get from here to where I want to be?” Life is a gift — what will you do with yours? What will your legacy be?

About the author

Michael Hyatt is The New York Times bestselling author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. He has worked in every facet of publishing. His podcast, This Is Your Life, consistently appears in the top 10 most popular business podcasts on iTunes.

Daniel Harkavy is a well-known expert in leadership and has coached thousands of business leaders toward success and personal fulfillment. He is the founder of Building Champions, where he is both CEO and executive coach. He is also the author of Becoming a Coaching Leader: The Proven Strategy for Building Your Own Team of Champions.


Personal Growth, Business Life, Career Development, Leadership, Success, Motivation and Self-Esteem, Careers and Employment, Management, Self-Help, Relationships, Personal Development, Business Culture, Productivity, Psychology, Philosophy, Inspirational, Life Balance in Business

Table of Contents

An app for your life
Understand your need
Acknowledge the drift
Understand the mission
Appreciate the benefits
Create your plan
Design your legacy
Determine your priorities
Chart the course
Dedicate one day
Make it happen
Implement your plan
Keep it alive
Join the revolution
The choice is yours.


Each of us has but one life to live on this earth. What we do with it is our choice. Are we drifting through it as spectators, reacting to our circumstances when necessary and wondering just how we got to this point anyway? Or are we directing it, maximizing the joy and potential of every day, living with a purpose or mission in mind?

Too many of us are doing the former—and our lives are slipping away one day at a time. But what if we treated life like the gift that it is? What if we lived each day as though it were part of a bigger picture, a plan? That’s what New York Times bestselling author Michael Hyatt and executive coach Daniel Harkavy show us how to do: to design a life with the end in mind, determining in advance the outcomes we desire and path to get there. In this step-by-step guide, they share proven principles that help readers create a simple but effective life plan so that they can get from where they are now to where they really want to be—in every area of life.


“The people who have achieved greatness are not just lucky. They created and executed a plan. . . . In Living Forward, Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy show you how to develop and utilize a clear and compelling Life Plan to create the life you want.”–Tony Robbins, New York Times bestselling author; CEO, Anthony Robbins Companies

“Here is an extremely practical and undeniably necessary guide for any adult who has drifted from how they thought life should be lived. I have benefited from this approach in my own life, but I need to be reminded again and again and again.”–Patrick Lencioni, president, The Table Group; author, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and The Advantage

“A must-read full of reminders and revelation that will open up your mind and organize your time.”–Dave Ramsey, New York Times bestselling author, The Total Money Makeover

“In this one-of-a-kind book, Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy explain exactly how to create a Life Plan. It will equip you to live your life on purpose, achieving what matters most in every aspect of your life.”–John C. Maxwell, New York Times bestselling author; founder, The John Maxwell Company

“Living Forward is a brilliant and motivating resource that will equip you to stop sleepwalking through life and intentionally pursue the plan God has for you.”–Lysa TerKeurst, New York Times bestselling author, The Best Yes

“An intelligent and articulate manual. . . . Applying even a portion of its simple and practical recommendations will improve anyone’s condition in life.”–David Allen, New York Times bestselling author, Getting Things Done

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