One Couple’s Inspirational Life Planning Weekend

Last month, Amy and Jason Varga of Portland, both in their mid-40s and with kids 6 and 8 years old, booked a couples’ life planning weekend in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area using “Write, Open, Act: An Intentional Life Planning Workbook.”

Amy gave an overview of the experience on her Instagram:

Post #1, before the weekend:

Gettin’ ready for our first annual #lifeplanning weekend getaway! Here’s to setting family-marriage-personal goals #strategicplanning for life and marriage using the awesome framework and inspiration from @lweins

Post #2, at the end of the weekend:

“When a consultant and a project manager take on #lifeplanning 🤣 this whole process we’ve been doing to prepare for today and then doing this weekend getaway really reinforces the “it’s the journey not the destination” concept ✨ so many good, important conversations over the last few weeks ✨ if you’re feeling the need to reconnect, get on the same page, remember you’re on the same team, have fun dreaming together, and really zero in on what really matters to you, your marriage, your life, and your family this Write. Open. Act process is it 💖 @SkamaniaLodge 🌟”

Amy and Jason Varga

I talked to Amy about the weekend, and what she and Jason learned from the Intentional Life Planning process!

Lee Weinstein: What stood out to you about your experience?

Amy Varga: The process leading up to the actual getaway and creating our goals and timeline was maybe even more valuable than the retreat. Individually and together taking time to reflect, talk, and journal the answers to the questions and prompts in the workbook was so helpful — we were able to have meaningful conversations with each other, share our individual goals and wishes for our marriage, our family and our future.

Making the timeline itself, we put the ages of each of us and our kids at each milestone — along with our anniversary, high school/college reunions and other key moments. Seeing our ages mapped out like that was really sobering. Part of me was really anxious seeing how fast it felt like it would go by, and another part found it really motivating and brought a positive sense of urgency to the process.

You did the retreat in a conference room during your getaway. Why did you decide on that format?

We decided to go on a getaway to make space outside of our normal day-to-day to focus together … and also because our kids are still too young to leave us alone for any stretch of time. 🙂 We didn’t book a conference room, but I knew they had them at the resort so we just trusted one would be available and we could sneak into it. 🙂

In general, what worked?

Doing the homework, writing out our thoughts and ideas beforehand, and having lots of conversations before the weekend.

Having all the tools — Sticky Notes, flip chart paper, butcher paper, pens — and thinking through beforehand how we might organize everything on our timeline also helped.

Was there anything that did not work? Any challenges?

We talked a lot about how coming up with the goals and timeline, while required effort, isn’t the hard part — it’s the follow-through that is. It’s where the magic is. Just like plans of any kind — plans don’t create the magic. Executing the plan does.

What did you do after your planning session? How did you feel? What did you do when you got home?

After our planning session, we came home and immediately transcribed everything into a spreadsheet online so we could have it stored and update it as we go along and also in future years.

We also printed out a big version of the spreadsheet and hung it on our bedroom wall.

It felt great to have taken the time to really get on the same page and have some great conversations about priorities and goals that I’m not sure would have happened without being intentional about it. We talked a lot about how while we’ve achieved a lot of positive things personally and with our family over the years, not having a plan or having talked through things like we did in this process, it’s felt like we are just reacting to life versus being intentional.

Do you have an idea of how you will implement your plan?

We decided to set up our timeline in five-year increments except the first one — the first section is our “working” section and is for the rest of 2019 and all of 2020. We broke that section down into four “quarters” of four months each and put various goals in each quadrant. We highlighted the goals in each of those quadrants red on our spreadsheet that require more discussion or research, and are planning on tackling those bigger ones by breaking them down into specific next steps. And the other ones that are most straightforward, we’re just doing.

We already use a shared Google calendar and Asana project management software to manage our calendars, chores and lives, so we are planning on using those same tools to break the goals down into steps and assign dates, etc., to them.

Have you shared the plan with your kids?

We definitely told them we were going away to talk about goals for ourselves and our family. They were super curious, and we do plan on talking with them about it and involving them as they get older in the process each year. We talked about when they get older having them set annual goals for themselves.

Thanks so much, Jason and Amy, and have a great, intentional life!

If you haven’t created your own Intentional Life Plan yet, check out the “Write, Open, Act” workbook for step-by-step details on how to make it happen.

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Author of "Write, Open, Act: An Intentional Life Planning Workbook", Lee is a former Nike public relations leader, entrepreneur, and owner of Weinstein PR.

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Lee Weinstein

Lee Weinstein

Author of "Write, Open, Act: An Intentional Life Planning Workbook", Lee is a former Nike public relations leader, entrepreneur, and owner of Weinstein PR.

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