The Life Plan Review

By Marshall Goldsmith

There are objectives, and then there are results. The thing is to get the two aligned. 

The objective of the Life Plan Review, or LPR, is to close the gap between what you plan to do in your life and what you actually get done. 

Its method is contained in the three words in its name — Life. Plan. Review. 

This presumes that you’ve decided what you want your life to be and what the future-you looks like if everything goes according to plan. But unlike so many other goal-oriented self- improvement systems, the LPR doesn’t rely on exhortations for you to be more heroic in motivation, habit, resourcefulness, and courage. The LPR is an exercise in self-monitoring: You are asked to conduct a weekly review of your effort to earn the life you claim to desire.

The LPR measures how hard you try, taking into account your lapses rather than your steadfastness. It takes into account the likelihood that you will fall short of perfection most weeks. How much fallibility, denial, and inertia you are willing to accept in your life and what you will do about it, is solely up to you. 

The LPR asks only that you pay attention to your level of trying. There is no earning without heroic effort. And then, like a trainer demanding one more set of crunches, it demands one more thing: You must share your results with other people—in a community—not only to recite numbers, but to compare notes and help one another. 

The LPR is a simple four-step structure that loses much of its power without a community: 

Step 1. In the LPR, you and each member of the weekly meeting take turns reporting your answers to a fixed set of six questions that have been documented to improve your life in conjunction with one set lead-in: “Did I do my best to . . .” 

  • Set clear goals?
  • Make progress toward achieving my goals? 
  • Find meaning?
  • Be happy?
  • Maintain and build positive relationships? 
  • Be fully engaged? 


You answer each subquestion by reporting a number on a 1 to 10 scale (10 being the best) that measures your level of effort, not your results. Separating the effort from results is critical because it forces you to acknowledge that you can’t always control your results (stuff happens), but you have no excuse for not trying. 

Marshall Goldsmith Meme

Step 2. In the days between the weekly LPR meetings, you build the habit of self-monitoring by tracking these questions daily. 

I prefer to score myself at the end of each day and report my scores on a 10 o’clock call with my coach. But do it when it suits you. The key is to accumulate the data so you can see instructive patterns: Where are you trending poorly, and where are you in control and making progress? 

Feel free to add your own questions to my list, or subtract a question or two that doesn’t apply. There’s nothing sacred about these six, although they relate to goal-setting, goal achievement, meaning, happiness, relationships, and engagement. These are fairly broad terms, but they accommodate all of the details in each of our lives. I could have included other questions, such as:

  • Did I do my best to express gratitude? 
  • Did I do my best to forgive the previous me? 
  • Did I do my best to add value to someone’s life? 


These questions used to be on my list. But I’ve been doing this process for two decades. It’s a dynamic process, meaning you’re supposed to improve and create new stretch goals. It would be dispiriting if I didn’t make progress doing this daily review—and adapt the questions as I changed for the better. Along the way, I realized I didn’t need to track these three questions anymore. I’m pretty good at thanking others. I’m world-class at forgiving myself. And when I’m not getting paid to add value to someone’s life, I do it pro bono. The six questions that remain are existentially demanding and huge in scope—and I doubt I’ll ever get so good at them that I can stop trying. 

Step 3. Review your plan weekly for relevance and personal need. 

When you measure effort, you monitor the quality of your efforts. But you should also review the purpose of your effort. Are you making a meaningful effort to achieve a now meaningless goal? 

Trying is a relative value, neither fixed nor objective nor precise. 

It’s an opinion by the only qualified person to have that opinion— you. 

It changes over time in the course of pursuing a goal. 

For example, if a personal trainer asked the out-of-shape you to bang out 20 push-ups at your first training session, even a mighty 10 for effort might not get you through all 20. Six months later, the well-conditioned you would knock out 20 pushups at a relatively effortless 2. The longer you do something, the less effort you need to do it well. 

But you might not notice how the passage of time lowers the bar on your effort. The temptation is to settle for less effort to stay in place (i.e., keep doing 20 push-ups). The challenge is to increase your effort to reach your goal (i.e., raise your workload to thirty pushups, then forty, and so on). 

  • Reviewing your effort is one way to reconsider the value of your goals. If you want to keep the goal, maybe it’s time to recalibrate your effort upward. If you’re no longer willing to make the required effort, maybe it’s time for a new goal. 
Marshall Goldsmith Meme

Step 4. Don’t do this alone. 

The LPR is a group event, a community of like-minded souls. Reviewing your plan in the select company of others is superior to reviewing your plan alone. 

Why would you try to adhere to an ambitious life plan and refuse to share the experience with anyone else, especially if you didn’t have to? 

What added value does going solo bring to the endeavor? 

It would be like baking a birthday cake to eat by yourself or giving a speech to an empty room.

Marshall Goldsmith Meme
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