“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will themselves not be realized.
Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die.”
– Daniel H. Burnham


This quote has long been a favorite of mine…I stumbled across it while working on my doctorate and energized me as I realized the hard things I was choosing to do were not “little plans”. In this blog on intellectual wellness, I invite you to take a few moments to consider how thinking more deeply about ourselves, our lives, and what life we want to live can produce a deeper awareness, more peace, and growth both intellectually and in all other dimensions of wellness.

 “Make no little plans…
…they have no magic to stir men’s blood…”


I wonder how often we go through life without feeling the magic of life…because we’ve never taken the time to make plans. Planning takes time and requires deep, honest thoughts.

At the end of 2013, I started practicing a process of thinking deeply, planning goals, and setting intentions for my life on a regular basis. Using life planning worksheets that others developed, I eventually shaped a workbook of my own. Now, I set aside an entire day every January to go through my life planning workbook and create goals and intentions for that year. I even have a friend who has joined me – we do our plans each January and have a mid-year check-in each July. Since we started doing this, we’ve seen amazing results: School loans and credit card debt wiped out. Job changes that boosted emotional and financial wellness. My friend actually quit her corporate job and went full-time into her own business. Improved health. Clarity about what we want in life, leading to peace and enabling us to recognize and take or turn down opportunities when they present themselves. General excitement and confidence in pursuing our passions in life. This isn’t an overnight process…but, in setting intentions to live our best lives, we started on a powerful path to seeing the desires of our hearts fulfilled.

Designing your life begins with a simple activity of using your imagination and realizing how happy you feel when you envision creating the best life you can imagine. I’m not talking about the best life that society, a parent, or even a significant other thinks you should have. For example, I once though that being wealthy enough to have a private jet was the best life I could imagine, thanks to Instagram. But, as I truly began to envision a life where I used a private jet…I felt disgusted and empty. That’s simply not my personal best life – it might be for you though!

I set goals and intentions and it helps to distinguish between the two. Goals are concrete and technical, but they can also feel heavy and daunting! It’s hard to see progress towards our goals on a daily basis. The sheer definitions of the word intention make this a more fun, daily approach: 1. a thing intended (duh), 2. a person’s designs (yes!!), and 3. the healing process of a wound (isn’t that interesting?). So, while we set goals (the object of our ambition or effort; a desired result), we operate by intentions on a daily basis by deciding that we intend to do this or that to reach the ultimate goal. And…along the way, in living by our intentions, I think we might also heal some of those internal wounds that might be holding us back from our goals. (Maybe that a stretch, but I love it.)

Some doctors suggest that ignoring our true desires makes us sick, both physically and mentally; leads to decisions we regret; and zaps us of zest for life. So, as you proceed, accept the areas where you feel sad or bad…and recognize those feelings as signals that something needs to begin to change in that area of your life.

I agree with those doctors and, hence, feel strongly about growing our intellectual wellness in the area of life planning. It’s truly amazing that we can increase our wellness and see more success from our endeavors simply by taking time to think deeply and design ideas about where we want our lives to go…and what legacy we’d like to leave. Some resources I’ve found helpful along this journey are below: