Universal Ethics
Universal Ethics

2. Describe the Situation

In order to plan, you will need to set some goals. Perhaps you are eager to get on to that, because there are some goals that you already have in mind. However, people often make the mistake of setting impossible goals because their time is already fully allocated, or they don't have enough money, or they lack the skills necessary. Also, they tend to give little thought to how their current activities are currently contributing to their happiness (or not!) and to the happiness of other people whom their activities affect.

So, before you begin defining goals or setting policies, it is a good idea to take a look at your life as it is now, and give some thought to these things. You might also put some thought into predicting the situation in your future, to show expected outcomes if you continue on your current course.

If you are an adult, perhaps you already have some of these things recorded. You may have a budget, and you are keeping track of how you are spending your money. That's pretty important if you want to save for later stages in your life, and to keep your expenses under control. If you are married, so that both you and your wife are drawing on the same pot of money, it is even more important to do that planning together, so that you have agreement on how the money is to be spent. If you have this planned already, now is a good time to pull it out and review it.

Likewise, if you keep a calendar of your appointments, or a to-do list, this is a good time to pull out that too, review it, and bring it up-to-date.

Elements of Happiness

At this stage of the plan, it is also important to identify how satisfied you are with your life, and more specifically to identify what satisfactions and dissatisfactions you have in your life.

Also, this is the time to do the same for others who are in the scope of your plan, to the extent that you know. Perhaps you don't have a full understanding of other people, but you can note those satisfactions or dissatisfactions that you have detected.

For this stage of planning, it helps to consider the various motives that must be satisfied for the person to have happiness.

So, what is it that you need in order to be happy?

For an explanation of that, click this hyperlink to the Happiness topic on this site. For a very brief summary, happiness is attained by fulfilling motives in these categories:

If you use the Pathways tool, you will not only classify your outcomes as desirable or undesirable, you will indicate which motivators are affected and to what extent (using the some colour-coded ratings). In other words, you will indicate why the outcome has the satisfactions and dissatisfactions that it has. This serves as a systematic way of evaluating your life, and of identifying joys and problems in other people in your plan whom you care about.

Some tips: Outcomes to Include

When recording the "current situation" in your plan, for yourself and all people in the scope of your plan, and for the time period that you are planning for, here are some things to include:

Your Surplus

Now it is time to calculate your surplus. How much spare time and money do you have? For others who are planning with you, how much spare time do they have? If you used Pathways for this phase of planning, you can run reports to calculate that for you.

Also, this is the time to compare the time spent on responsibilities as compared to discretionary activities. Maybe some of that "discretionary time" could be reallocated to something that gives more personal satisfaction, or that gives you vicarious satisfaction by helping others. If you are planning in consultation with others, such as family members, the others can also make those judgements for their own time.

Sometimes you might spot ways of reallocating time to increase the benefits. For example, suppose you notice that you are spending a lot of time watching TV, or playing video games. One very minor alteration to that plan is to spend the time watching TV or playing with someone else, by inviting someone, so that will add to your friendship as well as the enjoyment of the show or game itself. Another slightly bigger alteration would be to invite your friend(s) to a recreational or sporting activity, so that you can simultaneously get the enjoyment of a game, friendship, and physical fitness. Your own friends might help you with that. Moreover, you can look over your findings on who is in need of friendship or exercise as candidates to do those things with.

Now you are in a good position to look at what is missing in your life, what is missing in the lives of others you are planning with, plus observable needs of others who are listed in the plan (but who are not actively planning with you). This is the foundation for the next step, which is to "make some wishes"...

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