Integrated Life Planning

Integrated Life Planning

Three photographs grouped together, three people standing near the ocean in Hawaii US, smiling, happy
Three photographs grouped together, three people standing near the ocean in Hawaii US, smiling, happy
Sheila, Charley, and Miriam in Hana, Hawaii

Written by Miriam Whiteley

The small man builds cages
for everyone he knows.
While the sage, who has to duck his head
when the moon is low,
keeps dropping keys all night long
for the beautiful rowdy prisoners.


With the yearning to fill our pockets with keys we came to our EVOKE® Life Planning 5-Day Training in Hana, Hawaii in December 2017. I flew in the night before it started, and as the sun rose on Maui, I walked to get a coffee. I looked up at the purple mountain rising before me, perfectly encircled with a ring of cloud at its very tip. “Yes,” I thought to myself, “I’m so close, and there’s still a cloud over it all—however nebulous—that’s holding me back.”

After the wild ride to Hana, we sorted out how the week would go, met our housemates and paired up with our life planners. As the week progressed it became clear that my life planner, my housemate, and I had forged a connection. Sheila, Charley, and I decided that we did not want to let the work we started in Hana wither. The three of us decided to mentor each other and keep our life plans alive. We have been connecting every two weeks by phone.

During the six-month mentorship we had a weekly conference call that shifted to a biweekly schedule through the next stage—now we’re RLP® certified but are we dropping keys yet? On our clients, and on each other? We stoked the flames of our torches and held each other’s feet to the fire of our best intentions. We shared triumphs when we saw them, but more often the achievements were so gradual as perceived from the inside that it was through the reflected praise of our trio-mates that we could see how far we’d come.

We floundered a little around the anniversary of Hana and pondered on our call what direction we wanted to take. Each of us was meeting the truth of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s line, “Wherever you go, there you are.” We’d lived our life plan, some more than less, but our life of freedom was feeling confined, bound by the inner voices that were talking about the same things they always have.

If each of us had a key we carried away from Hana (you might read it in George Kinder’s voice, as we received it), Charley’s was: “Why wouldn’t you do this, this is your life plan?” He boarded the plane for home ready to shoot out of the cave. At home, tucked back in the cave, he looked through the opening and heard the familiar refrain of his monkey mind: “It’s dangerous out there; why do I want to leave the cave again?” Sheila got right to work, fueled by the vigor fountain she tasted in Hana, and discovered her days often felt breathless. She found herself asking, “What if shortening the time horizon results in a pace that’s not authentic? We want to create flames to exit the cave, but we don’t want to burn people out!” My key was “give yourself permission to exhale—set down your sack.” The doubt door didn’t unlock with this key—”Give myself permission to do what? What if thing 1 (write a book, promote my niche) comes at the cost of thing 2 (connecting with husband and children, hearth tending)?”

We were wondering—if this is happening for us, this will happen for our clients too, right? Do we need coaches? Are we doing it wrong? We decided to life plan each other again.

If you’re game to try it with your pair or trio from your five-day, this is how it worked. We set a timeline and structure: three calls, 60 minutes each, two weeks apart. A week before the first call, we sent each other our 3Qs and HCG. Call 1: one of us did 10 minutes each of Explore/Vision with the other two (i.e., 20 minutes per person). Homework: craft two torches. Call 2: deliver torches, again each of us getting 10 minutes for the other two. Homework: notice obstacles and establish accountability metrics to overcome them. Call 3: obstacle check-in and share metrics.

The next call was with our mentor, Ed Jacobson, who had generously offered to join one of our calls. As we made arrangements for the call with Ed, he suggested we condense our anniversary torches. I found this a fabulous exercise, and a wonderful page in my Planner has the combined torch I synthesized from what Sheila and Charley created for me, a “mini-torch,” this condensed version, and a “micro-torch,” a distillation that has helped me hold fast to the key.

We shared our process with Ed, and we brought our questions. At the core of them was how to integrate life planning in a way that puts us in a flowing current, instead of furiously paddling (Sheila), going around in circles (me), or inwardly shrieking to get back on dry land (Charley). Ed, ever the sage, reminded us that we went to Hana on purpose and took home the experience of the value of clarity. He urged us to recommit to practices that strengthen equanimity and awareness, to help us listen to these inner voices with empathy and go about the next step of EVOKE: knowledge. With better data and reconnaissance, we can leave the cave.

We’re onto the next phase of our biweekly calls and have settled on holding each other accountable to doing a Sunday Review, and setting three desired outcomes for life, work, and personal realms. We’ll approach the call by sharing first, “I’m going to . . . (examples: tell you why I didn’t do the Sunday Review, or share three outcomes).” I’d like you to . . . (gauge progress, sense alignment, reflect praise)” so the other two know how to listen. It’s a work in progress, as are we all. For now, we’re delighted to be rowdy prisoners on this adventure together.


Charley Herbert,CFP® is the Director of Sales and Marketing for Bradley, Foster, Sargent, a money management firm in Hartford, CT. Charley has 36 years of experience in the financial services industry, starting with Dean Witter Reynolds in 1983, and he’s been with BFS since 2003. Charley is chair of the board for Copper Beech Institute, a mindfulness organization based in West Hartford, CT. He is on the board of Wheeler Clinic, a mental health agency in central CT. Charley earned a B.S. in business administration from Rochester Institute of Technology and an M.B.A from California Lutheran University. Charley is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional. He attended the 5-day EVOKE training in Hana in December 2017 and needs the 2-day for full qualification for his RLP®. Charley is married; he and Karen have two grown daughters. Charley lives in Avon, CT.

Miriam Whiteley, CFP®, RLP® is a financial advisor with Roehl & Yi Investment Advisors LLC in Eugene, OR, an independent and locally owned wealth management firm that takes a financial planning approach. Miriam earned a B.S. in Business/Finance from California State University, Long Beach, and intended to have a financial planning career. Her life plan shifted to mothering and then becoming a Waldorf class teacher. About 12 years ago she read Lighting the Torch, and it reignited the spark. She made a career change in 2016, became a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional. a Registered Life Planner and earned an End of Life Care and Support certificate to enhance her understanding of the aging process, and to be of assistance to clients at the intersection of money, health, and end-of-life issues. Miriam enjoys helping clients prepare rather than repair when dealing with the stream of transitions that aging brings. The expression of Miriam’s passion for the power of education, art and music to bring us to states of awe and connection has moved from the classroom to her volunteer work, and she serves on the Board of Trustees of a private high school serving at-risk students, on the Advisory Board of the Oregon Bach Festival and is a hospice volunteer and sings at bedside with the Eugene Threshold Singers. Miriam lives in Eugene, OR

Sheila Padden,CFP®, RLP® founded Padden Financial Planning LLC in Chicago, IL, to provide comprehensive, fee-only financial planning for individuals and families. Focused on the big picture, Sheila puts the pieces of the puzzle together to define goals, optimize investments, minimize taxes, and create a roadmap for reaching goals and financial independence. As a fee-only fiduciary, Sheila accepts no commissions or referral fees – ever. As a CPA for over 25 years, Sheila brings a long history of integrity, quality and value. Sheila is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Certificant, a NAPFA-Registered Financial Advisor, and a Registered Life Planner. Sheila graduated with Honors from the University of Notre Dame and holds a Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Accountancy. She completed Northwestern University’s Certified Financial Planning Program, and the Kinder Institute of Life Planning Program. Sheila was the first national chair of Notre Dame Women Connect and NDWC’s Chicago co-chair for several years. Sheila has been quoted in numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report, and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. Sheila has been a guest advisor on Wharton Business Radio. Sheila is married to Mike Padden and they have four children, including twins. Sheila lives and works in Chicago, IL

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