Success: Can a Life Map Steer You in the Right Direction?


Success is a personal journey. It looks different for each person. It is more than money, professional titles, or higher education degrees. Planning a life of success is about mapping out the aspects of your life. It is a holistic approach to success that includes mind, body and spirit. (Even if you are a corporate junkie you need this balance.)

Similar to a map, you need to define the following details: origin, destination, vehicle, backpack, landmarks, and route.

Origin: Who you are

A journey has a starting point. Your origin is who you are right now, at this moment. Most people when asked to introduce themselves identify themselves with their name and occupation, saying something like: "Hi, I'm Jean and I am a 17-year old, senior high-school student." It does not tell you about who Jean is, her values, her character, her interests or passions; it only tells you her present focus. Your origin and who you are is more than your name and occupation. It is your beliefs, values, and principles aside from your economic, professional, cultural, and civil status. Moreover, you can also reflect on your experiences to give you insights on your good and not-so-good traits, skills, knowledge, strengths, and weaknesses. Upon introspection, Jean realized that she was highly motivated, generous, service-oriented, but impatient. Her inclination was in the biological-medical field. Furthermore, she believed that life must serve a purpose, and that wars were destructive to human dignity.

Destination: A vision of who you want to be

"Who do want to be?" This is your vision. Now it is important that you know yourself so that you would have a clearer idea of who you want to be; and the things you want to change whether they are attitudes, habits, or points of view. If you hardly know yourself, then your vision and targets for the future would also be unclear. Your destination should cover all the aspects of your being: the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual.

Continuing Jean's story, after she defined her beliefs, values, and principles in life, she decided that she wanted to have a life dedicated to service.

Vehicle: Your Mission

A vehicle is the means by which you can reach your destination. It can be analogized to your mission or vocation in life. To a great extent, your mission would depend on what you know about yourself. Based on Jean's self-assessment, she decided that she was suited to become a doctor, and that she wanted to become one. Her chosen vocation was a medical doctor. Describing her vision-mission fully; it was to live a life dedicated to serving her fellow people as a doctor in conflict-areas.

Travel Bag: Your knowledge, skills, and attitude.

Food, drinks, medicines, and other traveling necessities are contained in a bag. Applying this concept to your life map, you also bring with you certain knowledge, skills, and attitudes. These determine your competence and help you in attaining your vision. Given such, there is a need for you to assess what knowledge, skills, and attitudes you have at present and what you need to gain along the way. This two-fold assessment will give you insights on your landmarks or measures of success. Jean realized that she needed to gain professional knowledge and skills in medicine so that she could become a doctor. She knew that she was a bit impatient with people so she realized that this was something she wanted to change.

Landmarks and Route: S.M.A.R.T. objectives

Landmarks confirm if you are on the right track; while the route determines the travel time. Thus, in planning out your life, you also need to have landmarks and a route. These landmarks are your measures of success. These measures must be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound. Thus you cannot set two major landmarks such as earning a master's degree and a doctorate degree within a period of three years, since the minimum number of years to complete a master's degree is two years. Going back to Jean as an example, she identified the following landmarks in her life map: completing a bachelor's degree in biology by the age of 21; completing medicine by the age of 27; earning her specialization in infectious diseases by the age of 30; getting deployed in local public hospitals of their town by the age of 32; and serving as doctor in war-torn areas by the age of 35.

The landmarks become your goals. The route is your strategy for reaching each landmark or goal. You can see that it all ties together with your vision. Without the vision it is hard to create a map with landmarks and routes. As you develop your route, you are working on strategies that make the most sense for getting to the next landmark along your journey.

Anticipate Turns, Detours, and Potholes

The purpose of your life map is to minimize hasty and spur-of-the-moment decisions that can make you lose your way. But oftentimes our plans are modified along the way due to some inconveniences, delays, and other situations beyond our control. Like in any path, there are turns, detours, and potholes thus; we must anticipate them and adjust accordingly. And occasionally the road ends at a cliff that we didn't anticipate and we find ourselves plunging out of control. In each of these situations it is where a compass becomes a vital tool. Your compass keeps you headed in the right direction, helps to get you back on your route. Your compass contains your values and principles. It is what guides your life along your journey. Values and principles are what guide your decisions. When a road block appears or a detour comes up, you need to take out your compass and get a new bearing of where you are headed.

A life map is a valuable tool for building success year after year. You are not just driving down the road blindly. You have envisioned your destination. It is okay if the vision isn't totally clear. The clarity can come as you come closer and closer to that vision. It is when you drive without a plan that you end up in a destination unknown and wonder how you got yourself there. By being the driver of your life and have a life map you are more likely to achieve the success you desire.