life map

I have an existential map.

It has ‘You are here’ written all over it.

Steven Wright

We each define success a little differently. But, however you choose to define it, success is much more than economic gains, titles, and degrees. Making a plan for your success is all about mapping out all the aspects of your life. Similar to a map of the physical road, you need to be able to define the following details: origin, destination, vehicle, backpack, landmarks, and route.

Beginnings: Who you are

All maps have a starting point. Your origin is who you are right now, today. Most people when asked to introduce themselves would say something like, “Hi, I’m Tom. I am a 17-year old, and a senior high school student.” This does not really tell you very about who Tom is. It, in fact, only tells you his present preoccupation.

To begin to gain some insights about yourself, you need to look closely at your beliefs, values, and principles apart from your economic, professional, cultural, and civil status. Moreover, you can also reflect on your past experiences to give you some insights into your good and yes, not-so-good traits, skills, knowledge, strengths, and weaknesses.

Upon introspection, Tom may realize that he is also highly motivated, generous, service-oriented, but impatient. His inclination was in the biological-medical field. He also found that he 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. It is important that you know yourself well, so that you can have a clear idea of who you want to be. This is also an opportunity to change the things that you are not particularly happy with. What kinds of things? Things like your attitudes, habits, or points of view. If you have never really taken the time to get to know yourself, then your vision, as well as your targets for the future will remain unclear.

Your chosen destination should cover all of the aspects of your being; the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. Continuing Tom’s example, after he defined his beliefs, values, and principles in life, he decided that he wanted to have a life dedicated to serving his fellowmen.

Vehicle: Your Mission

The vehicle you choose is the means by which you will reach your destination. It can be analogized to your mission or vocation in life. To a great extent, your mission will depend on what you know about yourself.

Again, sticking with Tom’s self-assessment, he decided that he was suited to become a physician, and that he wanted to work to become one. His chosen vocation was a medical doctor. Describing his vision-mission fully: it was to live a life dedicated to serving his fellowmen as a doctor in conflict-areas.

Travel Bag: Your knowledge, skills, and attitude

Food, drinks, medicines, and other traveling necessities are usually tucked into your travel bag. Continuing our metaphor, and applying this concept to your life map, you will bring with you certain knowledge, skills, and attitudes. These determine your competence and help you in attaining your vision.

If you know yourself and know where you want to go, then the next step is for you to assess what knowledge, skills, and attitudes you have at present and what you will need to gain along the way. This two-fold assessment will give you important insights on your landmarks or measures of success.

Tom realized that he needed to gain professional knowledge and skills in medicine so that he could become a doctor. He also now knows that he is a bit impatient with people. This won’t well with being a physician, so he realized that this was something that he wanted to change.

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

Landmarks confirm that you are traveling on the right track, while the route determines the time it will take to travel. So, in planning out your life, you also need to have clear landmarks and a route. These landmarks are your measures of success. These measures must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time bound.

What does all of that mean? It means that you cannot set two major landmarks. It means that you/ he cannot plan on earning a master’s degree and a doctorate degree within a period of three years. Why? Because the minimum number of years to complete a master’s degree is two years, and that’s realign humping it.

Going back to Tom, he has identified the following landmarks in his life map:

  • completing a bachelor’s degree in biology by the age of 21
  • completing medicine by the age of 27
  • earn his specialization in infectious diseases by the age of 30
  • getting deployed in local public hospitals in his town by the age of 32
  • serving as doctor in war-torn areas by the age of 35

All do-able.

Anticipate Turns, Detours, and Potholes

The purpose of your life map is to minimize hasty, spur-of-the-moment and potentially destructive decisions that can make you lose your way. But often our plans will need to be modified along the way because of some inconveniences, delays, and other situations that are wll beyond beyond our control. As with traveling any path, there will be turns, detours, and potholes, So, you must anticipate them and adjust accordingly.

What does your life map look like? Where are you going?

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Photo Credit: Tricia Wang ??? via Compfight cc