What is success? It is more than being rich, becoming titled or earning degrees. Success does not happen by luck. You can actually plan to be successful. The key is mapping out every aspect of your life. When you are planning for success, it is like similar to when you are planning for a trip. You need a map. You need to consider where your coming from (origin), where you are going to end up (destination), how you are going to get there (vehicle), what you will need to have with you (backpack), and your goals and objectives (landmarks and route).
Origin: Who Are You Really?
In life mapping, like planning for a trip, you need a starting point, an origin. When you are asked to introduce yourself, what do you say? Most people would say something like, "Hello, my name is Andrea. I'm 19 years old and a college student." What's wrong with that introduction? It doesn't really tell you who Andrea is as a person; it simply tells you how old she is and what she is doing currently.
So who are you really? If you want to gain insight about yourself, it is vital that you closely take a look at your values, your beliefs, and your principles. It is not just about your job, your financial status, your cultural background, or whether you are single, married, separated, divorced or widowed. Your experiences can give you insights as to who you are. What are your traits, both good and bad? What skills do you have? What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Going back to the example earlier, Andrea, after some introspection, realizes that she is a person who is highly motivated, service-oriented and generous, but also very impatient. She is interested in the biological-medical field. She believes that each one of us has a purpose in life. She also believes that wars erode human dignity.
Destination: What is Your Vision of You in the Future?
Who do you want to be at the end of your journey? In order to answer this question, you need to know yourself. This involves knowing what things in you and your life you want to change - it may be attitudes, points of view or habits. Unless you know yourself, you are not going to have a very clear idea of who you want to be in the future. Your destination needs to cover every aspect of your self: emotional, physical, spiritual and intellectual. Going back to our example, once Andrea knew what her values, beliefs and life principles are, she was able to decide what she wants to be: someone who serves others.
Vehicle: What is Your Mission?
How are you going to reach your destination, your vision of you in the future? This is where your vehicle comes in, and it's your mission. Your mission depends on what you know about yourself. Again, let's go back to our example. Once Andrea has done self-assessment, she discovered she is best suited to be a doctor, and she does want to become a doctor. Thus, her vision is: to serve as a doctor in areas where there are conflicts.
Backpack: What Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes Should You Have?
What do you usually pack in your luggage when you are traveling? Drinks, food, medications, personal items, clothing, etc. In your life map, you will need to have the right attitudes, knowledge, and skills and pack these in your backpack. They determine if you are competent and they can help you in reaching your destination (your vision of who you want to be). So you need to first assess what and how much of these you have currently, and what else you need to acquire along the way. Knowing this can help you in setting up your landmarks and routes (your goals and objectives). Andrea, for instance, realizes that if she want to become a doctor, she will need to go to medical school, pass the board and gain professional experience. She also knows she is impatient, especially with people, so if she wants to be a doctor, she will need to work on her patience.
Landmarks and Route: Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals and Objectives
Landmarks are indications that you are on the right path, while the route determines how long you have to travel. In life mapping, it is essential that you have landmarks, as well as a route. The landmarks are your measures of success, and they must be SMART - specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. You can't set two major landmarks, like getting your master's degree and a doctorate degree in just three years. It takes at least two years to earn the former, and at least three to earn the latter. To go back to our example, Andrea identifies the landmarks in her life map: earn her bachelor's degree in biology at 21, complete medicine at 27, earn her specialization in infectious disease at 30, get deployed to public hospitals at 32, and be a doctor in war-torn areas at 35.
Anticipating Turns, Detours, Bumps and Potholes
A life map is not set in stone. A life map is a guide, something that will lessen those times when you make hasty decisions that can lead you away from your goals and keep you from attaining your vision. A life map is something you can modify along the way. You can tweak it, modify it, adjust it. You are going to encounter detours, turns, potholes and bumps along the way, and so you will need to adjust your life map.