When you’ve got so many ambitions and dreams that it feels like you’re paralysed, trying to figure out whether you should start with the idea you had a week ago or the one you had five years ago. Or worse, whether you should give up on one or the other. You need not let go of one dream to achieve another. However, there needs to be a clear picture, your life needs to be a congruent whole, not disparate pieces you’re desperately trying to pursue with no rhyme or reason, with the larger picture of your life. At least, a mind-map I believe is a good way to tackle an overwhelming number of dreams at once, and reconcile seemingly unrelated goals.
Why a Mind-map?
A mind map helps see how all the bits and pieces. Start from the centre. Before following any of the other steps, start by writing at the centre of the piece of paper or software you’re using the word “Success”. This is important as you want everything else you write to reflect what success will look like for you, a successful life that is. By the time you’re done, the first few steps will show you how your dreams are related and how each part will play a role in realising your definition of success. It will seem daunting, but having the full picture and connecting the dots between how each dream leads off to other dreams or can work in conjunction is the goal during the next few steps. Then we will move on to breaking down those goals into timelines that will seamlessly merge into other timelines and subsequent goals.
Identify the main areas of your life
Now the next step is where things begin taking shape, you want to draw a few bubbles around the “success” bubble. These should be filled with the main areas of your life, things that matter to you, and things that are part of the most basic meaning of success for you. These can be elements like:
Just the most basic things that encapsulate immediate sub-items of what areas of your life you need to be successful in. When you’re down with those, follow the next steps in this process.
Connect goals you currently have with those main areas
Now start connecting goals that fall under those main items. With family for instance what are your goals? is it to move into a better home, or work on communicating better with your family members? Fix some issues you’ve procrastinated on? Get married? Anything that goes under this area works. Under each goal that you’ll list, you should also develop things further by listing out some of the ideas you’ve had to accomplish them. So with the example of a family again, you could link to “better communication” a bubble saying something to the effect of “fix anger issues”, “talk to my wife more”…etc. It’s really up to your personal needs and situation that this will come down to. Follow this step for all the other main areas connected to the success bubble.
Make it Fun & Just Dream
This is not the time to think small, and neither is it the time to think irrationally. You want to work in the sweet spot between dreaming outrageously big ideas to thinking from a basis of reality. Writing down, “I want to make a trillion dollars” is quite awesome but it needs to have some basis in reality, you’d need to connect that bubble to steps and ideas that would make that trillion possible, that’s the beauty of this method. Rather than just listing out things that have no connection to your current situation, the bubble is meant to start from where you are and develop towards where you want to be. The order does not matter at the moment, seeing the connection does, if for example you had a dream of moving to a better place but your finances don’t allow for that goal’s realisation then you would need to work on the financial goal and connect some milestone or realisation in that are with the accomplishment of the relocation goal.
Don’t feel stifled by reality, instead use it as a springboard, utilising the current situation and letting your mind find ways to reach your wholesome definition of success.
Now Break it Down Into Timelines
This is the last but one step, everything you did before was merely painting a picture on the canvas of life, a visual representation linking goals in different spheres that matter to you and uncovering goals that have nothing to do with each other. While it helped you map out your life from the many thoughts and dreams you’ve had in the last few years, it is not yet complete. Seeing things with more clarity and understanding the relationship between goals, is still missing two crucial ingredients, time and order. This will be done by creating a timeline for yourself, it can go as far as you need it to go, and you need not do it all at once, although I recommend you try to work on it either during the day or over the course of each timeline you could plan for the next one.
So what is a timeline? We’ll define it as a period of time during which an activity/goal or a series of activities/goals will be undertaken and completed. This will be comprised of three elements, you’ll need: a deadline, a goal(s) and the activities that will be listed as sub-items under the goal. For instance, if you were to work on your finances during the first timeline you’ll establish you could write it down as below:
Timeline 1 (6/1/2021-15/08/2021)
Goal: Make and save $10, 000 to buy a new car by:
- Setting up a side hustle, doing X
- Putting aside 20% of all my income/salary
So if you’ve been following all the mind-mapping imagery shared before, you’ll see that the final timeline note, covers several goals, all interlinked and seemingly falling under one umbrella but the accomplishment of setting up the side hustle will not end when the initial financial goal of Timeline 1 has been achieved. The habit of saving 20% of all your income will not perish once the $10, 000 has been saved. On the contrary, the side hustle now becomes a stepping stone to other things, you can link goals from ‘Timeline 2’ to the future performance of the aforementioned side hustle. Think of these in relation to a goal which you’d had and put aside. How can activities you’re undertaking now play a role in helping you get closer to that goal, and so on? The momentum you gain in life is sometimes transferable. You just need to see how things connect.
So once you’ve established your timeline there is only one more step in the planning and organising department. Flesh out the sub-items, in the instance of “setting up a side hustle…” what side hustles could you reasonably do well or above average and have a quick ROI that can satisfy the timeline? This is where you take the nebulous “set up a side hustle goal” and infuse it with a precise definition. If during your mind-mapping sessions a few ideas came to you to that effect then write those down and think about specifics and things you can actively do.
It is alright if all the answers don’t come at once, on your first look at your mind-map you may not notice how one bubble is connected to another. In that case, just revisit this planning part of your project over the course of its realisation. As you may have surmised this is not the work of a day, you may plan years into the future and keep adding to this vision as you go. But as a tool to see the future to some degree, this tool is without equal, rather than simply listing out some goals at random, you’ll have a greater view of the scenery. While some see 2 months ahead you will see how your life could unfold during the next 5, 10, or 50 years if certain activities are reached.
Finally, the timelines you set should be reasonable, and doable. You can’t feel hopeless or powerless in this process, you need to feel in control, and you need to feel that you can steer the helm of your own ship at last. There is no point to write down goals and give no further thought to how a thing will come to pass. I believe in simplicity, and this is undoubtedly simple, a few hours or minutes per day, refining your mind-map and process, and making this method yours is all it would take.
The part in this that I appreciated quite a lot while coming up with this method for myself, was that it truly helps train your mind to begin seeing the bigger picture while breaking down each section of that future into manageable steps. An issue which I struggled with as a person who is not only a writer, artist and entrepreneur but with other goals that didn’t seem to have any connection to the things I was currently doing. Yet when I tried this, I began seeing that many of my goals all had at minimum a thread linking them, and there were other goals with thick ropes just hanging there that I hadn’t noticed while thinking of my goals in the maze of my mind.
So, my friend, as you dream big and begin planning one period after another for the next X months or years of your life, I hope that you will see how this method is far more effective than the ones most self-improvement programs teach. In addition to this method, I would recommend that you give The Accountability Agreement I drafted for you a look, and perhaps get a copy of my book The Success Roadmap.