Clinton, an old friend of mine, returned to our home town one summer after being oversees for a while. We were talking on the phone and making plans to meet at a favorite Drive-In Roadhouse that made the best burgers. The city had grown and changed some since he had been gone, so I gave him directions to get to our favorite spot. I knew where he lived and I knew where he was going. Those two essential elements were present and certain, so no ambiguity there. The problem was with the map of how to get there. The scenery had changed, the landscape was now different and required a different approach. I told him which new roads to take, highlighting the route with the purple gorilla at that one Car Dealership. He made it there on time and we talked late into the night while sipping Chocolate malts and dipping salty French Fries. But more about that later…
Where do you want to be?
Getting from here to there is only possible if you know where there is. This is the second most difficult component to define. Ask anyone you meet where they would rather be or what they would like to be doing and most folks can usually give you a pretty clear answer. We all know what we want. Some know it better than others and therein lies one of the keys. To say I want to go from America to China, is quite clear and sets some direction, but both countries are quite large and so although that initial information is good, it is not detailed or clear enough. Ok. Lets say I want to go from Dallas to Beijing. That is better, because it helps me know more specifically where to go, but Dallas is large and Beijing even larger, so we need even more detail. Well, I want to leave from DFW airport and I want to go to the Peach Blossom Bed and Breakfast on the East side of Beijing’s Nanpor neighborhood at 1431A Orchard Rd.
That is detailed enough that I can get you to your particular destination. It is specific enough to accomplish your objective. Most of us know what we want, but fewer know exactly what they want. I might say: “I want to make more money”. That is like saying I want to go to China. It is a start, but it is not clear enough. How much more money do you want to make? Or. If you want to be a doctor, what kind of doctor do you want to be? Where do you want to practice and what do you want to specialize in?
The clearer and more detailed the description of your destination, the easier it is to get there. While I am on the subject of ‘getting there’ let me mention a trap that I occasionally fall into. Sometimes I don’t make my destination clear because then I avoid disappointment or failure (if I happen not to make it) since no hard target exists.
Where are you now?
Getting from here to there is only possible if you know where here is to begin with. In terms of difficulty, this essential component is the most difficult to define. It is the most difficult to define primarily because as people, we seldom see ourselves accurately. This action is easier to do if the example you are working on is objective, like: I want to make twice as much money as I am presently. A quick glance at your paycheck will answer the question of where you are now. So those kinds of physically measurable goals are simpler to define with clarity.
But what if your goal is more personal like: I want to do something that I am really great at, or I want to use my strengths more or I want to improve my sense of satisfaction with my life? Those goals are far more difficult to define for a number of reasons, but the primary one is personal. How do you measure where you are strong? Is your own evaluation of your strength to be trusted? What if you are fooling yourself? What if you underestimate how great your contribution could really be? The problem with knowing where you are now, is that it is very difficult to see ourselves and consequently we fudge on this part of the map.
In my example of meeting Clinton for burgers and french-fries dipped in malt shakes, the only way I could get him to the roadhouse, was if I started where he was, specifically. Clarity about the starting point is essential to creating a successful map and its for that reason, as well as the fact that we don’t see ourselves very well, that I advocate the input of trusted friends and the perspective of objective assessments, to help you see yourself.
The Strengthsfinder assessment created by the Gallup organization is one of the most accurate and scalable talent measuring tools I know and I highly recommend using it as a way to see more about who you are and where you are strong. You will need it if you are going to get to where you wanna go.
The road from here to there.
This is by far the easiest of the three components to mapping. As long as I know where I am, and I know where I want to go, and those two points are clear and finite, then I can map a route to get there. In fact, there are probably several ways to get from here to there. The cool part of having clarity about where you are and where you want to go, is that even if the terrain changes unexpectedly, you can easily make a course correction and keep the objective in sight. It also enables tactical changes in the approach to your destination, as obstacles or challenges arise.
If my old friend Clinton had taken the road he used to take to get to the roadhouse, he would not have gotten there, but he could make some course corrections along the way and still get to his desired outcome.
Desire for change.
The final component needed to get from here to there is a desire for change that is strong enough to create action. Wishing for a different outcome without making changes is a wheel spinning exercise. You are doing something, but going nowhere. Perhaps at some point the pain of staying where you are will overcome the discomfort of launching toward your destination. Whatever the motivation that finally gets you moving, it is safe to say that an enduring desire to get to where you want to go will play a critical role in your success.
If you find yourself overwhelmed by the size of your objective remember that the clearer your destination, the easier it is to get there.
Two questions then:
- How much clearer can you make the objectives you already have?
- Do you need help from friends or assessments to see yourself and the route to your destination?