Why We All Need A Roadmap
August 26, 2014

Why We All Need A Roadmap

by Brian de Haaff

Each successful company and organization has a roadmap. It forces deep thinking, explains where they are going, and helps everyone stay on track. Successful people have roadmaps as well, whether they know it or not. That’s because they have a clear purpose that aligns the daily grind with their long-term aspirations.

Too many of us get caught up in the madness of today and forget to look out into our future. I know because I speak with lots of smart candidates about joining our company and most really have not thought about where they are going.

Personal roadmapping is the exercise of building a plan for greatness. Your greatness. Only you know what truly motivates you. And only purpose with accomplishment can drive lasting satisfaction.

The best personal roadmaps set clear goals with specific dates and describe some of the actions that will help you get there. Your plans should be actionable and written down so that they become real. The alternative — to leave your goals and aspirations to chance — is foolish. Betting your future on luck is for gamblers.

One of the best managers I ever worked for told me, “She with a plan wins.” That’s why you should take a few minutes today to create your own roadmap. You need a thoughtful plan.

Developing a personal roadmap has four major benefits:

  • It drives self-awareness;

  • It provides a framework for success and a true north to keep working towards;

  • It provides insight into which skills and resources you need to reach your goals;

  • It makes it easier to ask for assistance from others on your journey.

You need to lead your own roadmapping effort. But you should also get feedback from trusted friends and colleagues. And there is nothing wrong with designing a one-year plan first if it is too daunting to define what you want to achieve by the time you are retired. Regardless of whether your roadmap is short term or long term, your plan should include the following:

Why If you are running fast, you need to know why. Without a clear vision, you might be moving ahead but going nowhere. You must establish a “goal first” approach and a true north for where you are headed. Reaffirm your strategy every year and tweak it as necessary. But always stay grounded in what you are trying to achieve.

When Now that you know why you are headed in a certain direction, you need to set a target for when you want to be there. Dates matter in life and business because our lives are finite. If we lived forever, time would not be much of a concern. We do not have that luxury (or curse) of permanence, so every day is special.

What The “whats” are the accomplishments that we are striving for. Being promoted to Director or getting into graduate school are great examples of tangible achievements that we should record as goals. Once again, these can either be substantial targets or more readily reachable objectives (like volunteering at a food bank). The key is to record the actions that you must take to achieve these goals.

How The last step is about defining the nitty gritty of how you are going to accomplish the “what”. These are the tactics that you are going to take. There is no doubt that if you set a roadmap for the next decade, you will not be able to fill all of the details in. Still, you can probably start with a few. For example, if getting into graduate school is the goal, you will need to research and apply to different programs. Those actions (the “how”) will help you gain admission to graduate school (the “what”).

Once you complete your roadmap, set it aside for a day. Then, review and share it with people you trust. Explaining your goals helps you crystallize them and can even unlock helpful resources that you did not know you had.

If you don’t have a roadmap, you are likely to suffer. The challenges of life make it easy to lose your way or whipsaw yourself in different directions. In contrast, a roadmap helps you own your destiny. It reinforces what you value and aim to accomplish with your life. That is a powerful tool, indeed.

Do you have a roadmap?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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