This simple exercise can clarify your passions, radically reduce your stress levels and get you moving toward a bigger and brighter career.
Figuring out your professional passion takes time and effort. We live in a hectic world, where we go from decision to decision, project to project, with incredible speed. That constant motion can make it hard for you to hone in on your dreams and make the steps necessary to achieve them.
Fortunately, there’s one tool that can help you clear out your “brain clutter”, figure out where your passions lie and make smart decisions. That tool is a goal map.
All of us have a multitude of goals. But those goals tend to differ in terms of their importance and their complexity. You might want to start a family, get a new car, invent an Uber for burritos and get a burrito for lunch.
To figure out what’s really motivating you, try creating a simple four-axis graph. On the vertical axis, you’re measuring importance — how essential or inessential to your happiness this goal is. On the horizontal axis, you’re measuring time — how long you estimate you’ll have to work before you achieve your goal.
Getting that burrito, for example, is low in importance, but also low in completion time: It won’t change your life, but it will only take about twenty minutes, and you’ll be happy you did it. If your car is breaking down, getting a new car is high in importance, but low on time: It needs to be done now, or you won’t have a way to get to work.
After about fifteen or twenty minutes of goal mapping, you’ll have a surprisingly clear vision of where your priorities lie. This decreases your stress levels and makes you a better decision maker: When you have a lot of pressing needs, it can seem impossible to decide which goal to pursue at any given time. Forcing yourself to slow down, sort your goals out and figure out what really matters enables you to make decisions rationally with a clear sense of priorities.
If there’s something massively important that you can get done right away, great! Jump on that! But most of us have a lot of low-importance, short-term goals, and one or two very important, long-range projects. Cutting out the low-importance goals — or simply not placing too much effort or stress on them — and focusing your efforts on those one or two big, important dreams, allows you to progress toward a better future.
It also helps you plan your life around the goals that matter: If you’re two years away from creating that great app, what needs to be done in those two years? What courses would you need to take, what people would you need to connect with, how much money do you need to save or raise?
Your goal map can clarify your professional passions, and create a clear picture of the life of your dreams. It can also help you start thinking about how to live that life and get you moving toward a better future.
Image Credit: CC by Georgie Pauwels.