“Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles…”
— William Shakespeare, Hamlet
As the great Hunter S. Thompson once proclaimed in a remarkable letter on the topic of finding your purpose: “It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. [Whether to float with the tide or to swim for a goal] So few people understand this! Think of any decision you’ve ever made which had a bearing on your future: I may be wrong, but I don’t see how it could have been anything but a choice however indirect.”
The following article is for those who wish to take up arms against the indiscriminate winds of circumstance by carefully selecting one’s approach on their journey ahead.
JUSTIFYING A STRATEGIC APPROACH
Try to grasp what it means to never set yourself deliberate destinations or goals in life. To lack a mission—to have no reference by which you can hold your bearings accountable. This is the conscious or unconscious choice to allow the waves of circumstance to dictate your fate.
What military force could ever hope to triumph without a strategy? What enterprise could ever hope to succeed without declared aspirations?
Why is it then, that we as individuals so often choose to neglect such reasoning in our own domains?
By the simple act of charting a destination—an outcome now stands in the periphery of your consciousness as a reference point for guiding and giving meaning to subsequent mental and physical actions.
Not only is it self-evidently essential to avoid needless suffering, but possessing a map of intent is arguably one of the greatest tools to develop as a human being.
I say this because I believe anybody who takes such a project seriously will find themselves missing their targets on a somewhat regular basis. And the consequences of missing your target on a frequent basis necessitates humility, understanding and subsequent adaption.
It’s a bit like target shooting. When you aim at a target, you must internally declare a specific target before you engage. If your rounds miss their target, you’re forced to have a conversation with yourself as to why you weren’t able to hit what it was you were aiming at. Then, you grasp and acknowledge what you’re obviously doing wrong and change your approach. Viola, after a few misses, and subsequent readjustments, you’re hitting your target as a direct consequence of understanding the principles in-play.
CREATING A PERSONAL STRATEGIC MAP
Declaring targets will be fun, and it will be difficult. There’s something very revealing about taking some time to carefully consider what you could be striving for in life. And for the time being, don’t concern yourself with how these things will be accomplished. Many good ideas would find themselves dismissed outright if a person was to limit their aspirations on their current opinion of themselves. Look at the map as what could be. Perhaps the means to reaching a goal isn’t currently in your arsenal. Perhaps the knowledge required to hit your target is yet to be possessed. Do not limit your map’s targets on your present capability. For it is the goal, that often raises us to the occasion.
THE RESOLUTION OF YOUR STRATEGIC MAP
Before you begin, it’s important to understand your map’s resolution. A map’s resolution represents the healthy relationship you should look to have with your goals.
Targets keep us rigid and fixated. That’s literately how we aim. But we must respect the fact that variables change in life, and so too, must our ability to change targets if necessary. We don’t wish to be crippled by our own planning when our life perspective changes. So often, new variables will arise that never could have been foreseen and we’d be foolish to be hindered by such rigidness.
Admittedly, some aspirations need to be planned out over many years without deviation if you truly aspire to hit an ambitious goal. Academic goals and athletic goals frequently play out over years and nothing short of focused, unwavering commitment to the cause will do.
The closer a target is declared to the present day [e.g. Next week] the higher the resolution (The more likely i’m going to go hard on myself to make it happen)
The further away a target is declared from the present day, [e.g. Next Year] the lower the resolution. (The more flexible I am to change, and the less likely I am to go hard on myself should I change targets)
EXAMPLE OF A PERSONAL STRATEGIC MAP
Download our A4 template by clicking on the image above and then take a look at a theoretical map below before you get started on your own.
GETTING STARTED ON YOUR PERSONAL STRATEGIC MAP
Firstly, Print it out. Let’s keep our map outside the realms of our digital real-estate. The reason I advocate this is to avoid losing our map to the obscurity of information overload. It’s far too easy for a PDF like this to become just another file on your desktop—lost in the sea of things-to-do.
Next, set aside an hour of undisturbed time to reflect on your life and to carefully consider your upcoming targets.
The template I’ve included is a three-year plan. Don’t worry if your ambitions begin to fade as the distance of time calls for your declarations. It’s completely normal to find yourself struggling somewhat when you attempt to conceptualize greater distances of time. But give it a go anyway.
Let’s begin by declaring our short-term targets:
1) What’s the thing you’re looking forward to the most over the next week?
Write it down (With the date)
2) Whats the most important thing you should do over the next month?
Again, write it down (With the date)
2) What places do you intend to visit over the next couple of months?
Write them down also (With the dates)
And just like that, you’re now a navigator with a map in hand. No longer aimlessly wandering across the indiscriminate waves of life. You’re now declaring intentions and you’ll soon see how capable you’re at attaining them.
Remember: This map is for you. It’s not for your social media, or to impress your partner, or to tell your friends. Keep it to yourself. Keep these targets outside of the realms of social influence. Studies even show our targets are less likely to be hit if we’re telling others about them. I have a few ideas why I think this is the case. One being; that when we miss our targets with social pressure present, we’re more likely to be looking to save social face than truly acknowledging our flaws. This will often entail some fabricated reasoning as to why you didn’t achieve that thing you said you where going to do—rather than actually focusing on what is true. However, If your targets are private to you, then there is no need for fabrication unless you’re in the business of lying to yourself. Rather, you’re free to acknowledge the raw inadequacies at fault for failed endeavours; instead of concerning yourself with social appearances. Leaving you with sharper truths—to subsequently adapt and overcome.
A Personal Strategic Map is a powerful process that allows you to see your own limits of controlling external things. With a bit of stoic mindfulness, you will soon learn how to distance yourself from the things that are beyond the grasp of your control. Bringing ever more focus and resolve into the things you actually can control.
The leader must acknowledge mistakes and admit failures, take ownership of them, and develop a plan to win.
— Jocko Willink, Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs lead and win