Mapping your life purpose and goals is like a road trip. You need to know where you are starting from and where you are going. Set your mile markers so you don’t get lost along the way.
Know where you are headed
You wouldn’t start out on a road trip without knowing your destination. Is this a day trip or a 2-week vacation? How long will it take to get there? Do I want to take the scenic route or take the fastest path from point A to point B? You can’t set your GPS on “somewhere” and expect to get there.
If you are feeling discontented, disconnected, and overwhelmed; you may think that the answer is to just go somewhere else. But if you don’t take the time and effort to decide where you want to go, you will find yourself driving in circles around the same obstacles.
You are like a little kid running away but you don’t have a plan once you get to the end of the driveway.
Know where you are starting from
To get where you want to go, you need to determine where you starting from, which is NOT the same as starting over. Your life is an ongoing journey- a continuing road trip, if you will- where each mile marker serves as a reminder of the experiences, challenges, and growth that you’ve experienced along the way. Looking back and realizing how far you have come can motivate you to continue on. Celebrate your accomplishments, learn from your mistakes, and stay focused on your goals.
Mile markers are how you know you are headed in the right direction and you are making progress
By viewing your life as a series of markers along the road trip, you can better appreciate the journey itself. You wouldn’t set off on a cross-country road trip without plotting a course from one mile marker to the next.
When I drove northeast from Arizona to Vermont, I knew to set my sights first on Albequerque before St. Louis. And even though I was mindful of my destination, I knew you don’t go from A to Z without passing through B to Y along the way.
I used to play a game with my daughter when she was young and she wanted to go on a walk with me. I knew before long she was going to ask how much further- the pedestrian version of “are we there yet”? So we would pick a visual goal- just to that big tree, or just to that yellow house. It seemed like a doable point to get to and it took away the overwhelm of too-far-to-go.
Once there, we set the next goal. Mile markers.
Just as you would stop at a rest area to take a break and stretch your legs on a long road trip, you can use the mile markers you have set for your journey toward your life purpose as an opportunity to pause, assess your progress, reevaluate, and make any necessary course corrections to stay on track.
What to pack, and what not to pack
The great thing about a road trip, and planning your route to your big dream or goal, is you have the flexibility and control of the journey. When planning your trip, you need to decide what provisions you will need along the way. And you also need to decide what to leave behind.
Only you know the essential non-negotiables for your trip. You may prioritize routines like the same bedtime/ waketime every day and plan on staying in a comfortable hotel nightly. A well-planned trip at a slow and steady pace may make you feel the safest in getting you to your destination.
Another may love the spontaneity and adventure of setting a looser pace while still heading toward their destination.
Both are okay- different isn’t right or wrong- it’s just different. Don’t try to copy what is right for someone else, but not for you.
The thing that NO ONE needs is to bring the excess baggage from their past on this new road trip.
When you pack your bags for this next adventure, you wouldn’t consider bringing clothes that no longer fit you. You wouldn’t consider bringing snacks and toys for your toddler that is now 30 and not coming along on this road trip. Don’t bring stuff that suited you before, but does not suit you now.
To determine what your packing list needs to be is going to take some time and thought before you embark on this next adventure. Some things are obvious- you can most likely leave your mix tape and Rand McNally map book behind.
Some are not so obvious. Like the roles that you have outgrown, the people you no longer have to get permission or approval from, and the negative self-talk that tells you that you can’t do what you want. You are in the driver’s seat so you get to pick the radio station.
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It’s not a straight line; detours, distractions, and wrong turns
We are all under construction and the timeline for the new and improved route is not always clear. If we have determined where we are headed, (and more importantly, why we are headed there), then the setbacks and delays don’t take us off track.
Remember the Wizard of Oz. Even with the unexpected, Dorothy continued to follow the yellow brick road in spite of uncertainty, fear, and opposition. The Emerald City was just around the corner. Don’t let an unfamiliar road, untested friendships, flat tires, and bad weather keep you from heading toward where you are going to discover what you were always meant to be.
Where are you on your journey? On your road trip?
Are you set in neutral gear watching others and wishing you were on the road to your dream? The opposite of being stuck is not “unstuck”, it’s action.
You might be parked in your driveway, packed and ready to go, until the fear of “what if” and the uncertainty of the road ahead keeps you from putting the car in drive.
Maybe you are missing your mile markers. You started on your way but you have engaged the cruise control setting. You have been lulled to sleep not paying attention to the exit you should have taken. Or you have let distractions leave you broken down on the side of the road and ready to give up.
It’s never too late to set your sights on a dream, map out a route to get there, and enjoy the ride!
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