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7 Steps to Create a Roadmap for Your Life

How to effectively navigate any major life change.

Key points

  • The archetype for life is the journey. The roadmap helps chart the trip through change and transition.
  • A roadmap helps a person visualize their life—where they have been and where they want to go.
  • Learning how to navigate change and transition will help one gain control of life's circumstances.

Since the archetype for life is the journey, a roadmap will help you plan your life moving forward much as you would prepare for a trip. Charting your trip tells you where you’ve been so far, where you intend to go, what obstacles you may face, and the places you keep returning to over and over again.

Our journeys are both inner and outer. The events of the outer journey, the cumulative transitions of a lifetime, will be somewhat similar for all of us who share the human experience. Our personal inner journey is a much more private affair. The roadmap is a reliable context within which to place your very own experiences and transitions.

The nature of life is change and all of us will make many changes and go through numerous transitions as we live life. Nothing stays the same and neither do we. So much colors who we are and who we are to become. Knowingly or not, we move into new and different phases that connect us socially and emotionally to others who are going through the same phase.

But beyond the normal changes we will encounter, there will be those changes and transitions we did not expect, did not prepare for, did not want to happen. How do we cope with encounters and transitions that are difficult, challenging, and often overwhelming?

One way is to learn to be prepared for whatever comes your way. How do you do that? Well, experience will be a great teacher. Once something has happened to you, it will no longer be an unknown. You will have learned something from it. But, it’s a lot easier if you have the tools to handle change and transition so you’re not surprised, so you’ll know what to do.

Here are seven essential steps to help you navigate through any change/transition you may encounter during the course of your life.

Have a realistic expectation. Before you embark on your next big change/transition, map your trip as best you can, knowing that things don’t always work out as you plan or hope they will. Know that things can go smoothly, or there may be delays, detours, and roadblocks. Be realistic about the timetable. Again, things may happen quickly or there may be delays, sudden stops, and sometimes re-routing before you reach your destination.

Review what you’ve learned about change. Each of your trips to a new place in your life has hopefully taught you something. It’s these cumulative events and your responses to them that help you navigate whatever happens to you moving forward. What you’ve learned and how to respond will help you make the best possible choices and decisions.

The exception to that, of course, is an event that places you in imminent danger, such as a life-threatening illness, unexpected personal crisis, or natural disaster, where you have no choice but to take immediate action. In that case, once the necessary actions have been taken and the dust finally settles, you can then go back and review, in order to figure out what the change/transition meant and what to do next.

Create a Life Timetable. This timetable should reflect major life transitions. What events did you initiate on your own? In other words, what inner events caused you to make a change? What happenings were foisted upon you by life circumstances? In other words, what events happened to you from the outside; those events you had little control over? What were your “triumphs?" What were your losses? Pay attention to the main emotions for each of these changes/transitions. How did you react to whatever happened to you?

Do you view each major event in your life in a positive light—you got something out of it? Or, do you fear change because you believe the things that have happened to you have impacted you negatively?

Define your Life Themes. This goes well beyond charting the chronological order of events, the basic facts of your life. Themes are generally easily recognizable—they are recurring and repetitive. Positively, life themes help you define who you are and alert you to your purpose and passion. Developing insight into how you process life and what is most important to you can help you gain more personal control so that you can skillfully steer the course in the direction you want to go.

Get in touch with your Life Lessons. We all have them. Each of us has our own unique things to experience and lessons to be learned. Not one size fits all. Our lessons come from every single facet of our lives—our background, family, culture, religion, social group, education. Those influencers help us define who we are from birth. Some of us are fortunate enough to have been given life skills early on so that finding our way through life is made easier, while others struggle to find their way. But there is always the opportunity at any point in life to learn and receive guidance from those around you.

Where you choose to take yourself in life and who you choose to associate with will inevitably influence you greatly. Paying close attention to how you respond to life will help you become acutely aware of the life lessons that await you.

Go beyond limiting beliefs. Do you really know what you believe? We often assume we know what we believe to be true—but that’s often not the case. What we think is true is frequently colored by others’ opinions and influenced by those we admire and trust. As much as they may care about us, they may not always know what’s in our best interest. And too, often the actions we take and the choices and decisions we make are based on ideas and beliefs that no longer serve us, if they ever did. So going beyond limiting beliefs may pave the way for changing how you make transitions moving forward. Push through to beliefs that bolster your confidence and support your endeavors.

Accept the unknown. There’s so much we don’t know as we go through life. With as much planning as we’ll do to ensure our desired outcome, there will always be those times when all the planning in the world will not get us the result we want. Who knows why? But it happens. Consider the unknown your friend in life. When you accept what you can’t control, what you can’t do anything about, it becomes far easier to accept what does come and make it work for you.

As Rilke said so well, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

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