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Mapping Steps to Your Goals

by Dr. Beverly Potter

Begin at the End

About the completed goal, ask yourself, "Can I do this now?"

If the answer is "No," ask, "What step must I do first?"

Picture in your mind the step you just identified,  and ask, "Can I do this now? If not, what step must I do first?"

Continue this questioning process with each step identified until you get to a step that you can do now.

Set goal by looking at the result desired


Create a Map

A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.


You reach your goal by beginning with what you can do now.

Create a map to your goal by following the steps you identified when asking the questions just described above.

Janice's Map

Janice's goal was to set up an on-line database of health-care trends.  To figure out the steps to her goal, she began at the end - the existence of the health- care trends database - by asking, "Can I do this now?" The answer was "no."  So Janice asked, "What do I have to do before I can set up the database?"  She saw that the data had to be input first.  For the first step backward, Janice drew a circle to the left of her goal and wrote "input data" in it.

With one step identified, Janice repeated the process by asking "Can I input the data now?" Again the answer was "no."  Thinking of what she had to do before she could input the data, she identified "gathering the data" as the next step backward.

When Janice wondered if gathering the data could be done now, she realized that two simultaneous steps had to be completed first.  The database had to be designed, and studies and product information had to be collected.

Following the second of these, Janice discovered that before she could gather the studies and product information, she had to identify the kind of information that would go into the database.  Before doing this Janice had to poll industry experts, before she could do this she had to identify experts to poll.  Identifying experts is something she can do immediately.

Janice then returned to "gather data" and repeated the question asking process to identify the steps going backward until she got to a step she can do now.

After identifying the steps backward from her goal, Janice rearranged the steps from the starting point - what she can do now - to accomplishing her goal.  Each of the activities she identified became action steps to her goal.  With this process she created a map for getting to her goal.

Identify the Steps to You Goal

Picture your goal having been achieved - the goal-state,
and ask, "Can I do this now?"

If you can not do it now, ask, "What must I do first?"

Ask the same question of that step and each subsequent step you identify
until you get to a step you can do now.

List the Steps You Identified

Determine Small Steps

Take easiest step from the list above and identify several small steps to it. List the small steps. Put a check next to an easy small step you can start with.

If you wonder if you could actually take this small step, break it into even smaller steps and choose an easy one to begin with.

Describe a major step to your goal
Break the larger step into smaller ones

Create Your Map

Draw a circle about the size of a silver dollar in the middle of a blank sheet of paper.  Write your goal in the circle.

Ask of the goal, "Can I do this now?"  If the answer is "no,"  ask, "What do I have to do first?"  Draw a circle next to the first one, and write what you have to do first in this circle. connect it with a line to the circle containing your goal.

Ask the same question, "Can I do this now?  If not, what must I do first?" of the step in the adjunct circle. When you identify what you must do first, draw a circle and connect it with a line to the second circle.  Write the step you identified in the circle.

Repeat the questioning process until you identify a step you can do now - which you also put into a circle connected to the others.

When you've identified all of the steps, then rewrite them in sequence, beginning with the step that you can do now - to your goal.  This is your step-by-step map.

Copyright 1994: Beverly A. Potter. From Finding a Path with a Heart: How to Go from Burnout to Bliss, by Dr. Beverly Potter, RONIN.  This file may be downloaded for individual use.  Any other transmission or reprinting requires permission of the author or publisher.  All Rights Reserved.

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