Imagine a ship on a voyage far out into the sea without a compass or a map. The ship has a captain but the captain isn’t sure where he is going or why. Instead he allows the changing winds and currents to guide the direction of the ship. As a result, the captain and passengers spend a great deal of time adrift and are often dissatisfied with the destinations along their journey. Like the captain, I have lived most of my life without a compass or map, and have experienced a great deal of dissatisfaction as a result. At times, this has even manifested as periods of depression, anxiety, and loneliness. In my observations of and interactions with others, it seems that occasional, periodic, or even ongoing dissatisfaction with life is a common problem in our society. Fulfillment Mapping is meant to be a solution for this common problem.
Fulfillment Mapping is a strategic personal growth system that I developed and use to ensure that the long-term decisions I make and short-term actions I take in my life contribute to the pursuit and fulfillment of my unique potential. When I consistently use Fulfillment Mapping tools and processes, I experience greater alignment between how I am living and the true purpose of my life. I am also able to arrive at my desired destinations using a more streamlined route. When I am in alignment, energy just seems to flow to and through me. Opportunities seem to be more abundant and obstacles are transformed into opportunities. I enjoy life more and almost always feel satisfied about the direction it is going. This is a state that I aspire to be in as much as possible.
A Comparison to Organizational Strategic Planning and Management
To further explain Fulfillment Mapping and its importance, I want you to consider a scenario in which you are required to make a long-term investment of your life savings into one of three businesses based solely on the following information.
The first business has a leader that makes all major decisions and establishes the direction of the business. There is no plan to guide the business’s direction or its decision-making processes. There are no written statements describing the business’s purpose or long-term goals. No strategic planning has ever taken place. Occasionally a project plan is developed that includes intermediate objectives and short-term activities to complete that specific project. When major decisions need to be made, the determining factors are usually the information available at the time, current internal and external circumstances, and/or the leader’s instincts. Without a plan that maps out the business’s future, decisions also tend to be reactionary rather than proactive.
The second business has a strategic plan that was developed during a two-day retreat facilitated by an outside strategic planning consultant. The strategic planning process was limited to the business’s executive leadership team and it generated a lot of energy, ideas, and excitement. The consultant prepared a strategic plan for the business from the input gathered from these executives during and immediately following the retreat. This plan includes mission and vision statements that describe the business’s purpose and its ideal future. The strategic plan also includes the business’s long-term goals with a series of objectives to accomplish each goal. The executives came up with ten words and phrases, like “trustworthiness” and “excellence,” that are meant to represent the business’s culture. The finalized strategic plan was distributed to employees and with a memo from the executives stating that it should guide their work. A 5-year executive review retreat is tentatively scheduled to review and update the strategic plan. The strategic plan is occasionally mentioned during meetings and is never referred to during decision-making processes that occur between the strategic planning retreats.
The third business has a strategic plan with a mission statement that clearly defines its overall purpose. This mission statement is complemented by a vision statement that describes how the results will look if the business is 100% successful. This business has been divided into several distinct operational areas. Each operational area has two to five long-term goals that are consistent with the business’s mission and vision. Each goal has a series of intermediate objectives and milestones that it is pursuing to achieve that goal. Under each objective, there is a series of activities that the business is following on a day-to-day or short-term basis. This business has a list of five shared core values that reflect the business’s unique culture, or the usual behaviors and attitudes of all its employees. Each core value includes a brief description. This strategic plan is being implemented through a management system that involves using the plan to guide decisions, monitor progress, and evaluate performance on an ongoing basis. In addition, the plan is updated at least annually to reflect the business’s ever-changing goals, circumstances, and progress. Through these updates, this business has a living and adaptable strategic planning and management system that will always cover the next 5-10 years. Lastly, this business’s strategic plan was and continues to be developed and implemented with meaningful input and participation from of all its employees at every level.
When comparing these businesses to decide which one you will invest your life savings in, it is important to remember that this will be a long-term investment. Even without additional information, you should be able to gauge how well these businesses stack up against one another when considering important questions such as the following:
- How well can the business identify and address changing customer needs and desires?
- How well can the business identify and take advantage of new business opportunities?
- How well can the business respond to inevitable challenges such as employee turnover, a surge in sales, and economic recessions?
- How likely is it that the employees are devoted to the success of the business?
- How well does the business understand the direction it is headed in?
- How long is the business likely to last? Which business will most likely to thrive?
- Which business is in the best position to make the most money during my lifetime?
Now consider a different but similar scenario where the three businesses are instead the lives of three different people (an actual lifetime investment). Which life would you choose to invest in? Which life most closely represents your own? Which life do you want to live as your own?
These questions may be uncomfortable to consider. In reality, most businesses are similar to business #1. Some businesses have strategic plans like business #2 which tend to sit on a shelf somewhere. Very few businesses have a living, adaptable strategic planning and management system like business #3. Likewise, many people’s lives tend to be most like business #1, as was mine for most of my life.
The reason most businesses don’t have a strategic plan is because they utilize their limited and valuable time constantly reacting to changing circumstances, i.e. new problems and opportunities. Those working within most businesses would rather be performing work rather than developing a plan addressing how, when, or why to perform their work. With respect to our lives, there are so many external forces pulling us in so many directions on a daily basis between our family, friends, teachers, supervisors, co-workers, peers, responsibilities, interests, etc. Plus, there are various forms of media, advertisements, leaders, and others telling us what we should want, buy, care about, pay attention to, learn, etc. Life is so busy and everything is coming at us so fast. It seems impossible to find the time to consider and plan the what, how, when, and why of our life. For most of us, no one has ever encouraged us to consider our unique purpose or to plan our lives strategically. Even if we desire more direction and clarity, it can be too overwhelming to seek this alone and perhaps even more challenging to stay committed to this path. It doesn’t help that there are very few comprehensive tools or systems to do this, and none are anywhere near mainstream.
A Strategic Life
Life is so precious and the unique potential of each person is so vast and tremendous. It is amazing that living strategically, or in such a way that strives to maximize our potential and soak up every drop of life’s preciousness, is not among the highest priorities of every person or of society as a whole. I believe that we are individually and collectively leaving so much of who we want to be – and can be – on the table. I also believe that it doesn’t have to be this way.
I think that most of us would choose to invest in a business with a strategic plan versus one without, if all else was equal. I also believe that most would choose to invest in a business that is actively guided by a living, adaptable strategic plan rather than one with a strategic plan that is only updated every 5 years. A lot can happen in a single year, let alone 5 years.
Similarly, I believe that most people would prefer to live their life strategically, rather than float adrift or follow a path dictated by other people or outside forces, especially if doing so will produce a more satisfying life (the ultimate return on investment). Ideally, most of us want to be in a position to recognize and take advantage of opportunities, respond rather than react to problems or obstacles, and readily adjust to ever-changing external circumstances in manner that contributes to the achievement of our unique potential. Of course, we must be able to integrate the means to do this into our everyday lives, which will continue to be subject to the constant push and pull of outside forces. I know first-hand how challenging it can be to establish this in one’s personal life, which is why I created the Fulfillment Mapping system.
A Fulfillment Map to Guide Your Life
A Fulfillment Map is a personal strategic planning and management system that works for an individual in the same way that the strategic planning and management system works for business #3 above. Your Fulfillment Map will include a mission statement that clearly defines your overall purpose in life. Your mission statement will be complemented by a vision statement that describes how your reality will look if you achieve your mission. Your Fulfillment Map will divide your life into distinct areas that cover all aspects of your life and each life area will have one or more long-term goals that are consistent with your mission and vision. Each long-term goal will have a series of intermediate objectives and milestones that you will pursue to achieve that goal. Under each objective, there will be a series of activities that you follow on a regular, short-term basis. Your Fulfillment Map will describe your core values that reflect how you typically behave and interact with others. Your map will be updated on a regular basis (no less then annually) to reflect your ever-changing goals, circumstances, and progress. As a result, you will have a living, adaptable Fulfillment Map that always covers at least the next few years to guide your decisions, monitor your progress, and help you evaluate your performance on an ongoing basis.
I first developed a Fulfillment Map in 2010 that was similar to business #2’s strategic plan. Before this time, I did not have any concrete goals to guide the course of my life. Without goals, there were no specific objectives or milestones to achieve those goals. I had never attempted to define the overall purpose of my life or formulate a vision for what my ideal life could look like. If I thought about these things, I neglected to write them down anywhere so that I could remember and refer back to them periodically. For the most part, my actions, behaviors, thoughts, and emotions were reactions to the myriad of external events and influences around me. My life was more like a leaf in the wind or ship without a compass. My levels of enjoyment and satisfaction were mainly a product of external forces and I often felt uncomfortable about the state and trajectory of my life. Today, I am guided toward fulfilling my unique purpose and long-term goals by a living, adaptable Fulfillment Map that I refer to and update on an ongoing basis. I so am grateful for the steadily increasing levels of enjoyment and satisfaction that are now a regular part of my life as a result.
If you want to fulfill your unique potential and/or help others fulfill their unique potential, then I encourage you to take advantage of the free Fulfillment Mapping resources and guidance that Fulfillment Bound is offering. I also encourage you to join the Fulfillment Bound community by subscribing to our email list the page or by joining our social media communities (including one of our Fulfillment Mapping groups). Links to our email list and social media communities can be found at the bottom of every page.
My personal mission is to help individuals, families, communities, and organizations clarify, pursue, and fulfill their unique and continuously evolving potential, beginning with myself. I envision widespread and rapidly growing self-empowerment, authenticity, and harmony throughout my life and the world as I and the majority of individuals, families, communities, and organizations make meaningful and steadily increasing progress toward fulfilling our unique potentials. The Fulfillment Mapping system I am developing, using, and sharing through Fulfillment Bound is how I am going to achieve my mission and make my personal vision a reality.
Let’s all be fulfillment bound.