How to Map out a Complex Goal

Have you ever felt ready to make a big change but uncertain how to do it? Perhaps you are ready to change careers or move to another city or clean out your house. Or maybe you are ready to write the book you have been dreaming about or start a new business. Then you find yourself stuck, uncertain how to start and your goal never moves beyond a dream.

Many worthwhile goals get stalled because the path to the goals are complex, and we don’t know how to reach them. We have realistic concerns about the practicality of the goals and our ability to achieve them. Even if we get started, it is hard to maintain our momentum and to bounce back after setbacks. We constantly confront the fear of failure and may just give up.

However, we can pursue and achieve complex goals with some help. My favorite tool to support this is a goal map. With a goal map, we can get clear on a realistic path to reach our goal, identify questions we need answered, evaluate progress and maintain the momentum needed for big changes. 

After my last blog post, How to Maintain Momentum for Big Change, several people asked me to share more about how to create the goal maps I referenced. So here it goes!

What is a goal map?

A goal map is a visual representation of a goal that includes the steps to reach it along with the resources needed to achieve it. It can be created with poster board, sticky notes and markers or on a computer. Whatever method feels most comfortable to you. Once you finish, you can display the map somewhere prominent and track your progress. 

Here are the parts of a goal map

  1. Goal

Write a clear, personally meaningful, forward looking goal using “I want___” on the top of your page. 

  1. Destination

On the top right side of the page, describe what it will look like when the goal is achieved. What will you be doing? How will your daily life change? Get specific and concrete. 

  1. Why

On the right side of the page, detail your reasons for pursuing this goal. How will your life get better as you reach this goal? 

  1. Starting Point

On the bottom left corner of the page, outline the progress you have already made. List your relevant strengths, skills, experience, and resources. What steps have you taken to reach your goal? What experience and skills do you possess? What strengths will support you? Who will support you?

  1. Big Steps to the Goal

Determine the big remaining steps to reach the goal. Consider what it would look like to be one step closer. Include approximate timing for each step. These steps should connect your starting point with your destination. In some cases, your steps to reach the goal are not chronological so you can get creative with the placement of the steps (see the example above).

  1. Knowledge Gaps

Often people do not know how to complete all the steps that are required to reach their goal. There are knowledge gaps that will need to be filled. List them around the steps that they impact. This is also the place to put questions that you need answered to determine your path. 

  1. Learning Plans

The next step is to create learning plans for the gaps and questions that have popped up. How can you gain the experience or the learning that you need? What people and resources can help you learn? How can you start to discover the answers to your questions? Attach these learning plans to the knowledge gaps and questions that they address.

  1. Stress Points

As you are working on the goal map, you might feel overwhelmed or anxious about certain steps, decisions or knowledge gaps. Acknowledge these stress points & write them somewhere on the page. It is better to move them from your mind to the page so you can address them. 

  1. Catalysts

Catalysts are defined as agents that speed significant change. These include resources, values, aspects of wellbeing and pleasures that will support you along your journey. What resources can support you with your stress points? What values are you affirming as you go after your goal?  How will you enjoy this journey? What areas of your spiritual, physical, intellectual, relational and emotional health will uplift you? Write these catalysts wherever there is room on your page.

Embrace your creativity, a sense of playfulness and curiosity while you work on your goal map. If you are struggling to complete certain sections, take a break and return to them later. While some people complete goal maps in one sitting, most people work on their maps over multiple days.

I’d love to hear about your experience creating your goal map. Leave me a comment below.

If you would like help navigating the goal mapping process, send me an email at to request a free consultation.

Published by Dianna

I’m a Certified Positive Psychology Coach helping people go through challenging transitions and making important changes so they can realize meaningful goals.

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