Mapping a Path to Success

Over recent years there has been a considerable rise in both the number and popularity of books/dvds and seminars on ‘achieving your dreams’. Whilst no one should fall into the trap of believing that positive thinking alone can change our lives undoubtedly our attitude and state of mind has a huge impact on what we can achieve.

History is full of stories of folk who have beaten the odds to achieve success in their chosen field, and of course this summer with the Olympics will see many more going beyond all limits of their strength and endurance to break records – quite literally ‘going for gold’.

Having the right mental attitude is also crucial in order to overcome the challenges and obstacles that are bound to turn up on the pathway to our dreams. Even a cursory read of biographies of those who have achieved greatly will reveal that often it was their refusal to give up that eventually bore fruit. Harry Potter was rejected by no less than 12 publishing houses before it eventually came to print. Many successful people will be able to tell tales of the setbacks and self doubt they may have faced but what ultimately makes them successful is their determination and a mental attitude which simply doesn’t see giving up as an option.

But of course the best mental attitude also needs an aim.  It sounds silly but we can all end up just drifting through life coping with the all the everyday necessities and enjoying lots of it or not,  BUT without ever making a conscious plan or having any goals to work towards. What we know about ‘high achievers’ is that they have a clear sense of purpose and something to aim towards. This is true for sports men and women as well as people in business, artists and philanthropists. Setting goals and repeating this exercise regularly is important for many reasons. We do not fully understand how powerful our subconscious can be but recent thinking suggests that when we write down our ‘intentions’ this is a powerful message to ourselves, our subconscious selves, and this in turn may influence the way we respond to all sorts of situations and choices. And for the cynics, before you become too sceptical about the role of your subconscious just think about the complex tasks you perform every day that involve the subconscious – catching something before it falls, deciding in seconds if it is safe to cross the road by making judgements about the speed of an oncoming car , or riding a bike, once learned you can do it without even thinking about it..

So having an aim or goal is important and committing it to paper is important. But like anything that’s important, it’s worth devoting a bit of time to thinking about it, BEFORE you commit it to paper. Aims and goals are more than ‘to do’ lists, they provide  an opportunity to think about  what is important to YOU, and where you want to get to. This may be  moving your career forward, gaining a qualification or finding a way or working that enables you to experience less stress, or more time with your family, or it may be about pursuing a hobby or personal challenge like playing an instrument or running a marathon.


It really doesn’t matter what your aim is, it’s yours, it doesn’t even matter if you change it and very often when people start aiming for something or setting some personal goals they amend them or write several ‘sub’ goals.Once you have decided on your aim and written it down, the next step is to think about what you need to do to achieve this – so if your aim is to gain a qualification then  first you may  need to find about courses, where and when they are held how much they cost, how long to gain the qualification etc and then get enrolled.


Our knowledge about how our brains work with the left and right sides working together but in different ways suggests that using colour and images when we ‘map’ our aims as well as words involves both the left and right side of the brain, it also makes mind maps more ‘fun’.


But of course when the mind map is made it’s useful to put it somewhere that will mean you can see it and remind yourself what it is you are aiming at and then make sure that what you DO will actually contribute to achieving those aims. It’s a bit like planning a journey to a particular destination, you may take a break, possibly even take the scenic route to visit something else but what you know is that you will only reach the destination by moving towards it and sometimes that means you decide NOT to do other things. When other inviting opportunities arise simply ask yourself will they help move you forward towards your goal or will they actually take you away from it, and then make your decision.


The process of mapping has been shown to be effective in everything from a business plan to an individual re-evaluating their career path. It has also been used by students to plan research projects or even make revision plans. That is because it is the process itself that gives us the chance to sort out our mental attitude, think about what we really want, make that our aim, then commit it to paper in a mind map which gives a plan. This will help us to stay focused and work towards our aim. Then we just have to get on and take action.