Setting specific goals brings focus to what we do every day.   Without goals, it’s too easy to get so caught up in (whatever “comes up”) each day, only to look up and realize we’re only sustaining the status quo or losing ground.

My “adopted” daughter, Tina, did that six years ago.  At the time she was still recovering financially from a relationship that caused her to move from Wichita, Kansas to Dallas, Texas.

She set two specific goals.  Her first was to have financial stability and not live paycheck to paycheck.  Her first leg of that portion of her journey was to rebuild her credit rating.

She found a job working nights that allowed her to pay her debts and, while reducing them, began to put 10% of everything she made in the bank.  By the time her old car conked out last year she had plenty of money for a down payment and had rebuilt her credit rating so she was able to get a car loan for the rest at a low interest rate.  Now she’s saving for the down payment on a home.

Her second goal was to have a career as a counselor to help other people, particularly children.  She knew it would take an advanced degree and that her first stop along that path toward was to attend community college and earn her Associate’s Degree.

At the same time, she enrolled in community college and in less than three years finished her associates degree.  She then began pursuing her bachelor’s degree and at the halfway point was invited to take classes that would apply to both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees and will finish both within the year.

Tina’s success was, in large part, due to her self-discipline and commitment; however, she used some tools that supported her along the way.   She walks around with a picture of her roadmap in her head.  She talks about it, thinks about it, and as she progresses toward each goal, updates it.

Mapping (and tracking) what we need to accomplish at intervals keeps the focus on what where we’re going and what we need to do next.

The process of converting our roadmap to paper is a tool that can serve as a visual  guide that illuminates hidden challenges as well as  opportunities.  The act of drawing the map demonstrates commitment to our goals and the map becomes a tool we can use to check our progress.

Consultants often use the process of building a roadmap with their clients to visually lay out the process of achieving a specific set of goals.  The maps typically have three basic components:  here’s what we want to do, here’s how we’re going to do it, and here’s how we’re going to know we did it.

Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant and business writer based in Dallas, Texas and the author of

.  Her next book, The Executive’s Toolbox, will be released in 2017.