Goal journey mapping – The superior strategy to achieve any goal

18 minutes reading time

Customer Journey Mapping (CJM) is a very popular technique in business to better understand the purchasing process from a customer’s perspective. It’s especially popular for online businesses. It’s a technique that helps companies and organizations improve their customer experience and boost their sales.

You can use a very similar approach to develop a superior strategy for all the goals you want to achieve in your life. I call it Goal Journey Mapping (GJM) and it’s the most important and the most demanding step in the AgileLeanLife Goal Setting Framework.

To summarize the steps in the framework, you first define your life vision, then you prioritize the list and select 5 – 7 items from the list. For the selected items, you add a strong why with short life stories, and in the final step you develop a Goal Journey Map out of the short life stories. I suggest you read the intro to the goal setting framework to understand all the steps really well.

In this article, we will focus on how to prepare a Goal Journey Map. But before that, let’s look at how Customer Journey Mapping is used in business.

Customer journey mapping and its benefits

The main idea of customer journey mapping is pretty simple. Every customer goes through a specific process, from becoming aware of a company’s product or service, to properly informing themselves about the offer and deciding to making a purchase or not.

Through this process, customer’s different emotions, questions, motives and actions arise, and a company has a chance to influence all those psychological elements through different communication channels or touch points. Through touch points, a company can lead a customer into the right direction by optimizing the buying experience.

Customer journey mapping is a rich visual representation of the purchasing process. It’s a graphic representation of different touch points made over time by a company and a customer, across different communication and distribution channels.

Customer Journey Map Example

Customer Journey Map, Source: Adaptive Path

A very well designed Customer Journey Map should very clearly tell a story about the company’s desired interaction with a customer from the initial contact, through the process of engagement and hopefully into forging a long-term relationship, including after-sales support and assure all potential repurchases. Preparing such a Customer Journey Map has many different benefits for the company.

It helps the company’s management to better understand milestones a customer should achieve in certain stages of the process and the context from a customer’s perspective – where, when and how it’s happening.

Understanding a user’s context simply means that you have a clear picture of how the first contact was made, what the user’s expectations are and what the next step in the buying process should be. How and where should you lead a customer.

Visualisation of the process should give the management a clear picture about customer experience in every step of the sales funnel. For online businesses, the most popular funnel framework is called AARRR. Below is a list of all other benefits of creating a customer journey map – a CMJ helps management understand:

  • How a customer should be treated in different stages across different channels
  • What customers are thinking, feeling, seeing, hearing at different milestones
  • All the possible ways of interacting with a potential customer
  • Ideas of where and how you should lead a customer in every step of the process
  • User experience and how to improve it
  • Customers’ struggles, confusions and frustrations
  • You can define the requirements and resources you need (skills, data, outcomes etc.)

To build a customer journey map you need the following elements:

  1. Personas – Personas are fictional characters representing the ideal customer or a typical character for a user segment. It’s about who enters the journey. If you have several different important customer segments, you can make more personas and customer journey maps.
  2. Timeline with milestones and different customer stages – The second thing you need are milestones with different micro conversions (steps leading to a purchase) and macro conversions (final purchase) and other very well defined potential phases of the buying process. It’s about when it should happen and what should happen.
  3. Communication channels and touch points – It’s a list of all the different communication channels that the company is using to deliver value to the customer. When a message is received from the customer, it comes to a touchdown. In other words, it’s about every encounter where customers and the business engage to exchange information, provide service or handle transactions. It’s about where it’s happening and what the expected customer’s behaviours are.
  4. Emotions, questions and actions – This part of CJM is completely focused on the customer’s experience. It’s an illustration of emotions that a customer experiences in different phases of their journey and how to improve the experience to get a desired action from a customer. You write down different customer’s motivations and questions. You can use the “say-do-think-feel” model for that. The customer’s emotions and overall experience are at the end of the main thing that leads to a purchase.
  5. Barriers – In every stage of a customer journey, there are some types of barriers, they can be structural, cost-related, psychological or any other types that need to be overcome. It’s good to know these barriers so they can be removed or managed properly.
Emapthy map

Emapthy map to better understand customer, Source: Copyblogger

You can’t make a good customer journey map without comprehensive research. Gathering information to build a customer journey map especially includes web analytics, focus groups, talking to customers, surveys, anecdotal research, interviews and other data-gathering methods.

An especially important part of CJM is the analysis of what’s happening in a customer’s head (say-do-think-feel) in specific stages of a process or before a customer reaches a certain milestone. Every milestone is a moment of truth for the company, where customer can move into the next stage or not. Typical milestones in a customer journey are the following:

  • Awareness / Discovery
  • Interest and Desire / Query
  • Negotiating / Pricing / Comparison / Consider
  • Purchase / Commit
  • Post-sales support
  • Upgrades / Renewals / Cross-selling / Retaining

When you create a CJM, you can clearly see that in every phase, there are different touch points between a company and a customer, made through different communication channels, like a sales meeting, phone call, website, social media, e-mail, post etc.

Touchdown points are the most powerful tool a company has. The company must make sure that every touchdown leads a customer closer to making a purchase.

To summarize, the main idea of CJM is to make a clear, coherent, systematic and action-oriented communication plan in different phases of the journey through different communication channels. When you have that kind of representation, you can start optimizing the experience.

Now that we understand how CJM is used in business, let’s look at how you can use the same approach in your personal life in the goal setting process.

Goal journey mapping

Goal journey mapping

Only having a goal and writing it down is not enough. I will be fit by the end of the year, I will be rich when I turn 40, I will improve my marriage in the next two months, I will become a board member in my company etc. all sound nice and motivating, but they are nothing but wishful thoughts.

You can write them in the present tense, you can add S.M.A.R.T. characteristics or you can put the list of your goals in your wallet, nothing’s going to really help.

The only thing that really works and brings results is to build a superior strategy for how you will achieve your goal. A superior strategy is a fighting plan that you constantly adjust, update and improve. It’s a document where you gather all the data, analyze it, make adjustments and decide what your next steps will be. It’s a roadmap showing where you are and where you’re going.

Building yourself a Goal Journey Map is absolutely the first sign that shows if you’re really committed to a specific goal or not. If you aren’t prepared to take a whole weekend to prepare a master plan of how you will achieve something, I can guarantee you that the chances of you meeting your goal are very small.

A well-prepared Goal Journey Map considers setting a superior strategy, following the smart work philosophy and also putting in daily hard work. A Goal Journey Map is a system and a process. With such an approach, you never forget the bigger picture and at the same time, you also pay attention to all the details.

Goal Journey Mapping is a planning system that makes a specific goal the center of your life and even more importantly, it’s the only goal setting strategy that enables you to constantly adjust. It’s the only goal setting strategy that encourages you to stay flexible in the process of achieving your goal.

Goal Journey Map Elements

In general, a Goal Journey Map should cover 10 different elements. I call it a general GJM template. Nevertheless, you should stay very flexible about which parts of the template you use for different kinds of goals. Big goals require all ten elements, small goals maybe only an element or two. So if you decide to use the template, adjust it to your needs.

For example, if you have a goal to read 10 books on a certain topic, you need a research phase to select 10 books, a very well defined process with metrics determining how much you read per day or week, and maybe a reminder as part of the supporting environment. If you are new to reading, you can also add potential barriers, forks (switching to online courses if you don’t like reading), and so on.

On the other hand, if you decide to take care of your health, wealth or any other major area of life, you need all or almost all of the elements. You need to really consider everything, including a strategy to find your fit, the process you will follow, the resources you need and the things you will buy, very well defined metrics and a mechanism, and so on. You will most certainly also need help in terms of coaches, advisors and people who will constantly motivate you.

Yes, preparing a Goal Journey Map is not a joke. It’s serious business. Like you are serious about achieving your goals.

There are only two ways when it comes to your goals. You can be serious about achieving your goals and completely commit or you can be only joking around, wasting time and slowly turning into a zombie. I hope you decide to follow your dream life and put all the energy into preparing the Goal Journey Map(s) for your life goals.

Goal Journey Map TemplateA Goal Journey Map (potentially) consists of the following elements:

  1. Life story – The final goal you want to achieve and why (all the rewards)
  2. Process phases – Different phases you have to go through, like educating yourself, searching, finding your fit, executing etc.
  3. Process with milestones – Repeating actions that lead to micro-goals and then to the final goal
  4. Supporting environment – Key relationships, trends, motivational installations and other changes
  5. People – All the people who are involved in you achieving your goals (influencers, blockers, mentors)
  6. Insights and Minimum Viable Experience – Experiments for validated learning
  7. Metrics – How you will measure your progress in different process phases
  8. Feedback mechanism – System for gathering feedback from yourself and your environment
  9. Risk-reward factor – Potential barriers, risks, fears and unanswered questions
  10. Branches and forks – Potential small and big adjustments to the strategy

A short life story

A short life story is the simplest part. On top of your Goal Journey Map, you write a short life story you want to experience. It’s a short statement describing very clearly the final goal you want to achieve and especially why. By adding a powerful why, you should add a strong motivational charge as well as list all the rewards and benefits you will enjoy when you achieve the goal.

With a short life story, you should define what and why very well. But you leave out all the specifics like when, how much, and so on, because you want to stay flexible.

You need just a general idea of what you want to achieve and what you want to experience. By acquiring knowledge and insights, you can regularly update your life stories and make them more specific. Remember, nothing in your Goal Journey Map is fixed.

Process phases

In the next phase, you should define the process stages you will go through. For every single goal you want to achieve in life, you go through different process phases where you have to focus on different things and adjust your strategy. You probably have a general idea of where you are and what awaits you. The only important question is where you are in the process.

They are more or less standard phases. If you are a beginner, you start at the beginning, if you aren’t new to the thing you want to achieve, you may have already passed certain stages. The process phases are:

  1. Acquiring general knowledge and preparing a Goal Journey Map
  2. The search mode
  3. Finding your fit and sticking to it
  4. Identity shift and becoming a better version of yourself
  5. The execution mode and very specifically defining a new set of metrics

The first three phases (called validated learning) are oriented towards learning about yourself and what your preferences are, gaining insights about the topic or life area you want to improve, learning about the environment and building yourself proper support, performing small experiments and constantly improving your strategy. You learn, you experiment, you search and you slowly build a metrics framework.

The last two phases are focused on execution. After you exit the search mode you know the process that will lead you to success very well, all you have to do is to put in all the hard work and trust the process. The first three phases usually take 3 – 12 months and the last two up to several years. But then you can finally succeed overnight.

Process with general milestones

In this section, you define the process that you will follow together with general milestones you want to achieve. It’s by far the most important part of the Goal Journey Map. The process is all about daily repeating actions that lead you to micro-goals, and the sum of these micro goals you achieve then leads to the final goal.

In the validated learning phase (knowledge, search, fit), the process includes things like:

  • Books you read, courses you take and seminars you visit (number, frequency, insights)
  • People you talk to (number, frequency, insights)
  • New things you try and experiment with (number, insights, ideas for new experiments)
  • Building yourself a new environment to support your goal (notifications, apps etc.)
  • Simulations, strategies, pivots and any improvements to your Goal Journey Map

In the execution phase (identity shift, execution), the process includes things like:

  • Daily actions and discipline to achieve your goal
  • Regular adjustments to your strategy based on the feedback

The process is the part of your Goal Journey Map that takes you straight to the bottom line. And the bottom line is always pretty simple.

If you want to be fit, you have to exercise (aerobic, anaerobic) regularly, and mind what and how much you eat. If you want to improve your financial situation, you have to spend less than you earn and invest the difference or build your own business. If you want to be really good at some skill, you have to invest 10,000 hours into it.

In the process section, you define daily or weekly actions you will do without any excuses to achieve your goals. You can add a calendar to it and mark the days on which you performed the action and on which you didn’t.

When you build your Goal Journey Map and define the process as part of it, you really have to make sure that nothing comes between you and performing that daily activity that gets you one step closer to your goals.

Supporting environment

Achieving a goal you’ve set for yourself is unfortunately not only up to you. It’s also up to your environment. You can’t succeed alone at anything. You need a strong supporting environment. Luckily you can influence the environment around you to some extent. And you can adjust to changes that are out of your control.

The environmental elements that greatly influence your capabilities to achieve a certain goal and how fast you’ll get there are:

  • Your key relationships – spouse, family, friends, boss, coworkers, mentor
  • PESTLE factors – political, economic, social, technological, legal, environmental factors
  • General market trends – financial markets, job markets etc.
  • Your company culture and your office space
  • Your family culture and your home
  • The right timing (timing is everything)
  • Other elements (religion, infrastructure, infostructure, motivational installations etc.)

It’s essential that you build yourself a motivational environment for every goal you want to achieve in life. That’s why you need to define the key relationships that will influence your behavior, and analyze all the people who are involved in you reaching your goals.

You also mustn’t forget about market trends and other PESTLE elements together with a list of all potential motivational installations and other changes in the environment that can help you achieve your goals. Examples are motivational posters, mobile apps, different reminders, and so on.

Your supporting environment matters a lot, so make sure you build yourself an environment that will support you in achieving your goals. It must be obvious in your Goal Journey Map that it’s the right timing for going after a certain goal. Because timing is everything.

Healthy relationships


Out of all the things that your environment consists of, people are the most important thing. People are the ones who will either encourage and support you, or block and mock you. If you don’t have the right people around you, forget about achieving any goal.

  • People will get jealous or support you
  • People will make fun of you or encourage you
  • People will demotivate you or motivate you
  • People will minimize your efforts or do it together with you
  • People will block you or help you
  • People will give you ill-minded advice or show you how to do it

Thus you need to list all the people who are involved in achieving your goals. You can segment them into supporters, blockers and mentors. Nevertheless, you will never know who is who until you start taking actions towards your goals and talking with them about your goals.

Usually the people you least expect turn into blockers and haters. Because they’re scared of losing you or that you will become better than them, and so on. Some even turn from a supporter into the hater along the way. Always pay attention to how other people are influencing your progress towards your goals.

In the end, there are five things you want to achieve:

  • Surround yourself with supporters and mentors
  • Turn blockers and haters into supporters or neutral figures if they are close to you
  • Get rid of blockers and haters if they don’t want to stop with their destructive behavior
  • Ignore all the haters that are not close to you
  • Make new connections, partnerships and friends if necessary

Insights and the Minimum Viable Experience

Under Minimum Viable Experiences, you define all the small experiments you plan to perform in order to learn more about yourself and your environment. It’s a more detailed process of how you will perform the search mode.

The idea of MVEs is to not only talk or think about things (what you should try, what you think you may like etc.), but to go and try them. You don’t assume, you go out and test as soon as possible. Testing and trying is the best way to gain firsthand knowledge about yourself and the world. Testing and trying is the best way to achieve your goals.

Will eating before sleep make you fat or encourage your muscles to grow? Who knows, it depends on your genetics, so you have to test it.

An important part of the Goal Journey Map must also be how you will immediately take action. What are the easy targets, what kind of experiments you can do immediately and how you can apply theory to practice as soon as possible. You can define that under this section.

A very important part of this section are also all the insights you gather along the way. It’s a database of everything that you’ve learned about yourself, your environment, what works for you and what doesn’t, and so on. After you try many different things, you may get a little bit confused about what worked and what didn’t. A systematic overview of all the insights helps a lot.

To summarize, in this stage of planning, you should list:

  • Experiments you plan to perform
  • Early wins and low-hanging fruit you can go after
  • Insights you acquire along the way and things you already know

Metrics and resources

You need a set of metrics for every goal you want to achieve. Actually, you need two sets of metrics. One for the search mode and one for the execution mode. Metrics are the ones showing you if you are progressing towards your goals or not. A very important part of building your Goal Journey Map is to put data before rhetoric.

Metrics help you decide what to do next. You have no idea where you are and where you’re going if you don’t have any metrics. There are many different metrics you can follow and with time, you always improve them. Just make sure you aren’t relying on vanity metrics, but actionable metrics that show you true progress, even though seeing how much you suck might be painful at the beginning.

Here are examples of life metrics you can use:

Health Money
  • Exercise frequency
  • Potential progress of illness
  • Managing your body weak points
  • Regular blood test
  • Body composition (% of fat, muscle size)
  • Aerobic endurance (run a mile, VO2 max)
  • Muscular endurance (push-up test, plank test)
  • Muscular strength (one-rep max)
  • Flexibility (yoga poses)
  • Personal income statement
    • Earned income
    • Passive income
    • Portfolio income
  • Expenses
  • Taxes
  • Monthly plus/minus
  • Net-worth
    • Assets
    • Doodads
    • Liabilities (Debt)
Career Relationships
  • Your company position (employment contract vs. organizational chart)
  • Public influence (number of interviews, public ratings)
  • Social media influence (Klout score)
  • Work enjoyment (from 1 to 10)
  • Professional connections
  • Your legacy (number of positive ideas that influenced local/global society)
  • Number of close friends you have
  • Time spent with the people you love
  • How much you do for your partner (massage, dinner, etc.)
  • How much you get out of a relationship (giving and receiving must be in balance)
  • How often you say I love you
  • How often you give a compliment to your partner
  • How often you make love
Competences Mind/Emotions
  • Number of books you read
  • Number of seminars you visit
  • Domain knowledge you possess
  • Number of skills you master
  • Number of tech skills
  • Number of creative ideas you have
  • Your IQ
  • Your EQ
  • How well you are able to control your mind (your maximum meditating time)
  • Your daily Happiness index
  • Number of negative thoughts daily (with use of emotional accounting)
  • Dominating cognitive distortions
  • Number of new things you tried in life
  • Number of breathtaking experiences you have encountered etc.
  • Other metrics as part of your life strategy (countries you traveled to, number of languages you speak etc.)

Besides metrics, you should also define all the resources you need to achieve your goal. These are different internal resources, from knowledge, competences and values, to all different outer resources like money, connections, and so on.

The more resources you have, the easier and faster you can usually achieve your goals. But if you don’t have the resources, you are forced to be more innovative and smart.

Feedback mechanism

The main idea of the Goal Journey Map is that you constantly update it based on acquiring new knowledge, getting more competent and even more based on the feedback you get from your environment and yourself. When I say “yourself”, I mean your emotions, thoughts, body metrics etc.

Achieving your goals is not only about aggressively going after what you want in life. It’s about being a healthy assertive and flexible person who can adjust and find new win-win combinations. For that, you have to listen to yourself and to other people and pay attention to what’s happening in your environment.

Your ego together with fixed ideas is the greatest enemy to staying flexible.

That’s why you need to somehow gather feedback, do regular reflections and based on that, make adjustments to your strategy of how you will meet your goals. You should also add the happiness index as part of your reflection process.

Risk reward factor

On the path to every goal, you will meet many barriers, you will have many unanswered questions and sooner or later you will have to face your deepest fears.

The fact is that if you aren’t failing at all and if you aren’t even a little bit scared, your goals aren’t ambitious enough. You don’t want to get bored in life, you want to have high goals, but you also want to be very smart about it.

You want to constantly pay attention to the risk-reward ratio. You want to make sure that you know your downsides and that they are manageable. At the same time, you want to go after realistically big upside potential. Big rewards, small risks. It’s not easy to achieve that, but it can be done.

Under risk-reward questions you should define:

  • What the potential risks are, how big they are and how you can manage them
  • All the barriers you can think of that may block you on the way towards your goals
  • Open questions you have or things you know that you don’t know
  • All the fears you’ll have to face going after your goal
  • When is it definitely the time to give up (not to be influenced by the sunk costs)
  • Other factors that influence the risk-reward ratio

Pivots, branches and forks

The final section of the Goal Journey Map are all the potential pivots you already know you can make if you get blocked somehow. Pivots, branches and forks are potential small or big adjustments to the strategy you can easily make in order to not get stuck.

They are alternative paths you can take every time you encounter a roadblock on your path towards your goals. The main idea is that when you’re preparing the Goal Journey Map, you already know that your plan won’t work, that’s why you keep it dynamic and always have alternative paths that enable you to go forward.

Today any static planning doesn’t work anymore.

A pivot in personal life is a fundamental change in your life strategy or how you plan to achieve a certain goal. You change your direction in life, but you still keep the same life vision and you consider the facts you learned about yourself and your environment.

You make pivots as many times as necessary until you find the perfectly right fit for you. You can also make a pivot later in the execution mode if it comes to any bigger changes in the environment. There are 10 typical potential pivots you can make. I call small pivots branches and bigger pivots forks.

Branches in personal life are small deviations from the main path, micro adjustments and mini new experiments you decide to perform in order to find a better way to achieve your goals. They are not too big diversions from the main path that don’t require any colossal changes in strategy.

Forks, very similarly to branches, are bigger pivots in your life. You take one big project or activity into a completely new direction. You take what you’ve learnt, you keep the good parts, but the general direction changes a lot.

The limitations of Goal Journey Mapping and putting it to work

There are a few very important things regarding the Goal Journey Map. As mentioned, for the small goals the framework is obviously an overkill and you have to simplify it. You have to use common sense to decide which parts to keep and which to delete for different types and sizes of your goals.

The second important fact is that a Goal Journey Map is a living thing. You have to constantly update it. You have to constantly improve it, add or remove things, and do upgrades. You have to make adjustments to your map and to your strategy on a weekly if not daily basis.

Even more importantly, the map must become a part of your life. You have to basically live inside it. It must become your bible. It does take quite a lot of work to set it up (maybe a weekend or so), but then you have a superior strategy that will help you achieve all the goals you always wanted to achieve.

If you have such a map and follow it, there is nothing that can stop you on the way to achieving your goals. Nothing. Because the map itself will motivate you. And that’s what you want and need. In the end, you need a new map for every one of your goals. For smaller goals you can greatly simplify it and for bigger goals you make a completely new map with all the sections.

Goal journey map

Do you want to know more about goal setting?

This article is part of the series of how to successfully set goals in the 21st century. It’s part of the AgileLeanLife Goal Setting Framework, which has the following seven steps:

  1. Define your vision list
  2. Prioritize your vision list
  3. Develop short life stories for 5 – 7 items at the top of your list – specify what exactly and why
  4. Create a goal journey map to build a superior strategy and define the process
  5. Use branching and forking to stay flexible with alternative paths
  6. Organize the superior strategy on your to-do lists with a 100-day plan and sprints
  7. Mind the principles in the AgileLeanLife Manifesto

You’re at the bolded article and kindly invited to read the rest of them when they will be published.

* The Goal Journey Map Template Image was made by using Blueprint Wireframe Kit on Behance.net made by Göksel Vançin’

About the author

Consulting and management coaching

Blaž Kos has managed venture capital investments over the past 12 years and participated in the development of the start-up ecosystem in the region. Today, he advises companies on growth strategies, process optimization, the introduction of lean agile methods and the digitalization of business. In addition to the Slovenian blog, he also writes an English blog, which was selected among the 50 best bloggers in the world in the category of personal and business growth.
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