This is the last chapter included in my free, full version program, Goals! An Interactive Guide. The other chapters will be added in blog entries for future use. Hopefully these chapter have either convinced you to start setting your own goals or, if you already set goals, have given you some strategies for making your current goal-setting more effective.
Goals! An Interactive Guide Chapters:
Chapter One: Why Set Goals?
Chapter Two: Decide Exactly What You Want
Chapter Three: Create an Unstoppable Drive
Chapter Four: Get Organized
Chapter Five: Stay Flexible
Chapter Six: Overcoming Obstacles
Chapter Seven: Review Your Progress
Chapter Eight: Velocity-Based Goal Setting
Chapter Nine: Operate From the Highest Level
Goal setting without a purpose or context for your own life is largely meaningless. Like trying to play a game with no definition of the rules, living without any specific purpose or direction as the compass of your life will sabotage the goals you set. Like the man who climbs the ladder so hurriedly that he forgets it is leaning against the wrong building, living without a purpose leads to the inevitable conclusion that you have no way of knowing whether the goals you are achieving have any significance. By operating your life from the highest level downwards you can ensure that all your goals are in alignment with it. Living with purpose and passion creates the true sense of happiness and fulfillment we crave as human beings.
Finding your purpose is a decision for what you want your life to mean. Finding a meaning for your life and your existence is ultimately a very spiritual decision. This decision is necessary regardless of whether you are devoutly religious or adamantly nihilistic. Finding your purpose is not a one-time event. You need to constantly be updating and modifying your purpose to reflect the changes you experience in your life. The process for finding your purpose is actually fairly easy. You don’t have to have a perfectly worded mission statement, just an idea that is strong enough to direct your goals and actions for the future.
The purpose of my life at this point is simple: “Grow and help others grow.” No elaborate structure or wording. Just a simple message that contains the essence of my passion and drive. Large and broad enough to capture the entirety of my human experience. But my purpose is specific enough to weed out actions and experiences that have no contribution to my growth or the growth of others.
How To Find Your Purpose
Finding your purpose doesn’t require a month of meditation in some Buddhist monastery. You can find your perceived purpose right here, with just a few minutes of thinking and refinement. Again, you are not striving to have a perfect statement of your purpose, just enough to direct you. You should be modifying and re-examining this purpose constantly.
Start by getting a blank piece of paper and a pencil. Just brainstorm a list of ideas that fill you with passion and enthusiasm. Keep brainstorming until you find something that really resonates with you and refine it down even further. If you don’t feel incredibly inspired and enthusiastic about your purpose, keep looking. Here are some basic tips to get you started in finding your purpose.
Happiness is Not a Purpose
If you wrote down happiness as your purpose for life then you need to go back and start trying harder. The direct pursuit of happiness rarely leads to its achievement. Like looking at the sun, happiness is best attained by viewing a few degrees left of its actual objective. Happiness is the natural reward you get for living your purpose. In other words your purpose should make you happy, but your purpose cannot simply be written as ‘to be happy’. Happiness, fulfillment and satisfaction are all emotions. Your mind is set up to reward you with a feeling of happiness by living your purpose. Happiness should be a part of every persons purpose, but it cannot be the entirety.
Don’t Get Too Specific
Don’t confuse purpose with goals. You need to make your purpose broad enough to enjoy a large tapestry of experiences within it. A purpose cannot be phrased like, “Earn a thousand dollars every day.” A purpose is a direction not a destination. Don’t use goal setting techniques to get a purpose statement or you will wind up with just a very high-level goal. Purpose is the context for every goal you set but it cannot use goal setting techniques.
Don’t confuse purpose with values. This point is much more subtle. Values are categories of interest and motivation. Values tend to be summed up in one or two words like wealth, family, leisure, courage, clarity or discipline. These can be easily confused with purpose but there is a distinction. Your purpose should remain constant while your focus on values should change.
Values can shift along with your goals. In your twenties you may decide that wealth and career is the values you want to use for your goals. In your thirties and forties it might be family. In your fifties and sixties you may decide to focus your values on contribution and community. These changes are natural over a lifetime and your values can shift focus over a period of a few months to a period of several years. Reassessing these values consistently can allow you the flexibility to enjoy a much broader range of experiences than otherwise.
Your purpose needs to be broad enough to fit all of the categories. The purpose of my life is to grow and help others grow. While some consider growth itself to be a value, I disagree. I believe that our own growth as human beings covers such a broad area of values that it can represent a purpose itself. Few worthwhile experiences in my life I feel I can categorize as not being experiences of growth.
Include Others AND Yourself
Your purpose must include other people in it. If your purpose is to become really stinking rich, then you are completely avoiding connecting with the other people on our planet. Creating a legacy and leaving others in the world better off than you found them is critical to the sense of connectedness and fulfillment we appreciate as human beings. If other people are not included in your purpose, go back and reword it.
Your purpose must also include yourself. Your purpose must fill you with passion and enthusiasm not just because of how much you can help others but because of how great it would make you feel to live it. Happiness, excitement and enjoyment come when we recognize that we need to be a part of our own purpose. Save a life by living the one you’ve got.
Don’t worry about the wording or specific meaning of your purpose statement. You can do that over time in the years ahead. Having a general purpose statement that captures the essence of your meaning is good enough. Refinement and word usage are far less important than the idea they represent. Your purpose is an idea, not a paragraph.
Find Your Passion
Closely related to your purpose is your passion in life. While your purpose must capture the essence of the meaning for every experience you have, your passions, like values, can be more specific. The major focus of your passion should be on your career. Since your avocation will ultimately be the major usage of your time, efforts and energies it needs to represent your strongest passions. If you don’t absolutely love what you are doing, then you need to make a change right now.
If you aren’t sure what you are truly passionate about, take a look back at the times you did really feel passionate about what you were doing. Why were you passionate? Was it out of an urge to create? Or was it a curiosity for exploration? Was it out of a desire to communicate with other people? Finding instances of past passion can help you find patterns for what work really inspires you.
Passion and purpose are the twin contexts that make all your goals meaningful and enjoyable. If you’ve ever had trouble achieving or working on your goals, chances are it is because there is a disconnect between your goals and passion or purpose. Without both meaning and enthusiasm, working on a goal become drudgery, not compelling and exciting.
Remember Rule #6!
A young intern working for a large company goes in to see his boss for his first day of work. The intern is nervous and excited about working for this major employer, and sits attentively behind the managers desk as he explains what the young interns duties are. Just before the young intern leaves the manager shouts, “One more thing, remember rule number six!”
Before the young intern can reply, the manager is on the phone with a client and shoos the intern away. Confused, the intern sheepishly asks one of the senior employees, “What is rule number six?” Met with a bout of laughter, the senior employee slaps the young man on his back and proclaims, “Rule Number Six: Don’t take yourself so damn seriously!”
Living with a passion and purpose is not the same as pious sacrifice and drudgery. Having a purpose doesn’t mean you have to now get to work and give up all the enjoyable moments of your life. In fact, doing so would be the complete opposite of the intention of your purpose. Your purpose is designed to help you isolate and distill those peak experiences from your life so you can have more of them and to remove the dull, painful and pitiful experiences. A sense of humor and fun is necessary for a happy and enjoyable existence.
Purpose and passion will give everything else in your life meaning and joy. More importantly, knowing your purpose will ensure that your goals and aims reflect this profound meaning. When you align your goals to your passion and purpose they become compelling drives that move you forward. If you don’t already know what your purpose is, make it your priority right now. Don’t say you are too busy. Finding your compelling purpose and meaning is the most important decision you will make in your entire life. Life is whatever we decide it to be. Live a life of meaning, contribution, joy, happiness and significance. Live a life at the highest level.