Goals, objectives, and to-do lists propel me in a productive, forward-motion trajectory. That’s my training. That’s my modus operandi. That’s my inclination. After all, that’s how things get done in the world, right? I don’t subscribe to the bumper sticker “He who dies with the most toys wins”, but if you substituted ‘toys’ for ‘checked-off goals’, hey presto, that could be me.
Lately, however, seeds of doubt are creeping into this philosophy. I’ve run across some thinking that suggests ‘checked-off goals’ could leave you just as hollow as lots of ‘toys’. At the end of the day, a collection of random accomplishments or whimsical “bucket list” items might not be any more satisfying than a collection of material wealth. Well, of course. I know that too!
But am I wandering aimlessly from goal to goal? Is there something tying all this together? When you work in a big organization, there are Mission statements that drive annual goals and objectives. Oh no … I hated working on those Mission statements! Evil, torturous time-wasters.
In spite of this dread of mission statements, I’ve been noodling around with this concept recently. At first, it was hard to steer clear of goal laundry lists. Then I found some useful descriptions on the difference between goals and purpose that helped. Once a goal is achieved, you cross it off the list and replace it with a new one. Thinking about goals as measurable, whereas purposes are not, helped move purpose ideas back into the goal camp. A purpose is broader and deeper, and may never be fully attainable in a lifetime, but it sets your overall direction. Your purpose is the well from which the goals spring forth.
That makes sense, but this is not easy stuff. I’m persevering. Reflecting, rewording, rewriting. I think there are some rich fruits to be harvested from this exercise. Even the rough drafts are already serving me well in deciding what I say Yes to and No to. Does it line up with my overall purpose?
“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it”
― Gautama Buddha