Purpose-Driven Goal Setting

The purpose of life is a life of purpose .

When I ask people what they want out of life, almost everyone says, “I just want to be happy.” It sounds so simple.

The trouble is–most people don’t get nearly as much happiness as they would like. They may spend their entire lives trying to achieve certain goals or acquire certain things, thinking that will bring them happiness. But it never seems to last.

The reason is simple. People have been fed a lie. Some misguided “motivational speakers” have told them that if they’ll just write down their goals and achieve them, they’ll be happy. And the advertisements have told them if they’ll just buy certain products, they’ll be happy — once and for all.

Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. All too many people have worked hard to achieve their goals, expecting a great sense of fulfillment and satisfaction, only to find disappointment or fleeting joy.

Take, for example, the person who has the goal of getting a new, beautiful boat. He works hard, saves money for a long time, does his research, picks out the best boat, and eventually buys it. He expects a great sense of accomplishment, pride, and happiness to wash over him, and perhaps it does for a short while. But ask that same man six months later, “How’s the boat?” and he may say, “Yeah, well, it’s okay, I guess.” In other words, the good feelings didn’t last all that long.

The problem is, no one ever told him that GOALS AND PURPOSE HAVE TO BE UNITED. If they’re not, he can work hard, achieve a lot, and feel little or nothing.

But take that same man and boat. If he has a goal that is bigger than merely getting the boat, if he has a purpose, it makes all the difference in the world. If he knows his family can relax on a boat, play games, spend time talking, build memories, and refer back to those memories for years to come, such a purpose has lasting power. He’ll find happiness in the process of getting the boat, happiness in the process of using the boat, and happiness for a long time to come.

I hope you have a lot of goals for your life and your work. But more importantly, I hope you’ve identified a deep, meaningful purpose for your life and a clear purpose for each of your goals.

Consult almost any spiritual philosophy, or ask almost any happy, healthy, balanced, and successful individual, and you’ll find them saying that real happiness comes from purpose. It doesn’t come with things, and it doesn’t come with mere accomplishments.

Dick Leider learned that. In his book, Unpacking Your Bags, Dick described an African trek with a Masai guide who had nothing more than a staff and a loin cloth. Dick, on the other hand, had his new, fancy Eddie Bauer backpack, complete with zippers, pockets, and pouches filled with all kinds of goodies. The Masai guide kept staring at his pack, day after day, until on the third day, Dick asked, “Do you want to see what’s inside?” The guide said, “Yes.”

Dick showed him his precious content, including his Swiss army knife with all the gadgets. Of course, Dick was thinking that the Masai guide must be saying “Wow” to himself, dazzled by all the neat things he had.

Finally, the guide asked, “Do these things make you happy?” The question stunned him. He’d never thought about that before. He’d only thought about getting more things, newer things, or better things.

The question changed Dick’s life. Forever after, he asked himself that same question. Before he added anything to his life, he asked himself if that thing would truly make him happy. If not, he wouldn’t get it. Likewise, if something in life wasn’t giving him happiness, he got rid of it.

What about you? Have you taken a similar inventory? Do you have a purpose for your life, for all the goals you’re trying to achieve, and for all the things you’re trying to acquire? If you don’t, it’s time to get started. After all, the purpose of life is a life of purpose.

Action:  To clarify your purpose, complete these three sentences: 1) Happiness is… 2) Success is … 3) The most satisfying life would be…. Get specific. Then ask yourself if your answers are worth living and dying for. If not, dig a little deeper, and don’t give up until you’re truly content with your answers.