GOALS AND PURPOSE – why we need both May 16, 2019 – Posted in: Advice, Personal Development, Relationships – Tags: advice, family, goals, growth, happiness, life, love, purpose
I was lucky enough to marry my partner recently. After going through divorce in 2011 and then spending 6-years as a single person with three children, it really did feel like a pinnacle moment in my life to be marrying my soul mate. We had the most amazing, joyous day and then spent a week on a gorgeous island in the sun together. We were literally lavished with cards, gifts, good will and messages of love; it was overwhelming.
So overwhelming, in fact, that following our honeymoon I have to admit to a feeling of ‘now what’? We came home to lives and people we love and yet, for a few days, I felt flat and sad. What was I going to focus on now? Almost like an addict coming down after a high I had that slightly scratchy feeling of needing a fix of excitement or adrenalin, or something to organise!
Of course, I knew this was ‘normal’ – after a big, exciting, life-changing event that you’ve been planning and looking forward to for months it’s unusual not to feel a little low afterwards. My critical voice took the opportunity to wade in with comments like “you’re so ungrateful to feel like this – you have everything you have ever dreamed of,” blah, blah, blah. Thankfully, having written a book about managing that voice, I knew what was going on and how to handle it but still, it was unsettling.
What shifted for me was when I was reminded by a friend of the difference between having a goal and having a purpose. I had, for the previous 9 months, had a very specific “goal” – our wedding day and all the attendant preparations. Even a simple wedding needs planning and I enjoyed every minute! However, real life is less about goals and more about purpose; by which I mean how I move through each of the 24-hours I’m given, the values by which I live, the way in which I interact with the people, places and things around me.
Having a “north”
As a coach I deal with people’s goals every day! It’s good to have a “north” – something to aim for and work towards. Having a goal gives us a sense of direction and drive, and motivates us when the going gets tough. Sometimes my client’s only goal is “to be more confident” but that’s enough to make a start – we know where we’re headed.
However, if we’re too focused on our goal/s we can very quickly lose touch with the moment. Our lives can become all about the future and in doing so we are asleep to today. I know so many people who are unsatisfied with their lives because today doesn’t look like their plans for tomorrow. If you think about it, that’s a recipe for a life of permanent dissatisfaction.
Living with purpose
The antidote to this is to set a goal that aligns with your purpose and then let the goal go in order that you can focus on your purpose. What’s your purpose? Only you can decide that but it’s usually about living authentically each day based on values you hold dear. I reckon my purpose is to be as loving as possible, as much as possible – to focus on giving rather than getting, but to remember to meet my own needs along the way. Having this purpose gives each day a focus and each day well-lived like this contributes towards my overall goals whatever they may be.
- Having a purpose stops you setting goals that don’t align with who you are.
- Having a purpose keeps you in the moment.
- Having a purpose gives you an emotional and spiritual backbone – you become your own “north”.
When I was training as a coach I was told that the point of a client’s goal was not for them to reach that goal, but rather it was to give the client something to aim for and a sense of forward momentum. I see the wisdom in this today because happy lives are lived in 24-hour chunks – not in the future!
Once I was reminded of living with purpose, my post-wedding flatness and sadness lifted and I was left with gratitude for our amazing life and happy memories of our incredible wedding day. I am back in the present; connected to the people, places and things that come up in each 24-hour chunk.