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Are Your Goals and Your Purpose the Same Thing?

Are Your Goals and Your Purpose the Same Thing?

There is no shortage of preachers when it comes to having goals. Self-help books and audio and video and live seminars abound with goal-setting and goal-achievement as a central tenet of their teaching.

So are goals the same as purpose? Does one lead to another? Do either of them require the other?

Definition of goal

Let’s begin with some definitions. A goal is an object of your ambition or effort. It’s something you want to get done, to achieve, to receive. You may have lots of goals, only a few, or even none at all. Goals aren’t always of your own making either; you can be influenced or manipulated to take on a goal, or even be forced to do so.

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Definition of purpose

Your purpose, on the other hand, is the reason for your existence. If you work that backwards, it implies that if you exist, you must have a purpose. It does not imply however that everyone is clued in to that purpose. Unlike a goal, it can not be chosen or forced upon you, it just is.

You will notice that some people have no goals and yet here they are, therefore even if you are without goals you must have a purpose.

Does having goals automatically mean that those goals support your purpose? No, indeed. It is rather common that people fight who and what they are, often rather vehemently and actively.

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There are even a few gurus out there advocating having no goals. Check out this debate between Leo Babauta of Zen Habits (anti-goals) and Tim Ferriss of the 4-Hour franchise (pro-goals). How can smart people disagree on a topic that is so fundamental to life? There are several answers.

Do you know your purpose when you set a goal?

Setting goals without knowing your purpose is a fruitless and unfulfilling business. Focusing on goals rather than purpose is epidemic in this world, and ignoring purpose altogether is quite common. So if goals stand in the way of the fulfillment of your purpose, they have to go, and they can go as they are not required.

Going goal-free would be a pretty scary prospect to many folks, but this too is not required. Goals have a way of focusing your mind, so if you mindfully choose goals that stand in support of your purpose, they actually make your life smoother and more satisfying.

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An important characteristic of your purpose is it is happening right now. While it is true that your purpose unfolds into the future, the present moment is the only one you control. Goals, on the other hand, are only ever in the future: if a goal is accomplished in the present, it is annihilated, as a goal that has been accomplished is no longer a goal, but an achievement. Don’t get me wrong, achievement is terrific, but it takes the goal out of the picture and returns your focus to your purpose.

How to structure your goal

How you structure your goals has a big impact on whether or not your purpose is actualized. For instance, many people set goals that are fundamentally in the control of others. If you set a goal for a specific person to buy a specific product from you, you may be dismayed. If your goal is to have a certain person love you, you are rather attempting to impress a goal on that other person. Sometimes this succeeds, but often as not it fails and the disappointment can be devastating.

A better approach would be to set a sales goal that does not require a specific buyer or the sale of a particular product. It is better to have the goal to be lovable rather than to be loved. Of course, circumstances sometimes dictate details that must be reconciled, despite not being optimal. It is good to be clear in these situations that our purpose is not tied to this specific goal’s achievement;such a goal may support our purpose in success but it cannot take away from our purpose in failure.

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Sometimes people actually use goals as a way to avoid their purpose, and they use a goal as justification for their failure to pursue who they really are. Consider some common scenarios:

  • “I can’t start a business of my own because I need this job I hate to support my family.”
  • “After working hard all day, I’m too tired to go to the gym.”
  • “My parents have too many needs right now for me to pursue a romantic relationship.”

In these examples, what seem to be worthwhile goals like supporting your family, working hard, and caring for your parents are actually excuses that stand in the way of pursuing your purpose along with goals that support it.

Another thing that people do is use goals to distract them from the present—one they may consider to be unsatisfying or even painful. Remember that your purpose happens in the present, and if the underlying reason you choose some ambitious goal is to consume your focus, it becomes detrimental to your being present here and now. Once you are engaged with a goal, well chosen or not, It takes on a certain lofty status in your world. If you ignore how you feel while stubbornly pursuing this elevated goal, this mythical standing hurts you.

So, start with your purpose. Choose goals that support, it or even choose none at all. Divest yourself of all past commitments to goals that do not serve you. If you do, you will find a peaceful coexistence between your purpose and any goals that you choose to allow to remain.

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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