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Last Updated on January 21, 2021

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.

Featured photo credit: Smart via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on April 8, 2021

How to Start Taking Action on Your Goals and Dreams Now

How to Start Taking Action on Your Goals and Dreams Now

I’m going to tell you the secrets on how to start taking action on your dreams. When you decide to turn thoughts into action, there are specific, actionable steps you can take to move forward.

The first thing I want you to do is think back to when you were a child. Our childhood selves hold many of the secrets to realizing our real life dreams. Think about what you loved to do most and how you told yourself it was possible without worrying about what might get in the way. I’d like you to reconnect to your imagination and playfulness.

By taking the following steps, you’ll do some playing and storytelling to reveal your dreams and start making them come true.

1. Tell Your Story

Your life story is unique and has brought you here today. The next chapter of your life is in your power to write and to realize by taking action. Not everything that happens to you is in your control[1], but the actions you take and how you choose to feel about what happens are in your control.

Finding out what our future lives and dream lives might look like can be done effectively through the eyes of our childhood selves.

Can you remember what you loved to do most as a child? Maybe you enjoyed collecting things like me–I always had a collection of pebbles in a carrier bag that smelled of seawater nestled under my bed. Perhaps you loved taking care of your pets: I had a dog, a tortoise, and many guinea pigs. Or maybe you were really great at making stuff.

You can use the instincts, passions, and skills you had as a child to fuel your progress toward your adult dreams.

I’m inviting you to really think about what you wanted to be when you grew up[2] and the memorable activities you enjoyed as a child, the ones that gave you a real sense of freedom and excitement, or the pursuits that you truly lost yourself in.

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What we call getting into our flow state[3] as an adult is what came naturally to us as children. So, go back there now and think about how that felt. It may clue you in to what still remains true and important to you today.

2. Define Your Dream

The first secret when you want to start taking action on your dreams is to know what they are. This sounds obvious, but so many people only have a loose definition, such as: “more free time,” or “more money.” Busy people know there is something else to life apart from slaving away for a job, or a boss they don’t like, but if you’re too busy to even know what your dream looks like, how can you make it come true?

Once again, I’d invite you to connect to the optimism and playfulness of your childhood self. Go back to thinking about what your dreams involved at age seven or eight. Some of those may still be what you want today.

Now, write down what it is that you want and when you want to achieve it. Note down how you’ll know when you’ve got there and made this dream come true. How will you measure your success? Be as specific about your goals as you can.

A study at the Dominican University in California[4] proved that writing down your goals, accountability, and commitment are three key ingredients to successfully achieving our goals and learning how to take action.

This step also involves building motivation for the steps to come. If you need help in that area, check out Lifehack’s free Ultimate Worksheet for an Instant Motivation Boost.

3. Picture Your Dream Coming True

Think about exactly how it will feel when you start taking action and ultimately achieve your dream, the sense of freedom and excitement. Imagine it in as much detail as you can with all five senses. If you’re finding it hard to imagine a different life, imagine a childhood memory with all its sensations.

As a little girl, I loved to ice-skate, making huge swirly patterns across clean expanses of beautiful glistening ice. The feeling of freedom, of trust in myself to balance, of speed. It felt very immersive, the coldness and my breath turning into little clouds in front of my face.

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Imagine a childhood memory like this, and then imagine the future you want, with as much detail and attention paid to how it looks, feels, tastes, smells, and sounds.

Draw, paint, speak, or write your future story.

If you loved to create pictures like I did as a child, or write stories, or play on the computer, use your natural creative skills and what you love doing to map out your exciting future. You could create a picture, vision board, written story, or audio file.

Then, let’s put that future story somewhere you can easily access it. Make sure that you include a timescale for when you want to achieve this dream by, how you will measure your success, and what you need to get there. If possible, start breaking your dream down into small, manageable steps.

4. What Part Do You Play?

You can’t control everything, so you need to be realistic about your role in taking action and making your future dreams come true. Think about where you need help. During childhood, we were not afraid to ask for help from a parent, friend, or sibling to realize our dreams and plans.

Whatever we needed, our eager and enthusiastic childhood selves would reach out for support. We’d be resourceful with whatever we had to make our creative ideas a reality.

As adults we also need to ask for support and help, and at the same time to notice what is in our control and what we can do to take action today towards our dreams.

5. Who Can Support You?

If you’ve noticed you need a bit of help, then get your tribe together. Which friends can cheer you on, and which can connect you? Who in your family will indulge in your dreams with you? What about the pragmatic ones who might help you work out what you need to get there?

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Whether you need someone to check in on you and see how you’re progressing, or need a buddy to brainstorm with to help the ideas flow, bring a few of your friends into the plan to help you move forward. Successful people know that the habit of taking action is best built with help.

6. Ensure Your Dream Is Realistic

Maybe the dream you’ve outlined just feels impossible. It costs too much or will take too much time to achieve. Instead of telling yourself “no, but,” try the “yes, and” approach. This is much more representative of how a child’s mind works.

When we were little, we weren’t scared to fail, as failing was not a concept to us back then. Let’s harness some of that kid energy and see how “yes, and” can move us forward when our dream feels unrealistic.

Let’s look at an example: maybe your dream is to have a hit record, and you think you can’t sing, or you don’t believe you have any musical talent. Instead of closing that down, if we “yes, and” it, we can say: “I want to have a hit record. Yes, and there are so many ways to achieve that. Some people have a hit record by working for a music business, and others might design the cover art. Some people speak on records instead of singing… yes, and someone has to write the lyrics or have the idea for the song. Yes, and I know someone who organizes a choir every Christmas at their local bar, and everyone in the bar is on the record. That amateur choir even got on TV as it was so much fun and all the money went to charity.”

So, before you decide your idea is unrealistic, try “yes, and-ing” it to see how you can start taking action on your dreams, even if you think it sounds impossible!

7. Use Small Wins and Rewards

On your journey toward achieving your dream, there will be small wins and important milestones; it’s not just about going straight to the destination. Measuring your progress is important and can be a chance to celebrate.

Finding a way to measure it that is visible can really help. Whether it’s a chart or an app, whatever you choose, following and celebrating your progress is key, and celebrating that win is part of the joy. Being in the process and on the journey is just as important as reaching your target. Celebrate with the happiness of a small child: do a dance, take a photo, tell your friends.

8. Update the Map

You might find the plan you made isn’t working for some reason. Things have changed, and your goals and targets are not working out for you . Let’s look at how you can change things up and put new life and energy into the project.

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Take it apart and put it back together again, but start small. Define the new plan and the new goals, and start on the next phase of the journey, equipped with the knowledge and learning from what didn’t work last time you tried to put your thoughts into action.

9. Make Space

Achieving our dreams might mean losing something else, and that’s ok. It could be a literal swap, such as giving up wine to save money towards the goal. Or it could be something more ideological, like giving up saying yes to everything to make more time to focus on your pursuits. Think about what you can give up to make space for taking action on your dreams.

10. Use Your Superpower

What’s your superpower? Use this to take action on your dreams today! Perhaps you’re awesome at using your network to find solutions to problems. If that sounds like you, then consider picking up the phone and start asking for some ideas and connections.

If you prefer to research, get reading or watching TED talks and presentations to find practical ways to achieve your particular dream. Who else has overcome a similar problem? How did they do it? What can you borrow from what they learned, and what can you learn from how they won or lost along the way?

11. Keep Your Energy up

Remember to take a rest and recharge on the journey towards taking action on your dreams. Take breaks, eat and sleep well, exercise, and listen to and tune in to what your body and mind needs to thrive.

Final Thoughts

Achieving your dreams is unlikely to be an overnight task. It’s more likely to be a winding road with setbacks, lessons, obstacles, and new discoveries. It might take years, but every step, no matter how tiny, can be enjoyed, even the struggles. Maintaining a mindset around enjoying the journey will really equip you to thrive and see those ambitious dreams become a reality.

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Featured photo credit: Tom Rogerson via unsplash.com

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