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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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Last Updated on September 11, 2019

Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

How often do you feel overwhelmed and disorganized in life, whether at work or home? We all seem to struggle with time management in some area of our life; one of the most common phrases besides “I love you” is “I don’t have time”. Everyone suggests working from a to-do list to start getting your life more organized, but why do these lists also have a negative connotation to them?

Let’s say you have a strong desire to turn this situation around with all your good intentions—you may then take out a piece of paper and pen to start tackling this intangible mess with a to-do list. What usually happens, is that you either get so overwhelmed seeing everything on your list, which leaves you feeling worse than you did before, or you make the list but are completely stuck on how to execute it effectively.

To-do lists can work for you, but if you are not using them effectively, they can actually leave you feeling more disillusioned and stressed than you did before. Think of a filing system: the concept is good, but if you merely file papers away with no structure or system, the filing system will have an adverse effect. It’s the same with to-do lists—you can put one together, but if you don’t do it right, it is a fruitless exercise.

Why Some People Find That General To-Do Lists Don’t Work?

Most people find that general to-do lists don’t work because:

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  • They get so overwhelmed just by looking at all the things they need to do.
  • They don’t know how to prioritize the items on list.
  • They feel that they are continuously adding to their list but not reducing it.
  • There’s a sense of confusion seeing home tasks mixed with work tasks.

Benefits of Using a To-Do List

However, there are many advantages working from a to-do list:

  • You have clarity on what you need to get done.
  • You will feel less stressed because all your ‘to do’s are on paper and out of your mind.
  • It helps you to prioritize your actions.
  • You don’t overlook so many tasks and forget anything.
  • You feel more organized.
  • It helps you with planning.

4 Golden Rules to Make a To-Do List Work

Here are my golden rules for making a “to-do” list work:

1. Categorize

Studies have shown that your brain gets overwhelmed when it sees a list of 7 or 8 options; it wants to shut down.[1] For this reason, you need to work from different lists. Separate them into different categories and don’t have more than 7 or 8 tasks on each one.

It might work well for you to have a “project” list, a “follow-up” list, and a “don’t forget” list; you will know what will work best for you, as these titles will be different for everybody.

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2. Add Estimations

You don’t merely need to know what has to be done, but how long it will take as well in order to plan effectively.

Imagine on your list you have one task that will take 30 minutes, another that could take 1 hour, and another that could take 4 hours. You need to know the moment you look at the task, otherwise you undermine your planning, so add an extra column to your list and include your estimation of how long you think the task will take, and be realistic!

Tip: If you find it a challenge to estimate accurately, then start by building this skill on a daily basis. Estimate how long it will take to get ready, cook dinner, go for a walk, etc., and then compare this to the actual time it took you. You will start to get more accurate in your estimations.

3. Prioritize

To effectively select what you should work on, you need to take into consideration: priority, sequence and estimated time. Add another column to your list for priority. Divide your tasks into four categories:

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  • Important and urgent
  • Not urgent but important
  • Not important but urgent
  • Not important or urgent

You want to work on tasks that are urgent and important of course, but also, select some tasks that are important and not urgent. Why? Because these tasks are normally related to long-term goals, and when you only work on tasks that are urgent and important, you’ll feel like your day is spent putting out fires. You’ll end up neglecting other important areas which most often end up having negative consequences.

Most of your time should be spent on the first two categories.

4.  Review

To make this list work effectively for you, it needs to become a daily tool that you use to manage your time and you review it regularly. There is no point in only having the list to record everything that you need to do, but you don’t utilize it as part of your bigger time management plan.

For example: At the end of every week, review the list and use it to plan the week ahead. Select what you want to work on taking into consideration priority, time and sequence and then schedule these items into your calendar. Golden rule in planning: don’t schedule more than 75% of your time.

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Bottom Line

So grab a pen and paper and give yourself the gift of a calm and clear mind by unloading everything in there and onto a list as now, you have all the tools you need for it to work. Knowledge is useless unless it is applied—how badly do you want more time?

To your success!

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Featured photo credit: Emma Matthews via unsplash.com

Reference

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