I would bet that if you gathered 10 random people and ask them what their goals are in life, right now, you would get mostly hems, haws, and blank stares. Or if you do get an answer, it would be very generic like: “spend more time with my kids,” or “lose weight.” That’s not a goal, but a dream, or wish. If wishes were fishes, the sea would be full.
When talking with people; clients, neighbors, friends, even my wife and sometimes me, if you ask them they just don’t know. They haven’t challenged themselves to define it in concrete terms. Hence, they get less than excellent results. These people may generally be doing pretty well on things like diet, exercise, life balance, even happiness, and that may be good enough. But whenever I’ve been in this spot, without a beacon or goal, I’ve always felt a little listless. Without purpose I’ve felt lost.
While I wouldn’t expect you to have an answer for “What is my purpose in life?” that is something that should be in the back of your mind as you figure out yourself. I’ve pondered this larger question for some time over the last few years, and for me, I’ve boiled this big question down to a couple of guiding principles for right now: Helping Others Accomplish Their Goals and Being a Good Steward to the Environment. These have unknowingly been guiding me my entire life, and with that in mind at my forefront, help me to establish my smaller goals.
Don’t despair if you haven’t figured out who you want to be when you grow up. I’ve heard this phrase so many times over the last few years. Being a corporate drone and making money for someone else often leaves us feeling unfulfilled, hence we are looking for things that make our spirit sing. If we don’t get that from our career, we carve out fulfillment through other ways. Volunteering. Our children. Being healthy. Cooking. Whether helping the world, or helping ourselves, being better and shooting for greater things is healthy for our soul.
So how do you establish even small goals? You may not have pondered “What do I want my life to look like in 5 years [or 3 years, or even 3 months]?” but you should. What do you want to look like? What skills do you want to learn (language, sport, music, dog training, how to start a business, what?)? This may be tough, starting out it will be somewhat shapeless, like trying to catch fog. But when you start to think about what makes you happy, what may drive you to feel better about yourself, then you can start to establish goals.
I am a supervisor at work, and in addition to those I work with coaching on the site, I work with friends, my kids, and staff on helping them establish goals. I’ve had training in this area using the SMART Goals program. If you haven’t seen this before (I believe I’ve touched on this before), SMART stands for:
- Specific – what do you want to accomplish? Why? It may be something like: I want to lose weight so I can look good in a swimsuit this summer. I will do this by healthier eating and regular exercise.
- Measurable – How much, how many? This could be pounds, or chords on a guitar, or new healthy dishes, or a class enrollment with the gaining of new skills.
- Achievable – I prefer to get people achieving early wins to get the ball rolling, so establishing a bigger goal like Lose 25 Pounds is great, but break it down even smaller – like “I will lose 1 pound a week average over 25 weeks” is more achievable. Be realistic with your time constraints, life obligations, and finances. You may not dig out of credit card debt this year, but if you set monthly goals on chipping away and making sacrifices t reach this priority, you’ll make it easier on yourself mentally.
- Relevant – Does this improve my life or fall under my bigger umbrella of life purpose? Is this the right time to pursue this, or would I be better off completing other goals? Athol Kay has a red light, yellow light, green light evaluation of your various life segments. If you are 100# overweight but also want to save an extra $100 a month by spending 20 hours a week on a side hustle what do you think is a better use of time to achieve maximum life satisfaction if you could only choose one?
- Time Sensitive – If you don’t have an end goal on when this is to occur, you’ll never get there. How can you break down a goal into bite sized quantifiable pieces if the finish line isn’t there? The answer is you can’t. You’ll keep kicking this to the future indefinitely.
Once you have your goal defined, WRITE IT DOWN! Then tell someone who will hold you accountable or will help you succeed, then put up the goal/list somewhere where you can see it – the fridge, the mirror in the bathroom, in your car or at your desk. Make a Vision Board. Then get the equipment, classes, CDs, knowledge, videos, books, personal training, knowledge, bank accounts set up, whatever that will put in the place to succeed. Make a calendar with your goals written down, and “X” off the days you succeed. Celebrate the small successes and stack wins on top of wins.
If you’re like me, getting from springtime body to summertime body is a goal. I’m choosing to run twice a week, am on Week 4 of a Hatch Squat Cycle (it is nice to have a program to follow for weights or exercise rather than noodle around on your own), am doing other weight training along with short conditioning, and am intermittent fasting and eating paleoish with no drinking 5 days a week. My goal is to lose 10 lbs of fat by June 15 while maintaining my muscle mass and hitting my squat numbers. While I’m also working on a few other goals in the background, like being more focused in my own relationships and locking up the phone at night (a trap many of us have fallen into over the last couple years I am guessing). But I’m aware that my plate is pretty full and there is only so much attention, focus, and energy to go around.
But setting goals are motivating. They make you feel like you’re actually moving rather than floating through life. Spring is a time for rejuvenation and cleaning. Take the time to do this in your life as well. If something is an anchor to your happiness or well being, figure out why and set a goal to rid yourself of that energy vampire.
And finally, since these smaller goals are important for happiness, finding or searching out your purpose can be something that has the potential to be quantum leap. Plus I like Venn Diagrams: