I generally like to make distinctions. And I think there is a great distinction waiting to be made in terms of goals.
Our goals are the things we want to accomplish, most of the times for our own immediate self interest. Goals can come from the fact that we might feel something important is missing, or because we are very excited about our desires and we want to see them becoming a reality.
Michael Neill, a coach that keeps me inspired for a while now, says something like this:
There are ego goals and there are soul purposes. An ego goal is something I would love to brag about, something that I want to be able to tell the world that I did myself. A soul purpose is something I would be very happy to see existing in the world, something really meaningful that I happen to take on and contribute to.
My experience so far has been that I will never happy just by meeting my own immediate own goals. At best, that keeps me far from dissatisfaction, but it doesn’t rock my world, nor does it fill me up with happiness and excitement.
Being focused only on goals that benefit me frequently has placed me in the situation that a song from Garbage (The world is not enough) so bluntly describes:
Why am I sad, when I have more than I ever had?
Or, if I were to use another one of my references, from Foo Fighters, ”The Best”:
I get something that I never had, but I cannot use.
The way that I am built, and the way I see life is you can never be truly happy unless you have found that mission that you really, really want to serve. And although we might have different views on how our hierarchy of needs works, above our immediate needs of being safe, of having money and comfort, relationship and status, is the need to contribute to a purpose.
This is what I see happening when one is aligned with the highest, most important purpose for them:
You become motivated and cant wait to work on activities that relate to your purpose
You find yourself experiencing the flow state much more often – this state of creativity, of inspiration, of easy focus of attention and almost effortless efficiency
You are persevering and manage to unlock your potential to achieve things you have never though possible
You get to have an impact in the life of others, of the community, of the environment – you contribute to creating something that is needed and meaningful, to you and others
It is no longer only about you.
And this last effect is particularly appealing to me.
I find it extraordinary that when we live our life from the perspective of being in service to something, we suddenly escape the trap of hunting for attention, of trying to maintain a certain appearance, of hunting for the appreciation and approval of others.
And that is so friggin´ liberating! No more mind games, no more energy lost in grooming how other people perceive us, we just live a simpler life.
If you feel drawn and curious to contemplate about what your personal mission might be, I could help with the following suggestions:
First step is to ask yourself exactly what Michael Neill was suggesting: what would you be very happy to see happening in the world?
What makes you really really happy?
What usually makes you forget about yourself, forget about time and be really deeply immersed and inspired by what you do?
What are some principles/values that are really important for you?
What would you do if money weren’t an issue?
What do you tell yourself to justify the fact that you are not following your purpose?
How would it feel if you never, ever followed your purpose?
And talking about purpose and money…
I really believe that you can make a living out of pursuing your personal mission; on the other hand, money should not be a deciding factor.
Sometimes, or maybe temporarily, what you do in following your purpose might be different than what you do for money.
You might discover that, if you were to follow your purpose, you might choose a profession that brings less income, less uncertainty or less fancy status than the one you have now.
There is this really fun and also really sadistic joke that crying out of misery is so much comfortable to do on a mattress made out of money.
Well, I disagree. I think we are really disconnected from our inner compass of values and principles if we get satisfied with a life where we can have two fancy city breaks in Europe a year, but then again we spend the rest of our working days dragging our feet, counting the minutes till clocking out, and generally just feeling miserable.
And truth be told, once you have found your personal mission, the truth is you can follow it regardless of what you do as a job. Say your personal mission is to achieve work life balance, and to have time for family, for connection, for hobbies – think about how you could be a great example of personal organisation and productivity so that you never get to work overtime? How could you inspire others to live this way? How could you show others that, really, the happier and the more energized they are in their personal life, the better their professional results will be?
And whatever you choose, don’t over-complicate things when you search to clarify your purpose.
I bet you already know what is most important to you – give yourself permission to acknowledge that, even if only to yourself.