Goals Vs. Direction
It’s good to have goals in life – a sense of where you want to go, and how to get there. Especially at difficult times, the feeling of being on the way somewhere can help us feel less lost and more purpose-driven.
In order to strengthen that sense of purpose and drive, it’s helpful to differentiate between your specific goals and the overall direction you want in your life, and the deeper values that this reflects.
Sometimes our specific goals can be deceptive, and may not actually reflect the values we think they do. Society, our families, peers and culture all put pressure on us to pursue certain pre-approved goals – like being financially successful, achieving certain milestones in life, or looking a certain way.
While there is nothing wrong with pursuing common goals, if you don't check in with your gut feeling about what is genuinely important to you about them, you may miss out on the real meaning of your pursuit.
What’s your goal really about?
Say, for example, if your focus on career achievement is really about gaining the acceptance of others with a longing to feel safe in your relationships, like you are contributing and being acknowledged for this. If you don't realise that relationships are at the core of what you’re seeking in your career, you can end up working long hours and de-prioritising your family in the pursuit of success, and thus lose out on what's truly meaningful for you.
By examining the values that are driving your goals, you can identify their true meaning, and determine the best way to pursue it. Ask yourself: What does this goal really MEAN to me? What would my life look like if I got there? What would I do if I was already there? How would I spend my time and energy?
In the example of realising you’re seeking career success because of needing validation and support, this will enable you to identify more direct ways to access what you need – investing time and effort into your close relationships, or into building on more distant relationships to strengthen them.
Another example is reflecting on your desire to lose weight and hit a certain number on the scales. If you examine this desire further, you might realise that it's not about that specific number, but about regaining connection with yourself and feeling at home in your body again (or for the first time). This can save you from fruitless efforts at minimising your body fat percentage, and instead focusing on movement and skills development that can increase your confidence in your body and your sense of ownership of it.
Living a life full of meaning does not mean living an easy life. It simply means focusing your energy on the things that matter to you, and doing what it takes to move towards them.
Basically, it's about increasing your sense of ownership of your life. Wouldn’t it be good to feel that even if you don’t reach a specific goal, you’re moving in the right direction in life – or acting like the kind of person you want to be?
No matter how busy, how unskilled, how far away from the end point (or a specific goal) you feel, it’s always possible to take a step in the right direction.