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“We have Happy Feet starting this week.”, said my seven year old daughter as we sat down for dinner.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s a program at school where we see how many laps of the track around the school that we can complete. It goes for two weeks.”
“What part of the school day will you get to participate in this program?” I asked.
“It starts this Thursday and we’ll do it at morning playtime.”
“So you don’t have to do it?”
“No, I want to and I’m going to do it every day. I want to run like you. It’s good for my health and fitness.”
This conversation took place the night after I had completed the Melbourne Marathon. I can’t explain how happy I felt to hear my daughter spontaneously start this conversation. In all honesty, a spontaneous conversation like this one makes me feel even happier than when I complete a marathon (and believe me, I usually feel pretty happy when I get to the finish line!).
My life is so busy and hectic that if I didn’t have goals like completing a minimum of two marathons per year, it is quite likely that I might not do any exercise at all. One of my life’s purposes, however, is to set a good example to my four children about health and fitness. Completing two marathons per year is a concrete goal that I set myself that enable me to live that purpose. A conversation like the one described above provides clear evidence to me that my purpose is working. Over time, examples like this provide more and more motivation for me to continue to ‘live my purpose’.
In the Integrated Personal Planning programs that we provide many participants are very good at identifying goals for themselves. However many people are not clear about the higher purpose to which their goals relate. For example, many people may have a health and fitness goal to lose a certain number of kilograms. For this example, let’s say five kilograms. Unless they relate this goal to a higher purpose these people are at considerable risk of achieving their goal, but then slipping back into the bad habits that caused them to be overweight in the first place. The result; within a very short timeframe they put the five kilograms (and often more) back on. This is a familiar story for many, many people.
Clarity about your purpose may mean that more than one goal is created to help you to ‘live’ your purpose. If your goal is to lose five kilograms, maybe your purpose might be to live a healthy and more balanced lifestyle so that you can physically do want you want to do. For example, you may have one goal to lose five kilograms, and another goal to maintain your weight for five years after you have achieved your first goal, and another again to complete one holiday per year that involves some hiking. All these goals would work together to assist you to ‘live’ your purpose.
Linking goals to your purpose reduces the risk of oscillating between success and failure as it relates to your goals. Another function of having a clear purpose is that it enables you to continue to set new goals as you near the achievement of your current ones. For example, I always ensure that I know the next marathon that I will be doing after I complete the current one that I am booked in to run. This ensures that when I finish my current marathon (and achieve a goal) that I don’t fall into the trap of saying to myself, “Oh, I’ll get back into training when I work out what marathon I’ll do next.” Six, twelve, 24 months etc. could easily ‘fly by’ and before I knew it I would have stopped living my purpose and become unhealthy. Maintaining tension with ongoing goals as they relate to your purpose can be very, very powerful!
It is important that I note that I am not advocating that you all go out and start running marathons. That’s just what works for me. In fact health and fitness goals are relative to your current situation, so it may in fact be a bigger achievement for many of you to run/walk five kilometres than it is for me to run 42kms. Maybe swimming is your thing, or maybe it is averaging a certain number of exercise to music classes per week over a 6 month period. Having goals is what is important, and relating them to a higher level reason for doing them (i.e. your purpose) is even more powerful.
Many people also get stuck with regard to working out their purpose as it relates to their goals. Purpose is not unique. Is my purpose to set a good example of being healthy and fit to my four children (as well as being healthy and fit to be able to do whatever it is I physically want to be able to do in my life) particularly unique? No, it isn’t. Is my goal to run a minimum of two marathons per year also unique? No it isn’t. What IS unique is how I bring those goals into reality. The way I train and the marathons in which I choose to compete are unique to me. What is also unique is how living my purpose and achieving my goals contributes to me creating the future that I desire (see The Power of Personal Vision by Andrew O’Brien for more information).
My challenge to you is to identify the goals that you are currently striving to achieve and then articulating to yourself what higher purpose those goals are serving. The following three questions can be helpful in helping you to work out your purpose:
1) Why is this goal important to me?
2) What are the benefits of achieving this goal?
3) How does achieving this goal relate to the future that I want to create for myself?
Please feel free to share your thoughts with our learning community because the more examples that we have that highlight the relationship between purpose and goals, the more other members of our community will be able to work out the relationship between their goals and their purpose for themselves.
Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
Visit Gary at http://garyryans.com