A necessary and key condition for a fulfilling life is that our efforts are aligned with our true goals. Although this sounds simple, and self-evident, sadly many people go through life without even being aware of their true nature or what their goals are; it’s unsurprising such folk struggle to find satisfaction
This article presents a straightforward framework for discovering your goals and creating a roadmap for their realization.
The suggested mechanism consists of 9 components:
- What are you?
- Where are you?
- What are your interests/passions?
- What are the main issues in your life?
- What’s your SWOT?
- What are your values?
- What are your goals?
- Why do you want these things?
- How can you best achieve your goals?
What are you?
What are your characteristics? These may be (most likely) innate, or acquired? Divide them into positive, negative and neutral/ambivalent. It can help to revisit this question several times as each consideration may reveal different facets. Asking friends or family, if you’re brave enough, can also be invaluable.
What are your interests/passions?
What gets your motor running? If you get a day (or week or month) all to yourself what would you do? What kind of books or TV shows do you enjoy? What hobbies of the past have you given up but still have affection for? Particularly important are things you were instinctively drawn to as a child.
Where are you?
What’s your current position in life? How old are you? Do you have family/other responsibilities? Do you have a job/career? Are you financially secure?
What are the main issues in your life?
What are you most concerned about, or what’s most likely to keep you awake at night? Money? Relationships? Guilt/regret?
What’s your SWOT?
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Often used in a business context these headings can equally be applied to the business of finding fulfillment in life. Strengths and weaknesses are internal to your and likely reflect the characteristics you noted under “What are you?” Opportunities and threats reflect your life’s external circumstances.
What are your values?
Your values include your Spiritual and political views as well as what just feels right or wrong. Values often exist at a subconscious level, but result in feelings of satisfaction/discomfort whenever we act in accord/discord with them.
What are your goals?
Having worked through the above points you should know more about yourself and have a clearer idea of your goals. Imagine a genie appeared and granted you 3 (or 5 or 20…) wishes, what would you wish for? If the genie might disappear at any moment, what would you wish for first?
Why do you want these things?
These reasons are your motivation, your drives, the things that keep you going when the going gets tough. Eg I want my own business so I set my own agenda and am rewarded for my achievements.
How can you best achieve your goals?
You know what you are, where you are, and where you want to be. Use this information to determine your plan of action. Eventually your plan should be broken down into discrete tasks, sub-tasks, sub-sub-tasks etc.
Finding Your Self
Although these questions are apparently simple, take your time in answering them, since your answers can have a profound effect on the rest of your life. It’s worthwhile revisiting the questions 2 or 3 times, ideally with a few days ago between each review, to gain the fullest picture.
Don’t limit your answers artificially. The best way to conduct this task is on a computer word processor where each section can be expanded as much as required. If you prefer to work on paper, allow a whole sheet for each section (adding sheets as you need) so as not to be constrained by the next header.
If you’ve never done this kind of analysis before the results can be eye-opening, but don’t consider it a one-off undertaking. Set yourself specific (micro-) tasks; review your progress regularly, eg monthly or even weekly, and set new tasks that move you ever closer to your goals. Periodically repeat the whole analysis process, eg annually around Christmas / New Year. Circumstances change. People change in the light of experience, and so do their goals.
In an ideal world we could devote every waking hour to the pursuit of our goals. In reality we all face demands that are at best irrelevant and at worst contradictory to our desires. These “givens” must be accepted but our mission, whatever our scheduled commitments, is to focus our available time and resources and what matters most.
Mapping out a typical weekly schedule can help. Work out how much time is spent on, eg: sleeping, paid work (including associated, but maybe unpaid, travel, “breaks” etc), personal maintenance (eating, drinking, grooming etc), family, public commitments, leisure, chilling out… Once all this stuff is accounted for you should be left with a certain period of “discretionary” time. This is time that can be devoted solely to the pursuit of your own personal goals. If it doesn’t seem enough, try to figure out if time can be gained by reducing other activities, eg giving up a low-productive committee, watching a little less TV etc.
It’s not the winning but the taking part
Align Effort with Purpose
If you successfully follow all the above you might achieve some or all of your life goals. If so, congratulations, but not for long because to maintain purpose you’d then need to set yourself some new goals and start over.
More likely, some/all of your goals will remain unrealized. Don’t despair, that doesn’t make your life a failure. If you have striven to fulfill your true purpose your efforts have been worthwhile and the experience you have gained is invaluable. And experience is the true purpose shared by all.