A few months ago, I was poking around trying to find some big overarching goal for the next few years.
I knew I wanted to build something that was my own. I knew I wanted to find something that would make people’s lives better. But how could I distill that ambiguity into a clear, specific goal?
Then I thought I found it.
My life goal for the next few years would be to earn $10,000/month from 3 sources of income. That life goal lasted about 2 days until my boyfriend pointed out that it completely missed the point. He was right.
I’d wanted to build something of value. I’d always held the belief that, (if you were doing things right) the money you earned represented the value you added. Plus, if I had multiple sources of income it meant I was making people’s lives better in multiple ways.
The logic is horribly flawed, but at the time it seemed perfectly reasonable. It didn’t occur to me that sooner or later, the clear, specific goal I’d set would become the only one that existed. Then it wouldn’t be long until I was finding ways to earn money any way I could — whether it made people’s lives better or not.
I’m still working on defining a clear life mission for myself but in the meantime, it’s just been the extremely ambiguous goal of making people’s lives better. The point of this story isn’t about how horribly misguided my goal-setting tactics were (though that’s true).
Because without remembering your original mission, soon your goals will start to stray. And even when you get to where you aimed for, you still won’t be where you wanted to be.
Maybe it’s the hope of having complete mastery over a skill. Or the hope of feeling at peace. This is your original mission.
The vision of being a master chef working in a high-end restaurant filled with happy customers and glowing reviews. Or the vision of sitting on the beach, staring into the sunset and feeling completely at peace. (Your original mission can already start to get skewed here because creating a vision means turning a feeling (hope) into something tangible.)
We say that we want to become a professional chef. Or we want to feel content and in control. This is when our original mission is still pretty fuzzy but it can be articulated.
We start doing research into culinary arts programs or googling “How To Be Content”. We start trying to put them into clear, specific goals like we learned to do.
Soon our goals become something like:
I will earn the title of Head Chef at a Michelin star restaurant by age 28 or
I will go on a digital detox retreat once a month for one weekend at a time
There’s nothing wrong with these goals. But if we start to internalize them without remembering the original mission, we’ll lose sight of what we really wanted. Then when we finally reach our goals, we’re inevitably disappointed that we’re not satisfied.
When our sole goal transforms from mastering culinary arts to earning the title of Head Chef, we start spending our time on networking through the restaurant industry instead of perfecting our craft.
When our sole goal becomes embarking on a digital detox retreat every month, we get so focused on squeezing that time in, at all costs, that it causes us stress and unhappiness — instead of peace and contentment like we’d wanted.
Then we’re left wondering what happened.
I’d made this same mistake recently — which is how this blog post was born.
For the new year, I’d decided that I wanted to improve my ability to connect with others. That included learning how to clearly articulate my thoughts and ideas. So, I set myself the challenge to write one post every day this year.
I went through the usual process of creating a measurable and specific goal. I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be able to slack off and get away with a crappy post when things got tough.
So I set my goal to be to write a 1000+ word blog post every day for the year.
But within a few days, I found myself tempted to include unnecessary information just to hit the 1000+ word count. Sometimes I’d have nothing left to say so I’d start a tangent on an unrelated topic just to fill the word count.
My goal was no longer to create awesome, helpful posts. It became hitting a 1000+ word count every day. I had to re-evaluate before Thirty Days ended up with hundreds of 1000+ word blog posts that sucked.
I called it quits — for the 1000+ word part. Now my goal is to just put out one blog post each day that I think will make someone’s life better off. One blog post that I believe will lead to someone making a positive change in their life through their perspective or their actions.
I still try to hit 1000 words — but it’s not my goal.
Whatever your goals are, never forget your original mission. It’s just as important.
In the comments below, share the goal(s) you’re working on and your original mission for each!
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