A step-by-step method for identifying your purpose and working towards it daily
Too often the response to the question ‘How’s work?’ is ‘(eyeroll) same as always’ which translates to ‘I’m unhappy at work and I’d rather forget it happens’. Well, considering the majority of people spend a significant proportion of their lives at work, I’m here to change this mindset, starting right now.
The first thing to note (and you may have heard about this a lot recently) is that human beings need to have purpose in order to feel fulfilment. This doesn’t mean that we need to fully figure out our entire life’s purpose today (if we were able to do that, we would have nothing to complain about). What it means is that we always need to have purpose in what we are doing, and we must use this purpose to guide our actions and decisions.
When visiting a Tony Robbins event recently, I learned the following formula:
Happiness = Science of Achievement + Art of Fulfilment
This resonated with me because in my personal experience over the years I feel that I have (fortunately) on many occasions experienced the achievement part, but not necessarily the fulfilment part. I am always looking for something more, and I haven’t been able to put my finger on why until now; the answer is purpose. Career achievements come as a result of effort and ability, but not necessarily as a result of a pre-defined plan, goal or purpose. When this is the case we have the science of achievement without the art of fulfilment and so unfortunately, we don’t always experience true happiness.
So, practically, how do I identify my purpose?
This is actually straight-forward. Take a quiet moment to get inspired; a walk, a coffee shop morning, a yoga class - whatever it takes to ignite your imagination and write down things that you would really like to achieve with your life. I've written this before, but if necessary consider what you would like to be written in your eulogy. Whatever it is that you write down must genuinely energise and excite you when you imagine achieving it.
When I took this action recently the ideas came much more easily than I was expecting them to. I wanted to write an article for Forbes, become an entrepreneur with a successful business and make a big contribution to charity. Remember at this stage that this process will evolve, your goals will change and that is to be expected, and so don’t get too caught up in making your list perfect.
Once you’ve noted down some goals which make you fidgety with excitement, it’s time to start identifying the steps you can take that will enable you to achieve these goals, no matter how big they may seem right now.
Quick question; why are you so sure I will achieve these goals?
This one’s easy and I’m handing back over to Tony Robbins who explains that...
‘where focus goes, energy flows’
Have you ever been in a situation like this: a good friend tells you they are intending to take a trip to Malta. You have never been to Malta and in fact you know very little about it, and yet since they mentioned it, it’s as if Malta is following you; you see adverts for holidays to Malta on billboards and TV, your local supermarket starts a Maltese speciality aisle, a Maltese restaurant opens up next door….you get the gist. Well, this is an example of how energy flows towards focus. There is no actual magic happening here, it is simply the case that when you put your focus onto something, you will start spotting links and opportunities that you may not have otherwise noticed.
The same is true about your goals and purpose; once you define and physically write these down, you channel your focus on what is important, putting aside other distractions and creating the space for your mind to spot links, opportunities and pathways that guide you towards achieving your goals.
Now that I’ve removed your doubt, let’s start strategise for the goals you’re inevitably going to achieve.
Goal-setting for achievement
The key to hitting big goals is breaking them down. There are many ways to go about doing this, however from the numerous pieces of guidance I've read/learned/been taught, the best discipline (and my personal favourite) is taken from an excellent book called The 1 Thing by Gary Keller. Gary's principle is to focus on the one thing you can do right now which will give you the best chance of achieving your goals in the longer-term. The method here is simple but precise, I’ve outlined the process below with a specific example.
Take one of your big goals and assign a timeframe to it - don’t overthink this as your instinct will likely be about right. Using my example goal of writing a Forbes article - let’s give that goal 5 years.
Consider the process that will be necessary to take you from where you are today, to the point of achieving your big goal - again don't overthink this as there will be plenty you don't know for now, and will learn along the way. For my goal the process would be; build up some content themes for blogging, start blogging; attend workshops to improve my writing style; speak to a Forbes contributor about their journey and what to expect; build my network in blogging/journalism space; build my online presence (e.g. obtain a regular writing column for a small online media outlet); obtain necessary credentials; identify and build contacts within Forbes; contact Forbes.
Now that you know what the process looks like and your approximate time-frame, consider what you would need to achieve within one year in order to hit your goal. For example, I want to write for Forbes in 5 years and so within the next year I’d need to be blogging regularly and have attended workshops to refine my style and themes, be building a strong network and have understand the requirements from Forbes in order to be on track to hit my goal.
Once you know where you need to be in a year, scale this back to understand what you need to do within one month in order to be on track at the one-year mark? For example, this month I would need to have a list of blog ideas, one drafted blog and have started my research into Forbes contacts in order to hit my one-year goal.
Use this same methodology to continue to scale back until you know what you need to do within one week, one day, and right now. For example, this week I would need to decide on my first blog title, today I would need to create a list of potential blog titles, and right now I would need to create a mind map of potential themes in order to hit my one-week goal.
Once you have completed this process you will know exactly what is necessary for you to achieve your goals, and all of a sudden that seemingly huge unobtainable dream looks possible, right? You can really see it happening! For a more detailed explanation about setting and following-through on goals read How to be sure you achieve big things in 2019.
This is great, so how does this apply to my job?
The likelihood is that at least some of your goals will be either related to your current role, or if not, there will be opportunities to work towards your goals within your current role. The key at this stage is to identify what these opportunities are. What is available to you which you’re not making the most of? How can your current role, manager or organisation support you in fulfilling your purpose? Chances are that until you’d defined your goals you hadn't found the focus to spot opportunities available to you.
If we go back to the Forbes example, within most businesses there is ample opportunity to write, whether it is blogging on industry trends, writing marketing content, developing an employee newsletter or establishing an online presence for the business through blogging. Even if your goal seems totally unrelated to your work, for example you work in an accounting firm and you want to be a charity fundraiser, who’s to stop you starting a charity/fundraising initiative within your business today? If you’re really not sure what opportunities are available, why not speak to your manager, mentor, HR department about your goals and how this role and this business can support you in achieving them?
Irrespective of what your goal is, there should typically be an opportunity to work towards it within your role/business. The reason for this is because we originally chose our path based on our underlying instinctive values and ambitions (even if that seems less clear at this point), and so if there genuinely is no opportunity for you to work towards your goals then you should perhaps consider whether you and your organisation are indeed value-aligned.
Usually the issue is that before we define our goals so clearly, we fail to spot the opportunity to work towards these goals that does in fact exist, a little like when we didn’t notice the Maltese shop opening next door! Even if your goal seems quite clear and involves progression to a more senior position in your current business, writing this goal down and planning it as outlined above will create focus and allow you to see the path towards achievement and fulfilment more clearly.
Maintaining your focus
Key to moving forward towards your goal is to maintain a consistent focus, a habit in doing that one thing that will move you closer to achieving it. Using the goal-setting process above will maintain our focus on what the one thing is that you can do right now which will genuinely move you closer to your purpose?
If at any point you are struggling to think of that one thing, ask yourself the following question: If I only had today to work on this, what would I do? The slant on this question gets you to the crux of what is needed, and prevents you from putting off the most important thing which is a common pitfall for most of us. By adopting this mentality you will move to your goal much faster, and I wouldn’t be surprised if your original timeline drops lower and lower because of how quickly you are achieving your goals.
Having this consistent focus on your goals means you feel a sense of purpose on a daily basis. Irrespective of other tasks you must complete as part of your role, there will be one thing in each day which gives you genuine purpose and allows you to reap the rewards from both the science of achievement and the art of fulfilment; happiness. It’s actually that simple.
The same principles within this blog apply to employee engagement - organisations with an objective to improve employee engagement must ensure they understand an employee's purpose and ambitions, and create opportunities for goals to be worked towards and achieved in order for the employee to experience fulfilment and happiness at work. For a deeper understanding about how to engage employees contact SGH Coaching to deliver training to your organisation which enhances employee engagement and significantly increases employee retention.
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