Like most I learn the hard way, so it was no surprise to me when I actualized the difference between empty goals (purposeless) and purpose filled goals.
I know some of you are probably saying a goal is a goal and once you reach it, that's it.
While you can certainly achieve any goal you set, there is definitely a difference between purpose filled goals and purposeless (empty) goals. The greatest difference being happiness. Empty goals leave you just that, empty. And while on the surface it may not seem so, I ask you to consider a new perspective...
Roughly three years ago I wrote some goals in my journal, and yes I keep a journal, I always have. And since that entry, I've made sure to check each of those goals off of my list. Now just so we can have concrete examples of the goals, I've listed a couple of them below:
1. Make 100K annual salary by the age of 30
2. Volunteer more
Now again these were not all of the goals I had set for myself, but just a few for me to use to illustrate the point of this post.
Now I checked these goals off of my list, labeled them as done and went on to the next. It wasn't until I reflected upon achieving some of these goals that I noticed one of them lacked purpose.
Now, at that point in my life (three years ago), I recognized my God given purpose. However, at the time these goals were set, I felt like both of these goals would make me happier, more accomplished and that I would be walking in my purpose while simultaneously fulfilling my dreams. But, little did I know I had not yet realized how to tell the difference between purposeful goals and empty goals.
How to know if a goal is purposeful?
First I had to determine the difference between the goal's purpose and the goal's role in my purpose.
The goal's purpose speaks to the motivation behind the goal and the goal's impact in my life. The goal's role in my purpose, means just that, and answers the question does the goal align with my purpose.
Take for instance my second goal, to volunteer more.
In pursuit of achieving this goal I decided to join the Missions Ministry at my church. One of the first community service events I participated in was sorting through donated canned and boxed goods and composing Thanksgiving meals for families in need. To be honest I didn't participate as much in the ministry as I should have after that, but I checked it off the list. I felt good about my work. So the goal was a purposeful goal, because the motivation behind the goal was selfless. And selflessness always yields a clear conscious. The goal's impact on my life, was in the form of realizing that I was loving someone through my work. And spreading love is a key component of my purpose. So the goal's role in my purpose was fulfilled.
What makes a goal empty?
To determine if my goal was empty, I could have used the same questions provided to help me identify whether my goal is purposeful; considering the goal's purpose and the goal's role in my purpose. But while coming into my own realizations, I made the process easier and considered just two things; 1) the motivation and 2) long term impact.
When I thought about these two things sincerely, I knew right away which goal was empty because of my rational for pursuing it. So to understand why the goal was empty and explore whether the goal had a role in my purpose, I too considered the impact of the goal.
Have you ever paid attention to your motivation behind a set goal?
The reason you may pursue a goal is a direct relflection of whether or not that goal is purposeful or empty.
Take my first goal for instance, to make 100K annual salary by the age of 30. Besides the fact that I wanted to make a money, I mistakenly viewed compensation as a measure of success.
And it was easy to do so because society drowns us with notions of the significance of money, even equating money to power and happiness. So I thought the goal was in pursuit of happiness. And if I am being honest, I believe a small part of me was motivated to prove a point to others. Either way, my motivation suggests that the goal was purposeless or empty.
The impact of a goal with substance (purpose) has a lasting impact on your life. You essentially evolve, grow and establish an undying relationship with that goal, that either speaks to, helps or shows love to others.
However, empty goals have no lasting impact. Empty goals have short term gains and permanent losses.
So what was the impact of me reaching my financial goal?
Well momentary gratification in the ability to spend. Sounds shallow I know but that what it was essentially; the ability to spend, and not always with good intention. Not only that, but while I did do some good and donate money to support good causes, I got caught up in the desire to have more. Even though I didn't need more. I worked hard, made more and in the end I was left burnt out, tired and stressed.
Where was the happiness in that?
Non-existent. I was caught up in the momentary gratification of the trips, expensive trinkets and ability to spoil those I loved. But as far as truly being happy and experience happiness, it was not in those moments. I associated happiness with satisfying my desire for things. Therefore as far as fulfilling my purpose, I failed. And not because I was able to do good for others, but because I was motivated by desires of more.
“I was unhappy when amazing things were happening...that I should have been grateful for and super happy for...I didn’t feel I was getting the type of recognition I always wanted and that I felt you had to get to be considered at a certain level...” J. Cole
In hindsight, happiness is in the absence of greed. People always mock the notion that you can be happy and poor, but quite frankly you certainly can be. Now, whether you want to be, that is a different story.
But we should not confuse our desires with our capabilities.
I will always feel gracious about my second goal, and my desire and ability to help others. It remains a happy thought, and diminishes any negative memory surrounding that time. Regardless to if I was monetarily capable, I made time to give to others that of which was plentiful in my life. And anyone who knows me, understands that even now, I am always cooking plenty and sharing with others. Not only because I understand that we all go through seasons in our lives where God shows us how sewing seeds of love, reaps great benefits, but because I never walk around under the assumption that no one is waiting on my offer to help.
Life is about making more of those moments. Loving yourself and your neighbor through every choice you make. Being conscious of the fact that our choices impact others. And being appreciate of life itself, unmasked with possessions, just life. The ability to walk, think independently, see, love and breath...
“...You have no control over what somebody else feels about you, but you have 100 percent control over how you feel about yourself and how you feel about the people around you and how you handle life. I became happier and started to deal with s**t more, not run from the feelings, not have the anxiety.” J.Cole