As we move through January and start this fresh new decade, there’s a lot of talk about resolutions and goals. And I do love a goal! But whether it’s a goal or a resolution, it seems to be the case that many of our new year aims tend to fail before we reach February. I wonder whether this is in part because we’re jumping in too quickly. Before setting a goal or resolution, we need to identify our purpose - who and where we want to be, and how. And then we can frame our goals in a way that helps us achieve the purpose we’ve identified.
When I was growing up I used to idolise musicians and film stars who seemed to ‘have it all’. Yes, I liked their music/movies, but I also had a sort of hero worship for them – I didn’t realise it at the time, but this was partly due to me recognising/envying the success and riches that they had. These people had achieved their dreams! How amazing!
Nowadays, and with the wisdom of a few more decades, I’m not sure I envy them quite so much. We regularly witness celebrities struggling with the success they’ve achieved. Yes, they have the big house and even bigger bank account, but they lose other things - like their freedom to leave the house and move around in relative anonymity. And yes, those things play a part in why so many of them start to struggle so much – but I think it’s something else too. Something bigger than their loss of freedom. It’s their loss of purpose. They’ve achieved the goal that they probably dreamed of since they were in junior school, and now they don’t know what else to aim for.
We all need a purpose – it’s what motivates us to do anything, from getting out of bed in the morning, to turning up at work every day. Unless we’re really lucky and love every second of our job, we turn up every day because we earn money, not because we adore the work itself. And the money helps us achieve things – often linked to our purpose. When celebrities have achieved huge success, their sense of purpose gets lost. They’ve often fought so hard for many years to become recognised, and once that fight isn’t needed anymore, they have to find meaning elsewhere. Of course, many of them manage this just fine – they find purpose in perhaps selling more albums than before, or touring more countries. Or, as has been in the press recently, we see celebrities like Jon Bon Jovi find great purpose in helping others.
But if they can’t find that continued purpose, they get a bit lost and – in worse cases – a bit messed up. Think of the famous mental health challenge that Britney Spears had in the years following her initial fame. Now I’m not saying that was all down to a lack of purpose, but it might well have been a factor.
So how do we find our purpose? How do we keep checking and refining it as we move through the different life stage gates, such as becoming a parent, securing promotion, or retiring? Your sense of purpose is shaped by your values. These values are the things personal to us, that motivate and guide our decisions. It could be being a good friend, keeping healthy, helping others, keeping our family safe. These are the things that shape who we are.
Have a think about what your personal values are. If you find this difficult, imagine someone close to you was calling out the things that they see are most important to you, and what you’re recognised for. What do you enjoy doing? What makes you smile? Then take these and think about where you are right now and where you’d like to be – to truly be able to weave these values into your life. And then you’ll start to identify your purpose. Are you already doing anything today to help achieve that purpose? And if not, what can you do to start moving in that direction?
For me, I realised a few years ago that my true purpose was to help others in some way. This was partly shaped by a tough few years recovering from a chronic illness, but I think it’s always been a personal driver of mine.
My stumbling block was realising that I’d taken a certain route in life that found me helping ‘corporate organisations’ rather than individuals, and I did wonder for a while whether I’d left it too late to achieve my new-found purpose. But with this clarity, I realised that the years I’d spent working in the corporate world weren’t a waste – they could in fact be a huge help. I can use those years of experience to shape and build my new venture, and ultimately help people in a better way than without it. And here I am – I’ve made it happen. And my renewed purpose - and goal for this year - is to help as many people as I possibly can.
So have a think…. What’s your purpose? Have you already set resolutions or goals for the year? If so, stop and reflect and think about how you can frame them to meet your purpose. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll have even more success.