Do you believe in fate – that no matter what you do, you are destined to experience whatever fate has already set for you, whether you like it or not? Do you believe that where you are now, whatever your situation, there’s nothing you can do to change it?
Are you prepared to live your life in a state of numbing existence; with a victim mentality; with a ‘why me?’ attitude and without ever feeling like you’ve achieved anything; without ever feeling like you’re making a difference; without ever feeling like you’re worthy of happiness?
If any of the above sounds appealing, then you shouldn’t set and pursue intentional aspirational goals.
But surely that’s not you!
On the other hand, if you’d like to live a happy, flourishing and prosperous life, then setting life goals and pursuing them with intentional action are two strategies that history has proven will help you along the way.
It’s important to recognise that setting goals in life and pursuing them with intentional action will not guarantee you will live a more happy, flourishing and prosperous life, but it just makes sense that you’re going to have a better chance to do just that, than if you choose to not set intentional aspirational goals.
If you’re still reading, you’re at least interested in where I’m going with this article… good!
Depending on what research you might have studied, or what motivational or inspirational speaker you’ve listened to at a conference, and despite much of the wisdom literature throughout history advising us to set life goals and to pursue them with intentional action, there seems to be some evidence that very few people consistently set goals.
Well, at least that’s what I’ve discovered by asking a simple question to literally thousands of people during my conference keynote presentations and seminars over the past two decades. And the question is “How many of you, seriously, have your goals in life written down or recorded?” Depending on the audience, what seems to be the ‘average’ hands that are raised to say “YES they have a life goal list written down” is less than 10%. Now I understand this is not scientific proof, but you test it out by asking your friends and family.
When I’ve asked audience members why it is that they don’t have their goals in life recorded, the typical responses fit into these five broad categories:
- I’ve got an idea of what I want to achieve but don’t see the need to write out a life goals list
- I tried it once but just sort of let it slide and never really came back to it
- If I set the life goals I convince myself that I will probably not achieve them anyway- so why bother
- I’d prefer to not have that pressure and just make the best of whatever comes my way because things change and the future is a long way away
- I get concerned that I’m being greedy and self-centred to want and aim for better things in my life.
Let me address each of these personal barriers that stop people from effectively setting and pursuing intentional aspirational life goals.
1. I’ve got an idea of what I want to achieve but don’t see the need to write out my life goals list
Fair enough! At least you’ve got an idea of what you want. Most of the wisdom literature, written by successful people, will tell you that writing your goals out increases your own accountability and internal drive to take the intentional action required to achieve them.
You’ve already got an idea of what you want, why not take the next step and write them out in a measurable way. Typically what that requires is for you to start with a an accountability date of when you will start or complete the goal, followed by what the goal is and the criteria or measurement that you will use to gauge your ultimate success in achieving each goal.
Here are two life goal examples:
By the end of this next month, and every month for the next twelve months, I will have saved 10% of my wages.
By my 30th birthday I will have acquired my first rental property
Of course, these may not be good examples for your own specific situation, however, follow the way the examples are written and go ahead and write out your own life goals list.
2. I tried it once but just sort of let it slide and never really came back to it
There’s a great advertisement about people wanting to give up their habit of smoking tobacco that encourages those who have tried in the past and not succeeded, and are giving it another try. The tag line goes something like “Each time you try, it brings you closer to success.”
That’s pretty good advice for all of us, and I’m not referring to smoking cigarettes. Each time we try something whether it’s for the first or fifth time, we learn from giving it a go, even if we don’t succeed.
Sometimes we need to learn a lesson a number of times, read a book more than once, listen to an audio or watch a video program over and over before we really learn the lesson.
Perhaps that’s why you’re reading this article now… it’s your time – this is your time to give setting inspirational aspirational life goals another go, and to pursue them with intentional action to help you live an even more happy, flourishing and prosperous life.
3. If I set the life goals I convince myself that I will probably not achieve them anyway- so why bother.
The fear of failure can be a debilitating emotion that eats away at every opportunity that life presents to you… and it’s inescapably true that life is full of opportunities – you only have to look at how some people grasp them with all they have and maximise their happiness and success in their personal and business lives.
It’s also inescapably true that if it’s possible for others, it is possible for you too.
If you set life goals, write them down and then pursue them with intentional action and you don’t succeed, where’s the harm in trying? Your fear of failure is telling you you’ll end up just where you are now anyway if you don’t succeed. But what your fear of failure isn’t telling you, is by at least giving it a go, chances are, you just might succeed and that just might lead you to living a more happy, flourishing and prosperous life.
You choose whether to listen to your fear of failure, or listen to the other message that you have heard often, but might be choosing to ignore – the voice of possibility and potential.
Tune out failure, tune in possibility and potential, write out your life goals, pursue them with intentional action and at least give yourself the chance to live a more happy, flourishing and prosperous life.
4. I’d prefer to not have that pressure and just make the best of whatever comes my way because things change and the future is a long way away
Fair enough too! Things will change, and yes, you can certainly continue to live in a ‘reactive existence’. However, setting life goals and pursuing them with intentional action puts you in the more powerful position of living life proactively as well as reactively.
You will always need to react to what life sends your way, however, when you are living a proactively led life through your intentional actions in pursuit of your life goals, you will always have a stronger sense of control in your life. And when life does send you experiences (both welcomed and unwelcomed), while still needing to react, your proactive habit of setting and pursuing intentional life goals will put you in a much stronger position to maximise any opportunities and minimise any threats along the way.
5. I get concerned that I’m being greedy and self-centred to want and aim for better things in my life.
It’s pretty clear that the purpose of life is for you to live a happy, flourishing and prosperous life… it just doesn’t make sense for the purpose of life to be unhappy, stagnating or impoverished.
Wanting and aiming for better things in your life isn’t just about the things that money can buy… it’s also about the things that money can’t buy. Wanting and aiming for a better life starts with being clear about what you’re already grateful for. A wonderfully fulfilling exercise is to write out a ‘Gratitude List’ by thinking deeply about what you already have in your life, things you own, things you’ve experienced, relationships, opportunities, and what you’re grateful for about yourself. Then it’s a process of defining what a happy, flourishing and prosperous life would look like for you. And you might find that you’re already living it… and be grateful for that, celebrate and rejoice in that. That doesn’t mean you ought not be setting and pursing intentional aspirational life goals. The process of writing out your life goals list (even if you’ve already achieved the goals) and then to ensure you’re continuing to pursue intentional action to maintain your lifestyle will still be a rewarding experience.
While you ought to be grateful for all you currently have, that doesn’t mean that you ought not still strive for even more, and here’s the key to solving the ‘greed’ or ‘self-centred’ barriers… when you consider what your goals in life might be, consider them in terms of how, should you achieve these life goals, how achieving them will not only improve your life, but also how they will improve the lives of those around you – friends, family, work colleagues, clients, and others.
This process takes away the greediness or self-centredness focus, and creates what I refer to as practical intentional altruism. When you become clear about how setting life goals and pursuing their achievement with intentional action will not only will help you live a more happy, flourishing and prosperous life, but it will also help you to help others do the same, it releases a broader sense of personal pride.
The reasons for not setting and pursuing intentional aspirational life goals may be many, and it’s easier to take the apathetic approach to just ‘settling for what is’ and existing in life, rather than living your life.
My advice, and that of most of history’s philosophers and most of the wisdom literature, is if you want to live a happy, flourishing and prosperous life, if you want to be a better you, to work on your personal character, to be who you need to be, to do what you need to do and to achieve with pride what is possible for you to achieve, setting life goals and pursuing them with intentional action is vital to your success.