Personal Productivity

Goals Based on Your Purpose, or on Benefits?

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
tags Motivation Self-Improvement Work & Life Goals
"A goal is not always meant to be reached; it often serves simply as something to aim at." ~ Bruce Lee

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Goals Based on Your Purpose, or on Benefits?

You have probably already returned from your holydays and have been thinking about your goals for this new year, both personally and professionally. If so, congratulations! Defining your goals is an important incentive to achieve results in life.

But before you finish deciding what your next goals will be, let me tell you about some interesting research described by Daniel Pink in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates U.

Researchers asked a group of students, who were finishing college and were about to face the real world, what goals they had in their lives. The goals they mentioned fell into two categories: extrinsic or benefit-based goals (such as becoming rich or famous) and intrinsic or purpose-based goals (such as learning, growing or helping others).

A couple of years later they surveyed those same students again. Those who had defined goals related to purpose and were achieving them showed — as might be expected — higher levels of satisfaction and well-being, and lower levels of stress. However, those who had defined benefit goals and were achieving them did not show a higher level of satisfaction than when they were students. Not only weren’t they happier, but they showed much higher levels of anxiety.

In these cases, achieving the goals did not help to have a better life. This dissatisfaction can even lead to a vicious cycle, where achieving greater wealth seems like the solution. As a conclusion, it can be said that achieving goals will not make you happier; achieving the right goals is what will.

From these studies, and also from common sense, a few things can be extracted:

  • Don’t choose goals that damage your relationships with others.
  • Don’t choose goals that involve unethical behavior.
  • Don’t choose goals that are so narrow and limited that you can’t “see” outside of them.
  • Choose good, meaningful goals, based on intrinsic motivations, that leave room for relationships with others and for the things that really matter.

Goals that are purpose-driven are generally more likely to be meaningful and motivating. When you set a purpose-driven goal, you are focusing on the values and ideals that are important to you, rather than just the tangible results you hope to achieve. This will make it easier to stay motivated and committed to achieving your goal, even when challenges and setbacks arise.

If you practice GTD, you have probably already defined your life purpose, and that work of personal knowledge allows you to always define goals that are in line with your principles and values. Those goals will help you work with perspective, achieve your goals, live with less stress and be happier. Could you ask for more?

Francisco Sáez

Francisco is the founder and CEO of FacileThings. He is also a Software Engineer who is passionate about personal productivity and the GTD philosophy as a means to a better life.

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