Modern life is hectic and sometimes it feels hard to have a deeper sense of meaning and purpose. Most people struggle with an endless “to do” list of tasks and chores that never seem to be progressed. It is easy to fall into the trap of operating on autopilot at the expense of stopping to think about the path being taken. While many people have an idea of the goals they would like to achieve, often the focus of their attention is narrow and motivated by external variables. As an example, most workplaces have a clearly defined business strategy with specific objectives and measures of success. This then informs the flow-on objectives for teams and individuals across the organisation, only allowing limited room for personal goals that align to the broader strategy. While this might provide focus for activity, research clearly shows that extrinsic motivators are significantly less engaging than those that are intrinsic. Given the amount of time that is spent at work, a significant percentage of any individual’s goal pursuit is actually tied to objectives that are set by others. Whether it is the front-line staff member trying to hit their targets, or the CEO trying to lift shareholder return, workplace goals are typically not about the individual or what really matters to them at a personal level. Is it any wonder that the large majority of people find it difficult to discover true meaning through their work?
This same notion applies outside the workplace. The personal to do list is often equally bound by externally motivated activities – or things that “must” be done. When incorporated into the myriad of tasks in general life, things can quickly become unbalanced and out of control. Without more conscious attention to the choices being made, the path taken can easily diverge away from one that is more purposeful. Before long this can lead to a sense of general dissatisfaction and frustration, with the feeling that something is missing and that the value derived from everyday experiences is not enough.
True meaning and purpose in life comes from living an existence that is self-directed and explicitly entwined with personal values. It requires a deep understanding of the things that are most important and the activities that derive the greatest sense of authentic satisfaction. It does not come from the achievement of external objectives or materialistic rewards alone. Goals need to be well considered and holistic in nature, covering all aspects of life. They need to be aspirational, stretching and based on personal volition as opposed to external control. They need to be balanced and will require constant reappraisal to determine their ongoing suitability and motivational pull. Ultimately the more intrinsically motivational goals are the greater the experience will be in their pursuit, with tasks undertaken purely for the sake of it as opposed to their potential reward.
So how can leaders find greater balance and meaning in their pursuits? The key lies in firstly having a deep understanding of one’s personal values and the things that matter most in life. It also requires a total commitment for dedicating time and energy to that which is most important, with a prepareredness to sacrifice the tasks or objectives that hold less intrinsic value.
1. Identify your values
Your values and passions underpin who you are at your core. Take some time to think about the things that are most important to you and the times that you have felt most alive. What are the common themes? What do you want to be known for? What are you really passionate about?
2. Develop a “life list”
Make a list of all the things that you would like to do in your life. Be adventurous and give focus to the activities and experiences that would be personally significant and that you would choose to do purely for the sake of doing it. Once complete, make a commitment to start working your way through the list.
3. Set holistic personal goals
As a leader you are probably very clear on what you need to achieve in your professional life, however are your work-goals intrinsically motivational? Also, do you have a clear view of your broader life goals? Take some time develop a more holistic set of goals, covering all aspects of personal development (non-work-related) and professional development. Also include family life and your general experiences in the broader social community. Look for goals that really connect with you and that you would like to pursue regardless of any reward or specific outcome.
4. Monitor your time and effort
To create true balance across life requires self-discipline and self-regulation. Develop a routine of regularly auditing your time, energy and attention in light of the goals developed above. Recognise when things are out of balance and commit to addressing any changes required to bring your focus back into alignment.
Please contact us if you would like to learn more about how Optim works with people to help them create true balance and pursue more meaningful goals.