In setting goals, no matter whether you’re reading a self-help book or a motivation poster, ‘don’t give up on your goals’ is about the most common lifestyle advice we hear. ‘Live your dreams,’ ‘chase the rainbow,’ ‘the sky is the limit,’ ‘don’t give up’… we’ve heard it all a thousand times.
And this is a very nice platitude. It’s certainly true that we shouldn’t stop going after the things we want, and we certainly can achieve anything we put our minds to.
So what’s the problem with this advice? Why does it fall flat? Why hasn’t it yet inspired most of us to get out there and become billion-dollar rock stars and business owners?
The answer is that this is an empty platitude that misses out the most critical points. We all know that we need to stick to our dreams. The harder part is knowing just how to select worthwhile goals in the first place.
What if you don’t know what you want to be?
What if what you want to be is entirely unrealistic?
What if two of your goals contradict one another?
Some people are fortunate enough to have one very clear goal. One passion that makes them truly happy. And this is something that makes it much easier for them to stay committed and dedicated.
An example of this might be someone who has always wanted to be a professional athlete and who therefore spends all their free time training to be the very best.
Another example might be someone who has always wanted to be a chiropractor, a marine biologist… you name it!
Whatever the case, these people have the opportunity to focus on their goals early on and to follow them through to completion.
But what if you don’t feel so passionately about any one job? What if you’re someone who kind of wants to be an athlete but would also like to wear a suit? What if you just want to live a quiet life but don’t want to be bored?
Or, what if you want to be an astronaut, but you’re 40 and there’s very little chance of that happening realistically right now?
That’s what we need to figure out first, and that’s what we’re going to do here…
Create a Mission Statement
The first thing you need to do is to find out what your passion is. This isn’t the same as your goal, but it is important because it will help you to inform your goal.
That is to say that some people will naturally struggle to come up with a singular goal. To answer the statement: ‘I want to be…’ or ‘I want to achieve…’.
However, if you know what is important to you and what your passions are, then this can greatly help you to identify things you’d like to achieve and to execute them accordingly.
And this is very similar to the concept of a ‘mission statement’ in business. In business, a missions statement is a short sentence or phrase that describes the objective of business. This is what will drive the brand, what will tie the company’s products together, and what will help to guide their decision-making processes.
The mission statement is not what the company does but why the company does it. A mission statement is not ‘to make lots of money selling computers’ but instead ‘to help people create more through beautiful tools.’ That second statement is much more inspiring, and it helps the company to know what matters to them when they’re designing products or thinking about how best to market them.
Microsoft’s mission statement is:
“To enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential.”
“To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete.”
“To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.”
These statements go beyond the products themselves and help the companies to deliver a real question and create a brand that people can get behind.
Many people speculate that Apple has lost its way in recent years and stopped innovating. A quick look at the mission statement might tell us why.
The old mission statement was:
“To contribute to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.”
That’s an inspiring mission statement that gives the company a real purpose and direction. Today, the mission statement is;
“Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store.”
That’s a pretty terrible mission statement with no room for interpretation or vision.
This is not a mission statement; it’s a statement of intention. And that’s the difference that you need to see on an individual level too.
So instead of saying:
“I want to be a rich businessman.”
Which is a statement of intent, instead say:
“I want to accomplish the power and authority to influence the world in a meaningful way.”
“I want the resources and status that come with fulfilling my professional capabilities.”
“I want to contribute my brand of managerial thinking to a company that truly appreciates me.”
These are all slightly different takes on the same basic goal, but they get closer to the route of what makes you happy.
Tips for Creating Your Statement and Being True to Yourself
Want to be an astronaut? Think about abstract broader goals. What is it about being an astronaut that makes you excited? Is it exploring new lands? Is it a genuine love of science and the universe? Is it the danger?
Once you’ve identified what the core emotion or core drive behind your goal is, you can then start to create a statement that leaves room for interpretation.
So now your mission statement might be:
“To be a true pioneer and explore new lands, physically or conceptually.”
“To uncover the beautiful secrets of our universe.”
“To live a life filled with unknown danger, excitement, and thrill.”
“To uncover the mysteries of space that fill me with such wonder.”
What makes this so powerful is that it allows you to pursue the objective of being an astronaut, but it also shows you other ways that you can achieve a similar goal. If you’re too old to be an astronaut, then perhaps you could work as a researcher? Maybe you could be an explorer? Maybe you could film exotic creatures for documentaries? Perhaps you could write a book on space? Or become an astrophotographer?
These fulfill the same basic desires and the same mission – but they express it in a different way. Now you can go about creating a goal that is highly achievable. That fits with your lifestyle and with your resources.
While you’re doing this, you might find that you end up going to some strange places. You might not be looking at the kind of career you always imagined, and you might be worried that people would question your choices.
Perhaps the mission statement you’ve set for yourself is overly grandiose. Maybe it’s not grandiose enough! Maybe your worried people will laugh, or they will look down their noses at you.
But this means you’re going about it the right way. Think about the most accomplished and successful people in the world. They were all revolutionaries. They were all people who were willing to challenge the status quo.
And if you create a goal because you think it’s what you’re ‘supposed’ to want, then everything else we look at in this book will fall apart. The right goal and the right vision is going to motivate you from deep within. You’ll come alive when you talk about your passions, and you’ll be filled with enthusiasm and charisma that will inspire others.
True passion is what makes leaders. It is what makes people wake up at the crack of dawn to train.
Becoming a lawyer to make your Mum happy and so that you’ll be richer than your neighbor does neither of those things. Be true to yourself and be honest.
Oh, and while we’re at it, keep in mind that you don’t have to come up with a goal that revolves around your career. It is just as legitimate to come up with a goal that is focussed on your free time.
In fact, this is often a more successful way to come up with a mission statement and a goal. For example, if you’re someone who is interested in space, then why not take photos of space in your free time?
Likewise, if you always wanted to be a rock star but upon writing your mission statement learned that you just want to share your music with the world, then why not create a YouTube channel where you share your music? You might eventually gain enough of a following to land a record deal, but even if you don’t, at least you’re living the dream.
Often our dreams are much easier to accomplish than we realize, but we get in our way by thinking about what we should be doing rather than what we want to do.
In many cases, the secret to achieving real success is to work less to create more time and space for you to focus on your passions. This is where ‘lifestyle design’ comes in – which we’ll look at later on in this guide.