Monday, 27 January 2014

If you want to get ahead, get a purpose

One of the questions I very often ask my clients when they tell me they have a goal in mind is "for what purpose are you striving for this goal?" What I want to establish from this question is whether they are doing it just for themselves, for someone else or whether they have a bigger reason to achieve the goal.

It is certainly important that the person wants to do it for themselves first. You may be surprised how many of my clients tell me that they have a goal in mind but there is something about their body language and tone of voice that suggests otherwise. Very often it becomes established that the goal isn't theirs at all but somebody else's (usually a parent or coach). This is where you end up with 'pushy parent' syndrome where a parent is living their own dreams vicariously through their children and their children end up pursuing something that they would rather not. The problem with striving for a goal for someone else is that eventually any motivation to train, learn and develop your skills will turn to resentment, lack of drive and, often, fear of failure (not wanting to let people down) which all make achievement far less likely.

For a goal to be successful it is essential that it is your own goal. However, to make a goal even more likely (and to make it more fulfilling) it is much better to have a reason which is bigger than yourself to do it. This is very different to doing it for somebody else. This is about having a purpose or a mission to strive for. Purpose takes many forms and can essentially be anything that you feel to be really important. Examples could include wanting to do something for your country or community, doing something for a charity, for religious reasons, to reflect a certain philosophy, overcoming adversity, to be the best at something or to do something that has never been done before.

When Roger Bannister came a disappointing fourth at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952, he was close to giving up the sport. He only decided to continue when he discovered his purpose;he wanted to be the first man to run a mile in under 4 minutes. Having this goal in mind motivated him to dedicate himself to do what ever it took to the achieve this cause. He made significant changes to his training regime and absorbed himself in the task in hand. The extra impetus he got from pursuing his cause led to his eventual success in May 1954 when Bannister achieved the feat by running the mile in 3.59.4

Having a purpose, whether it is in work, sport or any other area of life, gives an individual greater motivation, more focus, increased determination as well as greater resilience to put everything into achieving a goal. So if you want to achieve a goal, make sure you know why you want to achieve it first.

Andy Barton

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