Being very clear on my purpose and values makes life sweeter for me, and balance easier to find, but is that the only way to feel like you’re doing life right? I don’t think so.
The benefits of a big fat goal
When I’m working on an important project, like promoting a book I believe in, it’s easy for me to find the time and energy to succeed. I’m happy to get out of bed early and put in extra hours at night. Focusing on the end result even makes tedious tasks like slogging through email more bearable.
Another benefit of having a larger-than-life target to work towards is that it makes prioritizing easy. Anything that moves me away from the prize gets bumped down the list, no hand-wringing necessary.
When purpose gets personal
My personal life isn’t goal oriented, but I do tend to be purpose driven. For example, I’m really focused right now on spending quality time with my family and friends. Knowing that helps me to almost automatically create balance in my life. I put aside the big work project for a game night with the kids or a coffee date with a new friend. I’m just as religious about putting “movie with Jared” on the calendar as I am a business meeting.
Being super clear on what matters most to me, in other words, makes me much more likely to reserve time and energy for those goals and purposes. It sounds obvious - but it’s not the only way to live a happy, fulfilled, balanced life. It might not even be the best way.
The downside of goals, purpose, and passion
When I’m focused on a really important project, I tend to get obsessive. I push aside emails inviting me to collaborate on new ideas and neglect things that aren’t mission critical - like cooking dinner. If I don’t get up extra early, I’m likely to skip yoga and meditation in order to dive right into work, afraid I’ll “waste” some of my most creative and productive hours.
It’s easy for me to find myself doing one or two things really well and everything else not at all. My health, for example, quickly takes a backseat to breakfast with a girlfriend. My work crowds out volunteering at the kids’ school. Family card night trumps alone time until I’m practically desperate for some self care.
It’s hard for me to be really, really focused on more than a couple of things at once.
My husband is not obsessed with any one goal right now. He’s sort of at a point in his life where he’s trying to figure a lot of things out, and so he’s dabbling and meandering more than I am. While that presents some challenges for him personally, it also gives him a bit of freedom that I envy sometimes.
He’s using more colors to fill in his life right now. He cooks, works out, works on his bike, plays games with the kids, hangs out with friends, and reads about organic gardening. He goes to work during the day and completely lets go at night and on the weekends. He’s free to give in to spontaneity and throw himself into whatever falls in front of him.
His way isn’t wrong, and I swear he seems much less likely to develop an ulcer. He worries he’s not actively building a legacy or something right now, but he’s also more open to the unexpected than I am when I’m laser-focused on a specific path.
I suspect there is a time and place to be hyper focused and another season for stepping back a bit. And, it seems clear to me that there are pros and cons of both approaches. What do you think?
Do you work best with a big fat purpose, or are you happier when life is a little less goal oriented?